In today’s Guardian, Ant Loewenstein rightly advocates the use of UN sanctions to pressure the Australian government to end its regime of terror against hapless refugees corralled in offshore detention camps. Sanctions would make Australians, their racist government, the Australian media and the world sit up and take notice and apply punitive pressure to end Australia’s disgraceful treatment of refugees.
Western leaders live under the belief that they can behave as they like to the powerless and invisible. Asylum seekers are essentially voiceless, reporters are barred from visiting where they’re warehoused in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and the daily drumbeat of dishonest rhetoric wrongly accuses them of being “illegal”.
Even the threat of sanctions against Australia would enrage the Abbott government and its backers. Australia is a democracy, they will claim. Australia’s decisions are checked and approved by lawyers, they may argue. Australians can vote out recalcitrant regimes, they could state.
And yet transparency over asylum seeker policy has arguably never been more absent.
The shared impunity which the US delivers to its fellow settler colonial human rights abusers is an insult to justice. This impunity must end in order that criminals who abuse human rights of others can be brought to justice. The West has no credibility unless it makes an effort to adher to the values it claims it represents when its orientalists laud it over others.
The Australian government feels invincible, protected under America’s security blanket and selling its dirty coal to the world. We are sold the myth that building remote detention camps will protect us from the “hordes” trying to enter our promised land. It’s impossible not to conclude that Australia, a colonial construction, doesn’t see itself akin to Canada, the US and Israel as countries struggling to cope with people various officials call “infiltrators”. That bubble must be burst, and the threats of sanctions will be the required shot. Until Australia and its defenders appreciate the necessity to treat asylum seekers with dignity and respect, they should feel the world’s opprobrium.