Monday 04 February 2002

Refugees’ hard road to happiness

Dispiriting BBC News story about what happens to the refugees who are “lucky” enough to finally get a (temporary) visa. In the SMH, Robert Manne asks about the long term moral and political costs:

The costs of all this cruelty will not be borne by the refugees alone. If it is true, as I believe it is, that our country has been enriched in spirit by the courage of the volunteer firefighters this summer, so must it also be true that its spirit has been diminished by the cruelties committed in our name in the course of the construction of our new anti-asylum-seeker fortress.

I’ve always regarded Manne as a warm-hearted, soft-headed idealist—perhaps Australia’s leading chatterati . His opinion, although typically focusing on the problem without proposing a solution, suggests that he has a much stronger grasp of realpolitik than I’d imagined. Putting aside the inherent selfishness that lies at the core of our refugee policy, it’s clear that too little thought has been given to the impact of this sorry saga on our long-term relationship with Muslim Indonesia.

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