Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ron Smith: Boat People

We really need to decide what we want to do about refugees/immigrants, rather than making cheap points about every incident that occurs. This applies to political activists and the major media (not that there is a clear distinction between the two).

The first question concerns whether we wish to control the process or whether we are content to just let it happen.  Whatever, the history, or the particular claims, that individuals might present with, it seems to me that we would want to control the process, both in regards to numbers and individual characteristics.  This cannot be done if we simply wait until the persons concerned turn up on our shores, or appear in distress in our coastal waters (or even somewhere in our exclusive economic zone).

In this case, we will find (as others have in relation to their coastal waters) that our options are constrained by legal and moral pressures, which will only intensify as the people smugglers and their customers perceive increasing success.  We only have to look at what is happening in the Mediterranean to see where this policy (or lack, thereof) ends.  Does anyone doubt that it presents enormous problems to the European states, whatever sympathy their people or their governments might have with the plight of the arriving refugees?

Australia has tried on-shore processing, off-shore processing and, most recently, pro-active interception which envisages a speedy return with no processing at all.  They have clearly come to the view that only the latter fits their needs.  The policy has been much criticised; especially when, as recently, it apparently extended to financial inducements to the people-traffickers themselves. Clearly, there is a danger here.  One would not wish to further encourage the activity.  On the other hand, if it were cost-effective to the Australian authorities, it might be a worthwhile addition to the armoury.  That would be especially so if it were also to reduce the risk to the refugees.  Like everything else in this fraught situation, making a moral or prudential judgement requires a careful evaluation of the non-moral facts of the case.  Again in relation to Australian policy, we might speculate whether the Australian Labour opposition will be willing to go to the next election on a policy to end all this and revert to open slather.

We need to work out what we want to do.  I suggest that we adopt the Australian policy (with or without the payment element).  Indeed, I think we should plan to cooperate with Australia in a joint effort at early interception.  It may be that such a commitment would put pressure on our very limited defence assets but it seems to me that this activity is just as important for our small frigate force, as the interception of pirates/drug smugglers, off the coast of South Africa, as they are presently doing.  Such a commitment would obviously also have serious implications for the current defence review, presently.

 Taken together with the ongoing requirement to safeguard our interests in our exclusive economic zone (the fourth largest in the world) this might suggest that a two-frigate navy is inadequate.  Indeed, at the time that the decision to build the ANZAC frigates was being taken, we had expert advice that the minimum size for the frigate force was four, having regard to potential operational requirements, and the need for periods of training, refitting, crew-leave, and so forth.  It may be that our off-shore patrol vessels might have some utility in the role I am envisaging here but there are questions about their sea-keeping in some of the conditions they might face.  Similarly, there might be questions about the adequacy of our aerial-surveillance capabilities.  Again, during a defence review is just the time to raise these questions.

The discussion to this point has ignored an important distinction: that between a refugee (a person who may demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution on racial, religious or political grounds) and an economic migrant.  ‘Boat people’ may be in either category or both.  Having regard to the state of civil strife in so many countries around the world, there are enormous numbers in both categories.  The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates 15 million refugees world-wide but this is probably an underestimate and it does not include the internally displaced.  New Zealand is presently taking towards 1,000 refugees per annum (700 in the UNHCR formal programme and 200-300 who just turn up at the airport and are accepted).  Having regard to the other categories of immigrants, we might think that this is enough.  Either way, it must surely be prudent (and in the interests of all our citizens) to make sure that we retain control over the process.


Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

We need to redefine the term 'refugee'. The notion of a refugee that underlies the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol are out of date. If anyone suffering discrimination/persecution for reasons of ethnicity or religion qualifies as a refugee, then just about the entire population of the MENA region qualifies, not to mention some other swathes of the African and Asian continents. The whole concept of 'refugee status' has to be revisited in the light of today's world.

Brian said...

Boat People ...The new Tsunami?
Dr Smith is quite right to ask the question “What do we want to do about refugees and/or illegal immigrants” ?
Listening to many of our “humanitarians” we should throw open the gates and be understanding of their awful position in our new World. Full marks for sympathy and understanding of the” Present”! But what is the future of a country like New Zealand, which depends for over 70% of its export income on its frail agricultural economy, to a massive inflow of immigrants.? Subject as we are, to the whims of those nations who subsidized their inefficient farmers to produce more and more; thus avoiding any backlash of a political nature.
The root cause of this human Tsunami lies back in the countries of origin, something to date which the United Nations has failed, more by intent it has to be said to recognise a very critical problem. It is much easier and politically much more acceptable for the U.N. to force the affluent nations to pick up, to use “Kipling phraseology“The White Man’s Burden”. Than to fulfil a leading role in acting against those nations who force their citizens to flee in fear of their lives, from the endemic poverty, graft and over burdened bureaucracy of one party government.
What could the Well sanctions on trade would be an excellent starting point, and we all can recall the speed in which Rhodesia under Ian Smith was brought to heel. However this might be a little more distasteful if brought into the same context against non white nations! This then is the penalty we pay for having a Socialistic United Nations, comfortably untroubled in the White Towers of bureaucracy and able to dictate to the West; rather than criticise and meet head on the challenge from these dictatorship African and Asia nations.
The castration of our military, naval and air forces so successfully achieved by Helen Clark has borne ill fruit; when, not if, the boat people eventually head down to “God’s Own”, we can visualise the result. Couple this with our present Government and Opposition’s reluctance to avoid any United Nations displeasure (After all our position on the Security Council must be protected from any suggestion of in- humanity towards illegal’s). by taking the right step of physically denying access to our shores.
Those who support on humanitarian grounds the entry of illegal immigrants should realise that the words written on the Statue of Liberty “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", belong to a very different era, and a very different world. There is no point in just moving a problem from one place to another, that is not a cure; it is however, a United Nations “get out of jail clause” and merely creates a greater problem elsewhere.
Another question what is a genuine Refugee? It is a question similar to “When is a Terrorist actually a terrorist, and not a “freedom fighter”? If this human Tsunami increases due to the reluctance and/or outright cowardice by Western Politicians scared to make decisions that would be contrary to those of the U.N. then we are in very serious trouble, and history will replicate the invasions from the east that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century.

Jonathan said...

It is high time we stand firm with Australia in tackling this growing dilemma. After all, it WILL affects us one day - there is nothing more sure.

PETER D said...


Philob said...

Our parliament has already passed a law enabling bulk treatment of boatloads of refugees.

Philob said...

The UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, do not well apply to New Zealand's position on the globe. Distance saves us. The relevant section is:
Article 31
Refugees Unlawfully in the Country of Refuge.

The Contracting States [incl NZ] shall not apply penalties on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened [a well-founded fear of persecution for racial religious or political reasons], enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.