Wednesday, 4 December 2019

"Refugees" who are not refugees

pose a genuine problem for many countries around the world.
There is currently some legislation before our national parliament concerning what have been called "Medevac" laws - laws which allow the transfer of those seeking asylum but whose cases have not yet been settled or have been found not to be refugees to come here for medical treatment.
The government put the laws in place for good reasons. People who have not had their claim for refugee status approved have arrived and refused to leave after medical treatment. Others have backed them. Still others have deliberately self-harmed in order to be transferred here. Others have backed them too. 
There is a very powerful "refugee lobby" here. The problem is that it often does more to harm than it does to help.
Someone asked in this morning's paper why the government doesn't simply take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours to take the people who are seeking asylum but who remain on islands to the north of us. It sounds like a simple solution doesn't it?
It isn't. There are all sorts of problems involved. 
International law is very complex. Granting someone refugee status is a long process. Granting someone "asylum" can be even more complex.  It isn't a simple matter of someone arriving and saying, "I'm a refugee" or someone else saying, "I'm being persecuted. I need asylum."
It is a natural tendency to think of anyone who claims these things as being honest, truthful, sincere and desperate. The reality unfortunately is quite different. Many people who genuinely have nowhere safe to go are stuck in appalling conditions in refugee camps. They have no means of leaving and no way of putting forward their cases to be granted refugee status. It is highly likely that thousands of such people will die in refugee camps - die from inadequate food, shelter and clothing. Children will die from disease or, if they don't, they will not have an education. 
Those seeking asylum - and this is not quite the same thing as being a refugee with nowhere to go - are all too often those who have broken the law in their own country. If they face the death penalty they cannot be sent back. They may also face what seem to us to be unduly harsh and unfair punishments and they will be trying to avoid those. The legal systems in their countries may be very different from ours. But what if these people have broken the law? What if someone has murdered or raped or caused other harm? Do we simply allow them in to escape justice?
All this needs to be considered. People will lie to get what they want - and what they even believe they deserve. We don't want to believe that but we do need to consider it.
It may be that the government will one day take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours - if it can be done without encouraging others to make dangerous journeys - but the idea that you can simply say "Yes" and send people there is not without great dangers.
We need to be realistic about what can and should be done even while our natural sympathies might lie with saying "let them come".

No comments: