Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living in limbo

Indonesia has long been used as a stopover for refugees from various countries, but many get stranded as they wait to be officially recognised and then accepted for resettlement by a third country. First they need to wait until their asylum claim is approved, then they can apply for resettlement. At that point, UNHCR forwards their application to countries with resettlement programmes. If one country rejects the application, the process begins again.

Australia’s military-led operation to prevent boats carrying asylum seekers from reaching its shores has been hailed by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a success. But in Indonesia - the country from which most of the boats previously departed - Australia’s tough new measures have stranded thousands of asylum seekers and refugees who can neither proceed to their desired destination nor, in many cases, return home.  Australia’s  Operation Sovereign Borders intercepted refugee boats which were either towed back into Indonesian waters and handed over to the Indonesian Navy  or taken to one of Australia’s offshore detention centres where conditions have been described by human rights organizations as “inhumane”. Attempts to reach Australia by boat have now largely been abandoned. Now that sea routes out of the country have been closed off, the only way to move on from Indonesia is through deportation or voluntary return for those who do not qualify for refugee status, and voluntary repatriation or resettlement for those that do.

According to UNHCR, about 5 percent of the registered refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia are so-called unaccompanied minors - children who have made often long and perilous journeys without a parent or guardian to care for them. Indonesian law makes no provision for such children and although the country has ratified the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, which obliges it to assign guardians to unaccompanied children, it has not done so.

14,000 asylum seekers and refugees now stranded in Indonesia. Indonesian is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. With no right to work and little support available from the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, many new arrivals simply hand themselves over to the Indonesian authorities knowing that at least they’ll be fed and sheltered while they’re detained. Indonesia’s 13 detention facilities are now bursting at the seams. According to the Global Detention Project, 2,806 asylum seekers are currently in immigration detention, many of them unaccompanied minors living in conditions that are often overcrowded and that Human Rights Watch has described as "appalling". Indonesia shows little sign of changing its policy of not recognising or integrating refugees. According to Antje Missbach, a researcher based at Monash University in Melbourne, “They have their own internally displaced people, high unemployment and many people living below the poverty line – that has always been their stance.”

UNCHR Indonesia representative Manuel Jordao explains “Detention is a big problem here; there’s an abusive use of that policy. The IDCs are not the best in the world - they’re understaffed, overcrowded, staff lack training and regimes vary enormously from one IDC to another… Length of detention also can be very long.” Most asylum seekers are detained until their refugee status determination has been completed, a process that takes 12-16 months, according to Jordao who acknowledged that in areas where UNHCR has few or no staff, the wait may be longer. Families, women and children are not exempt and often spend months in detention. UNHCR grants refugee status in about 75 to 85 percent of cases in Indonesia.

A Human Rights Watch report alleges that an Afghan migrant died after he was severely beaten by guards at an immigration detention centre in Pontianak in 2012 following an escape attempt. Three other asylum seekers who had tried to escape with him were also hospitalized, including a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor Ten employees at the centre subsequently received 10-month prison sentences for assault, but the report notes, “the government has not launched a systematic review of physical abuse in the immigration detention system,” nor has a complaints mechanism for detainees been put in place.


Mike Ballard said...

What needs doing is for the ruling classes of the planet to adopt genuine refugees from all the UNHCR camps in the world and to send the rest back to their countries of origin so that they can change the social relations of power and wealth. Putting the petty criminals in charge of the boat businesses again is NOT a solution and will not solve the crises class rule's system of wage slavery which create the need to seek asylum.

ajohnstone said...

I personally find it difficult to differentiate between a political refugee, an economic refugee and now increasingly, a climate change refugee. (knowing you are from Australia, Mike, i think many Pacific island nations face this and are demanding guaranteed future immigration rights to Australia and New Zealand for when sea-levels do rise)

I find it difficult to condemn a person to return to his or her place of origin to be forced to take sides in a civil war or government repression that he or she may not support any participant of, (also taking into consideration the number of elderly, young and vulnerable, that comprise the refugee numbers). Equally, i would not condemn a person to return to squalor and slums that by bad luck he or she was born into when there is an opportunity of relative better conditions to be had by re-locating.

But I think you may be referring to the growing numbers of migrants who are travelling the globe to further their standard of living, rather than fleeing war and oppression. They are however fleeing poverty, that not only stunts bodies but stunts minds.

Should we now build walls to keep people in? Is mobility of labour something we should now act against? Should we discount their remittances sent home to their families that now out-value foreign aid amounts. In fact, halt those because isn't a logical follow on forcing people to stay in destitution, increasing pauperisation and immiseration, should increase social conflict leading to liberation.

