April 19, 2007

Aussie-Yank Asylum Swap

The US and its staunch ally Australia have entered into a strange agreement to swap asylum seekers to both nations, the London Telegraph reports. Those who come to either nation illegally to seek political asylum, such as boat people from Asia and the Middle East and Cuba and Haiti would be swapped by the two nations, in a move that they claim will discourage "boat people":

Australia and the United States will swap asylum seekers under a contentious scheme to deter migrants from seeking asylum in either country.

Under the exchange scheme, asylum seekers will lose the chance of choosing their destination. The boat people held by Australia on the remote Pacific island of Nauru will be sent to the US, while Cuban and Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba will be sent to Australia.

The plan expands Australia's policy of dispatching Asian and Middle Eastern boat people to other countries, including Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Opposition politicians and human rights groups said that far from deterring refugees, the plan could end up rewarding them with a new life in America.

The two countries signed a legally binding memorandum of agreement on Tuesday and the first exchanges could start within months.

It is likely that the first batch to be swapped will be 83 Sri Lankans and eight Burmese, who were intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy and sent to Nauru. Under the agreement, the two countries would swap 400 asylum seekers - 200 from each country - this year and in 2008. The policy will be reviewed in 2009.

I'm unclear on the concept. Boat people from any of these places would undoubtedly prefer to live in either Australia or the United States than in their economically and politically repressed home countries. Swapping them after the fact might delay their eventual connection with family members, but it will not prevent them. Eventually they can get passports and enough money to travel between the two countries.

John Howard told Australians that this will deter boat people from attempting to make it to Australia. It seems to me that it will encourage more refugees to use it as a stepping stone to get to the US. Considering that Australia is rather close to the Muslim nation of Indonesia -- which has a fairly active group of radical Islamists -- it also makes for a good infiltration point. Radical Islamists don't have that kind of proximity to the US now, but if they learn that they can get a ride from the Aussies to the shores of the US, even the poorer of them might give it a go.

On our end, the refugees from Cuba do not appear to be an overwhelming problem, and they do serve to remind people what a rotten place Fidel Castro has made of Cuba. They assimilate into the south Florida area well under most circumstances and have a support system ready to assist them. Haitian refugees are more of a problem, but it can't be less expensive to ship them off to Australia -- especially since we'll get the same number back from Down Under. What do we do with the Asian boat people once they arrive that we couldn't do with the Haitians? Have the Coast Guard send them off to Port au Prince?

Conceptually, practically, and financially, this plan doesn't pass the laugh test. Trading Haitians and Cubans for South Asians and Middle Easterners sounds like the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio swap that the Cubs still haven't lived down after over forty years. Howard and George Bush should end the extradition of refugees before they begin it.


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» I'll trade you two Indonesians for a Cuban and two Haitians to be named later.... from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
OK, this qualifies as bizarre: the US and Australia have agreed to begin swapping illegal asylum seekers. Those entering America illegally will be sent to Australia, and vice-versa. Being forced to go to either country when you're escaping a hell-hole [Read More]

Comments (6)

Posted by Kristian H [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 6:43 AM

While is clearly is not the deterrent that returning them to their country of origin would be, a Cuban sent literally half way around the world with no extended family in the hemisphere is quite a big price to pay, beyond even what they already risk. It may not dramatically reduce the asylum seekers, but it does let both countries continue hardline rhetoric ("Those people WILL NOT be admitted here") without the heartless remedy of returning them to prison or death.

Still, it is true that given the alternatives, the asylum seekers would probably do worse than either the US or Austrialia...

Posted by Doc Neaves [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 6:49 AM

Sounds like an awful waste of money to me. We're not the world's keepers. The more we fall into this trap, the more they will expect us to just support them no matter what. Sooner or later, they will just expect us to come make their country free, pay for their socialism, AND allow them to come to the US if they want. What a deal. When are THEY going to pay MY rent and groceries?

Posted by Redhand [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 7:16 AM

I'm an immigration attorney who handles asylum matters. This policy may be flat out illegal, as in contrary to the protections the Immigration and Nationality Act affords those claiming asylum who reach our shores. Even crazier is the notion that this would apply to Cubans, who are supposed to enjoy special status under the Cuban Adjustment Act once they set foot on USA soil (remember the controversy about the Cuban boat people sent home when the pier they reached wasn't attached to dry land?)

But since when has the Bush Administration been constrained by the mere language of statutes? It has been hopelessly hostile to legitimate asylum seekers since 9/11, virtually adopting James Sensenbrenner's numbskull "asylum seekers = terrorists" mentality. Did you know, for example, that an asylum seeker who provides virtually anything to a terrorist organization, even when acting under compulsion of summary execution if he refuses, is barred from all asylum relief under the Bush Administration's interpretation of the Sensenbrenner sponsored and passed "REAL-ID" Act?

The US-Aussie asylum seeker swap trial balloon is just another example of the Administration's contempt for the law it is supposed to enforce. But I'm sure Alberto Gonzales has it covered with an appropriate legal meme, er, memo.

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 7:17 AM

Wait -- are any of the Cubans (or Hatians, for that matter) lefties? Can they pitch in the big leagues? I don't want us trading the next El Duque to Australia for an Indonesian who doesn't even know a baseball from a football. We do have to keep our priorities straight here.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 7:58 AM

This is absurd. Just plain absurd.

I believe that genuine asylum seekers - those who face persecution or death in their home countries - should be allowed into the United States subject to health and legal requirements. We don't want to let people with communicable diseases or homocidal tendencies loose in our country, after all (got enough of those without bringing in more).

This ties into our problem with illegal aliens. We've simply got to come up with a rational policy and system to deal with them. People want to come to America for various reasons. While we shouldn't just fling open the doors and say, "Come on it!" we also don't want to turn away people who want to become productive, law-abiding citizens or at least productive, law-abiding aliens.

Last I checked, the lamp is still lit beside the golden door. Let's work out what we want the cover charge to be for entry, not lock the door and put out the lamp.

Posted by bayam [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 11:49 AM

This is amazing. Perhaps Bush will start to convert Miami's 'little Havana' into 'little Jakarta - Islamabad'.

You have to realize how lucky Americans are compared to Europeans and Australians. Our illegals generally all come from neighboring Christian countries. Look at the impact of immigraiton on our nation's demographics compared to Mohammadized England or Australia.

In some ways, this isn't surprising. Our illegal immigrants are a major asset that I'm certain most other Western nations would prefer over Arabs.

So what does Bush do? If this President-fool does anything more to protect me from terrorism, I might as well take a walk into Bagdahd with an American flag tatooed on my forehead Then again, perhaps bringing the Muslims to the US is step two. Step one involved invading Iran to foment Islamic extremism around the globe. Now Bush needs to bring them to our shores. Even moderates are going to start buying into the conspiracy theory that Bush loves terrorists as a way to extend his own power.

One point Captain missed- this is really bad policy and even inhumane when you look at how it affects Cuban and other South American immigrants. When these people arrive in the US, they find a support network and most likely friends and family to ease the transition, find employment, and start the process of integration. (When you live in California, you see it happen first hand.)
But immigrants from far-flung areas of the Pacific will have none of this, lessenning their chances of success. Criminal behavior and other anti-social activity will be much more common. In fact, you see exactly this happen to the Pacific Island immigrants in Salt Lake City, Utah over the last decade plus.