Writing in The Guardian, John Pilger, a war correspondent and film-maker, slammed Australia's policy on stopping boats carrying asylum seekers as "cynical and lawless".
See here for full opinion. Extract reproduced below:
"If a thousand Australians drowned in sinking boats in Sydney harbour, it would be a national tragedy. The prime minister would lead the nation in mourning; the world would offer condolences. By one measure, 1,376 refugees have drowned trying to reach Australia since 1998, many within range of rescue.
The policy in Canberra, known as "stop the boats", evokes the hysteria and cynicism of more than a century ago when the "yellow peril" was said to be about to fall down on Australia as if by the force of gravity. Last week the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, reached back to this era when he declared that no refugees in boats would be permitted to land in Australia. Instead, they are to be sent to concentration camps in impoverished Papua New Guinea, whose government has been suitably bribed.
Among them are people fleeing wars and their aftermath, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, for which Australia and its US mentor bear responsibility. Those who survive are made prisoners in a harsh gulag on the most isolated islands on earth. Women and children sent to equatorial Manus Island have had to be evacuated because of mosquito-infested conditions. Now Manus is to receive 3,000 more refugees who, denied legal rights, may spend years there. A former security guard on the island said: "[It's] worse than a prison actually … Words can't really describe … I have never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless … In Australia, the facility couldn't serve as a dog kennel. Its owners would be jailed."
Australia is a signatory to the 1951 refugee convention. Rudd's cowboy actions are not only lawless but weaken international refugee law and the human rights movements that buttress it. In 1992 the Labor government of Paul Keating was the first to impose illegal mandatory detention of refugees, including children. Since then, governments have waged a propaganda war on refugees, in alliance with a media dominated by Rupert Murdoch. Vast, sparsely populated Australia demands "protection" from refugees and asylum seekers of whom fewer than 15,000 were settled last year – 0.99% of the world's total.
The punitive, racist nature of the policy allows the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to "assess" people in secret and detain them indefinitely – such as Tamils fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka. They often have no idea why they are imprisoned, and have included children."