Monday, 14 April 2014

All at Sea

That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution is the latest Quarterly Essay (QE53). Award winning journalist Paul Toohey takes on the timely matter of asylum seekers and the complex policy arena the Australian government is working in.

As a refugee advocate, the harshness of the Howard/Gillard/Rudd (v2.0)/Abbott ‘solution’ has always bothered me as lacking empathy, fortressing our nation, and pandering to the fears of a specific segment of xenophobic voters. But at the same time the deaths at sea, the inability of UNHCR to process refugees in a timely matter, and the lack of reasonable media coverage has been a source of great frustration.

Paul Toohey has presented one of the best, most even-handed, pieces I have ever read on the subject. He travels to Indonesia, meets with people smugglers, and tracks down those waiting to take the perilous journey to Australia. In doing so he introduces the reader to the people putting their lives at risk and gives us a real insight into their aspirations, fears and motives. These heartbreaking personal tales are essential and have been missing from the media coverage of this issue.

Brutally frank and impartial, Toohey presents the case for a regional solution focused on Indonesia, and the reasons why successive diplomatic errors on the part of Australia have caused distrust from one of our most important allies.

Our Prime Minister has promised to “Stop the Boats” and has been crafting a regional solution. His predecessors created various ‘solutions’ with Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and others. The Australian Government policy is harsh and unwavering, but it appears to have stopped the boats and consequently the deaths at sea. But at what price?

That Sinking Feeling is an excellent, thought-provoking essay.

As alway, the Quarterly Essay includes correspondence related to the previous edition. I greatly enjoyed the letters about Lost In Translation (QE52).