Crucified on Christmas Island

The death of 30 asylum seekers, whose overloaded wooden boat crashed on the rocks of Christmas Island and sank, speaks volumes about immigration controls. This 21st century barbarism needs to be abolished, just as the slave trade was.

In the past year 5000 people made their way to Australia in flimsy boats via Indonesia. Most were from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka fleeing war and genocide. Australia, as a key player in the US-led wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, is directly responsible for the desperate plight of those who turn to people-smugglers.

The journey to Australia invariably ends in prison or death.

In the 1990s Paul Keating’s Labour government introduced mandatory detention for all refugees and asylum seekers, and whipped up fear of the country being over run by refugees.

Some migrants have been locked up for as long as seven years under indefinite detention rules. This form of brutality is an election- winner as John Howard discovered in 2001 when he turned away the Tampa boat loaded with refugees. He then incarcerated the refugees on tiny Pacific Islands, devoid of legal rights and well away from public scrutiny. The Labour opposition came out in support of Howard. Some opposition!

Naturally, Gillard’s Labour Government has carried on Howard’s policy, tweaking it ever so slightly; the asylum seekers are now locked up in East Timor instead of Nauru.

The detention centres are hell holes for people escaping hell. Christmas Island detention centre was built to hold 400 people; today it has 2726 prisoners. Thousands of children have been held in detention. An enquiry by the Human Rights Commissioner in Australia found “that children detained for long periods of time were at a high risk of suffering mental illness. Mental health professionals had repeatedly recommended that children and their parents be removed from immigration detention. The inquiry found that the Australian government’s refusal to implement these recommendations amounted to “..cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of those children in detention”.

Since 2001 ships suspected of trafficking people in Australian territorial waters have been seized and forcibly removed.

Australia’s official policy is of non-racial border controls. That has been shown to be a lie in the treatment of boat people when compared to the tens of thousands of British and US citizens who stay in Australia with expired visas. These Anglo visitors are not hauled out to remote areas and locked up in detention camps.

That Australia is about to be “over run by hordes of refugees” is a modern myth. Yet Australia is a wealthy country that has escaped recession and has unemployment levels of just over 5%.

New Zealanders like to think that this country has a much more humane approach than Australia. Unfortunately New Zealand also has a shameful history. From poll taxes against Chinese, to revoking NZ citizenship for Samoans, to dawn raids and deportations, migrants have faced hardship and discrimination.

Fears of overcrowding are also raised in New Zealand, despite this country being number 200 out of 239 in population density.

Concerns that migrants will be a drain on the economy are equally unfounded. Migrants bring skills and knowledge and as workers are exploited by capitalists who profit from their labour. As workers migrants produce more goods and services than they consume.

Migration is a result of capitalist globalization and people naturally seek better lives and to escape war and poverty. The bosses who benefit from the system of globalization should be made to pay for greater facilities to meet the needs of migration.

Some presume wages will be driven down by new migrants. The answer is for workers to unite with migrants to push wages up. In fact, New Zealand history shows many migrants brought union experience which helped workers here make solid gains.

Bosses would like us to think that border controls are to “protect our way of life” Immigration laws only benefit  the class who make and administer those laws. They allow capitalist governments to control the movement of labour and wages.

Some think open borders is a utopian demand and that the best we can achieve is more humane immigration policies. It is the idea of immigration controls being humane that is utopian. With controls come detainment, deportations, and people smugglers. The Workers Party stands for workers freedom, including complete freedom to move around the planet.


  1. Dmitry of Hawkes Bay says:

    Imagine Maori, Australian abourigines and American Indians introducing immigration controls to prevent desperate Europeans migrating for better life (e.g. escaping the Irish Potato Famine). The New Zealand Company in England used to make money off the immigrants by painting a rose picture instead of the actual conditions in NZ probably in much the same fashion as the modern people smugglers in Indonesia do. It is called “marketing”, which is distinct from “lying”.

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