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Tonight's prize in the repatriation game: a holiday to hell

By Stuart Barnett - posted Saturday, 15 June 2002

There is little doubt that the Howard Government's refugee policy is successful. While it has certainly stopped the influx of illegal refugees, it still does not go far enough in protecting Australia from people who exhibit principles that are clearly un-Australian.

The incentive of $2000 per asylum seeker to go back to their country of origin is a brilliant policy and one that can only be described as generous.

Asylum seekers now have a range of choices far superior to that available to many Australians. They can stay in detention and await the outcome of their refugee applications, they can fly back - courtesy of the Australian taxpayer - to their country of origin and start a new life with the $2000 which will set them up for life, or they can simply fly home and use the money to pay people smugglers to return them to Australia.


The latter is particularly attractive. Free air fare and airline food on the journey back to the country of origin, where you get to meet relatives, old friends and, once again, experience the effects of war and persecution. If you are an Afghan, you get to see first-hand the effects of the US carpet bombing, surely a tourist site now (not to be confused with a terrorist site).

Stay the night, then use the $2000 to find and pay your old colleagues, the people smugglers, to get you back to Australia. You could give them the best regards of the Howard Government and maybe politely mention the fact that you have been receiving punishment aimed at them for the past six months.

It should take about two or three months to get back to Australian shores, indulging once again your penchant for sailing in death traps and, with any luck, avoiding all Norwegian tankers.

Back in detention, you encourage other detainees to take the $2000 and the trip of a lifetime - after all, travel broadens the mind. At least you get to be out of detention for a couple of months.

It's a win, win, win policy. The Government reduces the number of refugees in detention centres, as a proportion of them are now either in the air or on their way back here. The airlines are happy with the Government-paid airfares for the refugees and the people smugglers are being paid and enlarging their businesses.

The end effect is a large reduction in asylum seekers in Australia and the creation of an industry that is certainly globalised.


But clearly this incentive to resettle in Afghanistan can be developed even further.

If Australians are going to determine who comes to this country, then surely they can also decide who stays.

What difference is there really between coming ashore via boat and coming into this country via the birth canal? Both can involve criminals.

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This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 13 2002.

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About the Author

Stuart J. Barnett is a Brisbane writer.

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