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Big News: Passing The Buck Oz Style

Big news special – with Dave Crampton
Asylum Seekers Pay Big Bucks For Unworthy Sea Vessels
(While Governments Pass The Buck)

Well, Australia has decided to take in 40 asylum seekers, and Fiji could host up to 1000. That’s according to Government ministers from both countries. It appears that Australia is quite happy to fund the setting up and maintenance of a facility for asylum seekers, as long as the absolute minimal amount of asylum seekers are processed on Australian soil.

Australia has just lifted sanctions against Fiji following last year’s coup and days later asked Fiji to take on the asylum seekers. Now I bet you there is a link there. Australia wanted Fiji to take in 700 to 1000 refugees, depending on how many more are intercepted in the Indian Ocean. Apparently genuine refugees will be settled here in New Zealand and in Australia and the rest will be sent “right back to where they came from,” according to Fiji’s foreign minister Kaliopate Tavola. He didn’t say whether that meant Indonesia or Afghanistan – or the sea.

What it does mean is that Fiji will be seen as a dumping ground for asylum seekers. Fiji Opposition leaders say it is Australia’s problem and they should deal with it. Australia say it is Indonesia’s problem – except for the opposition and the Muslims on temporary protection visas, who blame Prime Minister John Howard. Some of these Muslims lost family members on the sinking boat, family members who may have been taken in by Australia on similar visas had they survived. All 40 asylum seekers taken in by the Government had family members living in Australia.

Indonesia maintains the problem arises with those in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Afghanistan say it is the fault of Americans for bombing them. The US maintain it is the fault of the Taleban for the terrorist attacks. The Taleban say the US attacked them first. And on and on it goes. Blame it on the devil…… or the boogie. Don’t blame it on the sunshine or the moonlight.

I’d actually blame the latest episode on people smuggler Abu Quassey and the Indonesian uniformed gun-holders who tried to force people to stay on the boat before departure – believed to be either police of Immigration officials. Indonesia may not want to cop asylum seekers but they appear happy to accept substantial bribes from people smugglers in return for the use of their weapons to enforce refugees out of Indonesian waters, squashed in sub-standard boats – thus getting big bucks from the buck-passing..

The Australian Government say they have evidence that the bribing occurred but note that people smuggling is not an offence under Indonesian law. They have launched an investigation on the relationship between Indonesian authorities and people smugglers.

One must wonder, though why those who have family members in Australia pay thousands to people smugglers when they can pay much less and fly to countries like Australia and obtain refugee status that way. But then, it’s not that simple, is it.

Just as I`m finishing this piece, news has come in that two groups of people smugglers who brought a total of 429 boat people to Australia earlier this year have received jail terms of up to six years. They are Indonesians. The boats carrying the asylum seekers landed at Christmas Island in April and June. They won’t be the last arrests either. The Opposition say there needs to be an agreement with Indonesia to sort the situation out, and whoever is in power come November 10, you can be sure that the policy of refusing asylum seekers will remain unless there is international intervention.

- Earlier BIG NEWS on the same subject...Big News: Pagan In A Pagan Land

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

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