Processing refugees: they get the hits, we get the myths
12 March 2014
Offshore processing is a cruel method of dealing with asylum seekers. There are alternatives, writes Professor Ben Saul.
"The violence on Manus Island has inflamed passions," he asserts in an opinion piece for The Age.
"For some, it is more evidence of a cruel and illegal failure to protect refugees. For others, it is an unfortunate collateral hiccup in the essential, hard slog of safeguarding our sovereignty.
"Offshore processing still enjoys unshakeable bipartisan support, with only minor parties and civil society die-hards opposing it. Here I want to coolly ask if offshore processing is necessary to achieve the policy aims it is claimed to pursue, and whether its costs are proportionate or excessive.
"Offshore processing is based on three premises: it is necessary to save lives at sea, prevent people smuggling, and not advantage ''queue jumpers''. It is likely offshore processing deters many people from getting on boats, since they will not reach Australia or be resettled here, and will face protracted, harsh detention in PNG or Nauru with no certainty about resettlement or their safety.
"This in turn saves lives at sea, reduces demand for smuggling, and allows refugees to be resettled from elsewhere. On this basis, the government claims success."