How does the Australian government treat illegal immigrants

Australia's controversial refugee policyDo Not Enter!

It was like the rabbit racing against the hedgehog. Wherever Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott went in the past few weeks, the reporters were already there, asking him the same questions over and over again.

How can the government stand by and watch the refugee disaster in the Andaman Sea? Why is nothing done to save thousands of desperate women and children? Couldn't Australia, like other countries in the region, give migrants the hope of a new home? But Tony Abbott's answer was without any sympathy: "Out of the question. Because in Australia for boat refugees:" No entry. "

"We are doing everything in our power to put an end to people smuggling, but we can only achieve this if we make one thing absolutely clear: Anyone who comes to us on a rickety boat will be turned away. Encouraging refugees to get on board would be only make the problem bigger. "

Immigration of illegal boat refugees has stopped

Australia has achieved what the European Union dreams of: the immigration of illegal boat refugees has stopped. In 2013, 20,000 migrants came to Australia across the sea, most of them from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. In 2014 and 2015, however, not a single refugee ship made it to mainland Australia. Just as Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott had promised before the election.

"Stop the boats": The three word slogan brought Tony Abbott to power a year and a half ago. War was declared on the people smugglers and Australia was turned into a fortress. Abbott's first official act was given the code name Sovereign Borders ". Since the end of 2013, military ships of the Navy have been patrolling the waters between Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia: Their task: to stop and send back all boats carrying refugees. Australia has been declared a no man's land for uninvited migrants.

Many complain that the multicultural society has sold its soul. But the tough course against boat refugees is popular. Nowhere more than in areas where many immigrants live.

Many asylum seekers want to go to Australia

Street festival in Leichhardt, Sydney's Italian Quarter. Norton Street smells like pizza, cappuccino and tiramisu. The bars and cafes are full and people talk with their hands and feet. About football, the Pope - and about asylum seekers. The elderly still remember the time when their parents came to Australia after World War II. "They had nothing back then," say Raye and Lino Tozzi of the ice cream parlor in the mall. And her parents didn't get anything either. No accommodation, no social assistance, no unemployment benefits and no health insurance. "No wonder so many asylum seekers want to go to Australia today," says Raye. Because they would be taken care of before they even lifted a finger.

"The refugees do not have the right to simply come to us and demand that they be given freedom and generosity on a silver platter". - "These are illegals. They crowd in front of other refugees who are sitting in camps. That's why we shouldn't take in boat refugees."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold koala bears at the G20 summit in Brisbane / Australia. (AFP / Andrew Taylor)

The few boat refugees who are not immediately sent back by the Australian Navy are sent to reception camps on the tiny South Sea island of Nauru or on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Poor Third World countries that are dependent on development aid drips. The human flotsam is pushed off, out of sight, out of mind - refugee convention or not. But the Australian greens see red. You are the only party that calls for more humanity for boat refugees. And the Greens are not alone in this.

Demo: "Free, free, the refugees. Free, free, the refugees ..."

Protest marches and signature campaigns: Again and again, Australians demonstrate against refugees abroad, imprisoning refugees behind barbed wire indefinitely and in godforsaken places. Human rights groups are calling for asylum seekers to stay freely in Australia while their applications are being processed.

Demo: "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here"

Julian Burnside can often hear the chants of protesters in downtown Melbourne right inside his office. Burnside is one of the most respected lawyers in the country and a sharp critic of the government's asylum policy. Australia takes in around 20,000 refugees each year. “We should do more,” believes Burnside. After all, ten times as many immigrants come into the country every year. Statistics show that 90 percent of all boat refugees are recognized as legitimate asylum seekers. “And yet,” complains Julian Burnside, “they are treated like criminals. "

"Our politicians have deliberately tried to convince Australians that boat refugees are breaking the law if they flee here. That they are hiding something because they have no papers with them. Therefore, it is okay to imprison them as illegals." That wouldn't happen if we hadn't been persuaded that we had something to fear from these people. "

Refugees risk their lives

Visiting an "illegal". Ali Samar came to Australia through the back door two years ago. The 20-year-old serves tea and flatbread with a shy smile, just like at home in Afghanistan. He is only a guest in the narrow rented apartment in west Sydney. Ali belongs to the Hazara, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan who is persecuted for their beliefs. His father was killed by the Taliban and Ali is certain that if he had not fled, he would not be alive today either.

"The Taliban cut off my father's head. This is how the Hazara are still being punished in Afghanistan. I almost drowned on the boat crossing from Indonesia, but the Australian Navy saved us. I got the chance of a second life."

Ali was 16 and alone when he arrived in Australia. He sat in the Nauru reception center for four months before coming to Michelle Tisch in Sydney. The 60-year-old social worker found him work and gave him a home because she could no longer bear the fact that asylum seekers lived in constant fear of being sent back to where they had fled. Refugees who had risked everything for a new life. Refugees like Ali.

"There are 42 million refugees worldwide and we spend $ 3 billion annually to put thousands of these people in camps? Why don't we welcome them? I am bitterly disappointed that we hear nothing more from our government than propaganda, scare tactics and lies . "

Ali's best friend is called Hamid, is 23 and comes from Iran. The two shared a barrack in the deportation camp in Nauru. Ali was only there for a few months, but Hamid was there for three long years. He still suffers from the consequences today. Hamid has nightmares and anger problems. He blames his time in the camp. The emotional scars from then have not healed until today.

"The inmates in the camp didn't hurt the guards, they hurt themselves. They fell from the roof or cut each other's wrists. Some were digging their own graves and there were fights over and over again. No wonder a child like me in such an environment becomes violent. "

Journalists are not allowed

The camps at Manus Island and Nauru are as remote as they are makeshift. Tents and barracks behind barbed wire, mosquitoes, boredom. Minimal medical care, maximal isolation. Journalists are not allowed. Graham Thom is an expert on misery. As Australia's Asylum Officer for Amnesty International, he has visited refugee camps around the world. But the camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru even shocked Graham Thom.

"During the day it is too hot in the tents; when it rains you sleep in wet beds. There is nothing to do there. Nothing but wait. Perhaps for years. This insecurity breaks the will of the refugees. Their mental and physical condition deteriorates by day worse by the day. "

Earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission submitted an investigation report into the conditions in Australia's deportation camps. Gillian Triggs, the President of the Commission, wanted to find out what the consequences of detention in camps for an indefinite period are for children. The results were alarming. One in three refugee children suffered from mental disorders, was depressed, refused food or thought of suicide.

"All of Australia should be ashamed of our country's asylum policy. We are violating our international obligations. This report shows how inhuman it is to simply imprison children. Never again should children be treated like this in Australia's name."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott blamed the guards of private security companies for the conditions in the camps and dismissed the report as "completely one-sided". Pediatrician Elizabeth Elliott is outraged. She spoke to families and children between the ages of three and 15 for the report in Nauru and Manus Island. Elliott heard of child assaults, sexual assault and children on hunger strikes.

"Such abuse in early childhood can have serious long-term consequences. There would be an outcry if such incidents happened anywhere in Australia. The government is responsible for everything that happens in the camps. The Immigration Secretary has these children in his care."

"Hello, I'm Peter Dutton, Australia's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection ....."

Peter Dutton is under pressure. The Australian Secretary of Immigration must keep Tony Abbott's election promise not to allow boat migrants into the country, even if they have been recognized as refugees. Dutton has now made an offer via video to the more than 1,000 who are based in Nauru: relocation to Cambodia. A new start in a country even further away from Australia.

Thousands of boat refugees are on the high seas. (picture alliance / dpa / Str)

The deal with the Cambodian leadership costs Canberra $ 40 million. And although it is internationally regarded as a corrupt poor country that tramples on the human rights of refugees, Peter Dutton praises Cambodia as the paradise of Southeast Asia.

"Relocating to Cambodia is an opportunity for a fresh start in a democratic country that does not persecute anyone and offers a wide range of job opportunities. Cambodia is a lively country with many peoples, cultures and religions."

Drowned on the high seas

Those who make it to Cambodia or even to one of the Australian deportation camps have been lucky. Thousands of boat refugees have perished in the Indian Ocean in recent years. Drowned on the high seas. How many no one knows exactly. Not even the seamen of the Australian Navy, who tried to come to their aid - and were often only able to fish corpses out of the water.

"The bodies of the drowned are bloated and unrecognizable. You can only recover them if you grab them and drag them on board. Often times the flesh has simply detached itself from the bones of the corpses. Anyone who has seen something like this will never be again to forget."

Troy Norris just can't get the faces of dead and dying boat refugees out of his head. For 13 years, the former seaman was at the front in the fight against people smuggling. Norris served on patrol boats in the waters between Indonesia and Australia. He helped stop dozens of refugee boats. Today he suffers from post-traumatic stress and is a civilian again. But Troy Norris cannot forget. Not the kilometer-long corpse chains and certainly not the desperate ones he had to leave behind in the ocean because there was no more space on board.

"Nobody hears of the boats that fail and nobody hears of mountains of corpses being recovered. But the worst part was rescuing some survivors and letting others die. It was like playing God and it was difficult for me . "

If a border patrol of the Australian Navy today encounters a no longer seaworthy refugee ship, it will be sunk. The inmates are transferred to a lifeboat and sent back to where they came from. A dubious luxury that the EU states do not have. Three years ago Italy was convicted by the European Court of Justice for having deported African refugees to Libya. To prevent migrants from trying to come to Australia across the sea, the Abbott government is running global advertising campaigns to warn that no boat refugee will ever have the chance of a new life in Australia.

Excerpt: government anti-boat refugee spot

Any tightening of the Australian asylum policy is justified with the desire to save lives. For Mark Lewis of the UN Refugee Agency, this is nothing more than an excuse. It is time for the immigration country Australia to end the cynical Monopoly with the lives of innocent people.

"Australia's reputation as an active global citizen is at stake when the government deals almost exclusively with the problems surrounding asylum seekers. Europe is dealing with much higher numbers of refugees and the attitude" the more cruelly we treat them, the fewer will come "is severely condemned internationally. In terms of foreign policy, this is a big mistake that will cost Australia dearly."

Whether Cambodia, which accepts refugees from Australian deportation camps for a fee, or countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia or Malaysia, which stopped hundreds of refugee boats before they even left, Australia has its backing in the fight against unwanted immigrants. The EU has no similar aid south of the Mediterranean. But to take Australia's tough crackdown on migrants as an example would be deceptive: Because the refugees continue to suffer and they continue to die - just elsewhere. It's true: Australia stopped the boats - but at what price?