by Daphna Whitmore

Manus. A Nation’s shame. Lives held in limbo. Lives lived in fear & despair. It’s fucking disgraceful. Russell Crowe in one tweet sums it up. 

Six hundred asylum seekers who have been imprisoned on Manus Island for years are refusing to go to East Lorengau transit centre on the island. They say it is not safe as locals have threatened and attacked them. Detention on Nauru is the other hell-hole option the men are refusing. Behrouz Boochani,  a journalist and Kurdish refugee from Iran, has been speaking out from Manus Island where he has been held since August 2014.  “We will never move to another prison. We will never settle for anything less than freedom. Only freedom.”

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Manus Island asylum seekers protesting

Locking up asylum seekers in remote and inhumane detention centres has been a long-standing bipartisan policy of Liberal and Labor governments in Australia.

In comparison New Zealand looks like a bastion of enlightenment, but this does not stand much scrutiny. John Key’s offer to take 150 people from Manus in 2015 was turned down by Australia, and now Jacinda Ardern says that offer still stands. The offer is not as generous as Key and Ardern would like us to think. It is the smallest of gestures from a country that does very little to extend a welcome to refugees.

There are over 22 million refugees in the world and New Zealand is ranked at the bottom of the developed world when it comes to taking refugees. Overall New Zealand is 110th in the world for refugees per capita adjusted for GDP.

The offer to take 150 refugees is not in addition to the modest annual 1000 refugee intake. Ardern, like Key before her, made it clear this to be within the quota. Labour’s policy was to increase the annual number to 1500, but it remains to be seen if that gets past New Zealand First who do not want any refugees.

The last National government had little interest in refugees but the Syrian crisis and a wave of public sympathy forced Key to reluctantly increase the intake from 750 to 1000. Still, this was more than Helen Clark’s Labour Government.  Despite the acclaim Clark got for taking 130 refugees from the Tampa ship this number was  within quota. Through Clark’s nine years in government the refugee quota was never increased and remained at 750.

The new Labour-NZ First government  with its demands for greater immigration controls is not likely to deliver progressive policy.

Militarised national borders are nowadays seen as normal but it was not until the late 1800s and early 1900s that immigration and border controls became standard.  Passports were only systematically imposed with World War I, one of those ‘temporary’ measures than turn out to become permanent. 

These controls are artificial divisions that criminalise and deny basic rights to tens of millions of people.

Today there are 65 million displaced people in the world; if ever there was a time to return to open borders it is now.

  1. Phil F says:

    Compare NZ’d record with Germany’s. Germany has a ‘Tory’ government, led by Angela Merkel. In order to form a government with a more rightist Bavariasn-based outfit, Ms Merkel has agreed to a new cap of just 200,000 refugees a year. Germany has a population of just under 83 million. NZ has a population of abut 4.7 million and currently takes in 1,000. So Germany has about 17.5 times as many people as NZ and, even after *lowering* their intake in order to satisfy an anti-immigrant/refugee party, will still be taking in *200 times as many* refugees as NZ.

    In 2015 alone, Merkel announced that Germany was taking in at least 800,000 refugees that year. The Guardian newspaper estimate the intake may have ended up more like 1 mliion. That’s the equivalent of roughly 56,600 if NZ – under Labour or National – was as generous as Germany under the Tories.

    The reality is that our politicians are utterly fraudulent in their liberalism when it comes to refugees and this country has a great deal of mean-spiritedness about it.

    Even the left has a poor position. Much of liberal-left support tighter immigration controls and only want to *very modestly* increase the level of refugees. Even parts of the far left only argue for modest numbers of refugees.

    To repeat, if the NZ left wanted to be on par with Angela Merkel and the German Tory party, they would need to argue for a massive increase in the refugee intake. And, politically importantly, they would argue unaplogetically for workers’ internationalism and open borders, not for a pathetic few hundred more refugees to be allowed in.

    • Daphna Whitmore says:

      Labour campaigned on the slogan that they could do better. Now Ardern has returned from Australia after merely offering what Key had, and was rebuffed as Key was. So that’s that. She didn’t really go there to advocate for refugees, she went to represent NZ Capitalism Inc. Now she is going along with Turnbull’s pretence that the refugees will be granted asylum in the US. When asked on radio this morning “why not take the 600” she said New Zealand couldn’t manage that.
      For the people who voted Labour as a ‘lesser evil’ I’d say remove the word lesser when reflecting on your vote.

    • Michael Johnston says:

      It’s not often that I agree with Marxists, but I agree with you about this,100%. Manus is a disgrace and so is the pathetic ‘response’ of both the previous National government and the new Labour government. Gutless cowards all.

      For the record, I also agree with you about the need for open borders internationally and that New Zealand should be *far* more welcoming of refugees in general.

      • daphna says:

        Thanks Michael. There are so many advantages of international open borders, and the idea is starting to take hold. Ardern tried to make the people traffickers the problem, condemning them while making excuses for the Australian government. Well open borders solves the people smuggling issue straight away.

  2. […] „Manus Island: “It’s f****** disgraceful““ von Daphna Whitmore am 04. November 2017 bei Re… (aus Neuseeland) ist ein Bericht über den Widerstand der 600 Insassen des Flüchtlings-Gefängnislagers gegen die Verlegung nach East Lorengau auf derselben Insel Manus. „Der einzige Ort, wohin wir von hier aus gehen werden, ist die Freiheit“ war der Slogan, mit dem sich die Betroffenen der Zwangsverlegung zur Wehr gesetzt haben, mit Sitzstreiks und Lagerdemonstrationen und Verweigerung. […]