The Australian government is escalating its attacks on refugees. On 20 May, immigration minister Peter Dutton announced that 7,500 people would face immediate deportation should they fail to complete asylum claims by 1 October.
Clearly taking inspiration from Donald Trump, whose administration has escalated the deportation of migrants across the US, Dutton slandered the 7,500 people residing here as “fake refugees”, who are trying to “con the Australian taxpayer” and take the government for a ride.
While bullshitting about the government’s “generosity” in accommodating refugees, Dutton’s comments demonstrate his desire to reject as many applications as possible. The imposition of an arbitrary deadline highlights this, as does ridiculous bureaucracy and cynical politicking surrounding asylum claims, which have rigged the system completely against refugees.
In the first place, Dutton claims that many of the 7,500 have been here for years and should have completed their applications already. Yet all of them have in fact been barred from doing so by the federal government. In August 2012, the Gillard Labor government ended the processing of all asylum claims for those who arrived by boat, insidiously naming the change the “no advantage” rule and placing more than 30,000 people in legal limbo.
In the small window that has opened since, refugees have been locked into a labyrinth of bureaucracy. Asylum application forms run to 41 pages, with more than 100 questions, all steeped in legalese and requiring extensive supporting documentation. A single error results in immediate failure and protection being denied.
Navigating all of this is impossible without legal assistance. Yet the government has gutted funding for refugee legal services over the past few years. Of the few organisations remaining, many have waiting periods of up to a year. The Refugee Advice and Casework Service alone has more than 1,000 people on its waiting list.
To add insult to injury, senior Immigration Department sources have told the Guardian that the department is incapable of processing the number of case loads being demanded anyway. All the government bluster is a transparent ploy to clear people out.
Even for a government as abusive of refugees as ours, the cynicism of this defies description. The next few months will be a period of psychological torture for thousands of people, enormous numbers of whom will be unable to escape being forced back to the persecution they fled from. With this deadline, Dutton has literally set a date for Border Force to begin rounding up and shunting innocent people off to arenas of torture and genocide.
Dutton of course has the support of every Liberal MP and senator. Labor has said that it will quiz the specifics of the deadline, but has endorsed rushing the applications through and has shown no qualms about deporting thousands of people to danger, in line with the party’s longstanding despicable record.
Australia’s brutal anti-refugee policies are obtaining a sadistic edge in the Trump era. Now more than ever, we need resistance against this parliament of racists and cynics.