And what about the internal economic migrant? The Chinese rural worker going in search of work in the economic boom zones...and being deprived of social welfare benefits as a result.
I am also minded of the two greatest migrations in US history. Farmers from the dust-bowl to the West coast and african-americans from the southern states to the east, north and west. Should we have been in favour of those states (and shamefully some trade unionists) in America who said it was their right to exclude other Americans from elsewhere?

This weekend is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Did the fact that millions of Irish departed the country for more economic than political reasons, really thwart and retard the movement to change Ireland? (We can debate whether the change of the seat of power changed anything in the Republic another time.) Unless you expect social revolution to be imminent (which i am guessing you don't) why make fellow workers suffer needlessly. Plus since we call for world socialism and world revolution, who is to say they are excluded from active participation from it by living elsewhere. Many exile movements exist that fostered and boosted the resistance at home. These migrants also injected their radicalism into the countries they moved to. Dare i say Australia's own periods of labour militantism had something to do with "immigrant agitators". Weren't the majority at Eureka Irish? You'll be a lot better informed on this than me about the involvement of immigrants in Australia's trade union and socialist history.

I think again we have contending opinions on this issue.

matthew culbert said...

Workers have no country.

Mike Ballard said...

Open borders seems to be what is being suggested as a solution here. Open borders is not a popular political position amongst the majority of citizens in any country of the world.

And why is that?

Could it be that the majority of the citizens of the world are still convinced by ideologies like national sovereignty, the purity of their religious ideology, belief in the notion that there is no alternative to private property, the wage system or the need for a political State?

Open borders will be possible when we remove the fetters of wage-slavery and establish common ownership and democratic control over the collective product of our labour. Right now, few people want that, as you can tell from the support for socialism in Britain. So, we have to work with what we've got and what we've got is a producing class who mostly think that the capitalists are creating the wealth and the only way to achieve more freedom is by depriving others of their freedom. The point is to show workers that as producers, they deserve to own and control what they create.

But there is hope as I see it:

"I suppose that, at least I would like to believe that people have an instinct for freedom,that they really want to control their own affairs."
Dr. Noam Chomsky

How else do we explain our progress toward more freedom from drudgery, bondage & absolutism?

ajohnstone said...

You are right, of course. The majority are still to be convinced. I think Marx talked about prevailing ideas being the ruling class's.

Socialism i don't think can be compartmentalised. Social revolution is at every level.

We require to engage in the battle of ideas on all ideologies...sexism...racism...religious belief, nationalism and many more, those divisions which we discard by our growing political consciousness.

"The point is to show workers that as producers, they deserve to own and control what they create."...and to connect globally, beyond the artificial frontiers that even capitalism itself find necessary to dissolve more and more, just as capitalism itself transcended feudal village parochialism.

You and i are living at opposite ends of the world but we share the internet, listen to the same music, read the same books...reached the same conclusions on social issues and politics, etc etc...Only your and my passports are different.

The inherent instability and unpredictability of capitalism, and the impossibility of eradicating the class struggle altogether, means that we can never predict for certain where or when the next upsurge in working class struggle will occur. That is where my hope and confidence for the future lies, Mike.

ajohnstone said...

I see that the IWW concentrated its campaigns on the organisation of the class struggle, the job and the work-place as you wish to emulate. Nevertheless, it saw fit to reach out its solidarity to all nationalities and ethnic groups, to encompass the world's working class. They had to fight divide and rule tactics of the employers and the sectionalism of the craft unions and the white supremacists who excluded so many from civic society.

Mike Ballard said...

Race is a pseudo-scientific ideology which most people today accept. I don't. Like you, I want to see the working class united as I want to see the human race united as a free association of producers. I want socialism.

Nationalism is the ideology of the bourgeoisie. It replaced the ideology summed up in "Dieu et mon droit" sovereignty of monarchs with national sovereignty, "One nation under God". Socialists will establish the sovereign individual, replacing bourgeois individualist notions of negative freedom with the freedom of each depending on the freedom of all.

Of course communism cannot be established if the human race is politically divided along pseudo-scientific notions concerning multiple "races". Neither can it be established, if the workers are divided by nationalist ideologies invented by the ruling classes to justify their sovereignty.

As we chant, "The workers united will never be defeated" on May Day here in Fremantle, I shall remember again how many times during the year I've seen the workers being divided along ethnic, gender, white, pink and blue collar lines, amongst others, hence ever being defeated, mostly by accepting the reified notions bouncing around their own minds.As Marx critically observed about reification in The Holy Family Chapter VI:

"Once man is recognised as the essence, the basis of all human activity and situations, only 'Criticism' can invent new categories and transform man himself into a category and into the principle of a whole series of categories, as it is doing now. It is true that in so doing it takes the only road to salvation that has remained for frightened and persecuted theological inhumanity. History does nothing, it “possesses no immense wealth”, it “wages no battles”. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; “history” is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims."