Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean solution or

something else?
I will not get into the entire debate about "boat people" and the "solution" the present government has now offered as a pre-election sweetener. It is unlikely to happen.
But, I would like to ask the question, "What is so bad about 'temporary protection visas' or TPVs?"
It seems to me that they may have something very positive to offer everyone. Let's take the case of a professional I know. He fled his country after his brother was arrested, tortured and then killed for political activities that were not in keeping with the philosophy of the regime concerned. He is now here in Australia. He is not working at his profession because his qualifications are not acceptable here and his English is not good enough. Now the sensible thing surely is to say, "Yes, you can stay in Australia until the situation changes in your home country and it is safe for you to return. While you are here you we will ask you to attend an intensive English course and then spend some time learning more about your profession or working in a position we provide for you. That way you can go back to your country at the right time with extra skills and qualifications and help with the rebuilding of it."
If you are a young, fit and healthy man without any qualifications then why do we not take someone in and say, "We will teach you English and how to lay bricks or repair an engine or dig a well or something else of value to your country. When the situation changes you can return and impart those skills to other people."
Of course anything like this is going to be very expensive but it could be seen as part of our aid to developing countries. It requires a mutual obligation. It tells people that, if they come here, then they will be required to make an effort and that they will not be able to stay if the situation changes.
Yes, I recognise that it is uncertain and that, above all, some people need certainty in their lives but using "refugee" status as a means of migrating is not acceptable. It means that some countries are losing their most skilled citizens and/or potentially able citizens. They are going to need those people if and when a situation changes. We could easily take in all the doctors and engineers from Afghanistan - and leave the country with nobody able to provide medical services or the roads for medical staff to travel on.
I think we need to look at it both ways. TPVs do have something to offer. What matters is the way we set them up, the reasons for doing it and whether we are prepared to make the effort.

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