Trump’s preoccupation with foreigners “taking advantage” of Americans could still usher in an Australian-style future.
.. Australia does not separate the children of “unauthorized arrivals” from their parents, but it does detain entire families in horrible conditions, sometimes for years.
.. The only way to deter people desperate enough to risk death on their journey to a new country is to threaten them with conditions worse than the ones they fled.
A United Nations report from 2017 cites isolation, overcrowding and limited access to basic services on Manus and Nauru, along with “allegations of sexual abuse by the service providers” and continuing reports of self-harm and suicide.
.. About 80 percent of the asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus are ultimately found to be refugees. But with no prospect of ever being allowed into Australia, hundreds decide to return to their countries of origin.
.. While a quarter of the population say policies are too tough, higher numbers usually say policies are too soft. Some Australians see refugees from predominantly Muslim war-torn countries as national security threats, and believe they must be dealt with as harshly as possible.
.. Politicians justify draconian measures with appeals to Australians’ sense of fairness and safety, and in turn they face an electorate that they fear would punish them if they did otherwise.
.. politicians warn that people smugglers are watching and waiting for a moment of weakness by Australia
.. Last month, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned that “the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion.”
.. If American public opinion turns toward accepting cruel deterrent measures, it will be political rhetoric that leads the way. Warnings by the Trump administration that criminals use children to exploit legal loopholes would sound familiar to Australians, whose government once claimed that asylum seekers threw children into the sea to force the navy to take them to Australia.
.. fictional dystopias to account for our asylum policies we often reach for Ursula Le Guin. Her short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” describes a peaceful and idyllic city-state whose happiness depends on the cruel imprisonment of a child in a basement. Everyone knows the child is there.
.. “Le Guin intended her story as a cautionary tale. How did we end up with two political parties using it as an instruction manual?”