Crossborder Operational Matters

xbOpThis website focuses on five crucial aspects of the Australian Government’s policies around the border. It seeks to generate discussion, compile key information and analysis, and encourage practical efforts that break with the downward spiral of successive government approaches. We do not seek to trade in suffering but to end it by highlighting the violent machinery and machinations of policy.

On-Water Operations
ship‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ is the name of the Australian Government’s policy of turning back asylum seekers who attempt to travel to Australia by boat. It is undertaken by a multi-agency force that includes the Royal Australian Navy and Customs and Border Protection. It is a militarised force conducted under extreme secrecy.

Internment Industry Supply-Chains & Infrastructure
schainOver the last twenty years, successive Australian Governments have supported and expanded the policy of automatically interning those who travel by boat to Australia without papers. Thousands have been indefinitely interned without charge or trial. In more recent years, governments have established offshore internment camps on Nauru and Manus Island. Governments subcontract the establishment and running of these camps to a range of companies in what has become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Precarious Lives
precAlongside the camps, “community detention” has extended surveillance and control of asylum seekers living in the community and their reliance on a growing refugee-NGO-industry. Harsher visa conditions for those not detained, including the removal of work rights and a new Code of Behaviour, simultaneously create and punish a reliance on informal economies for survival. Welfare payments are removed for those who seek access to the courts. Anti-people smuggling measures for the most part serve to criminalise support by families and friends across borders. The objective of such policies is the creation in Australia of a fearful and racially-vilified group of people who will work for as close to nothing as possible.

Global Problem, Global Links, Global Campaign
wrld The issue of asylum seekers is being framed as a threat to Australian national sovereignty. But the challenge to the border posed by refugees is a global phenomenon. The injustices and devastation from which people flee are not created in a vacuum. They are produced as a result of global inequality and wars fought in that context. Australia, North America and the European Union are all invested in the same policies. Yet Australia’s particular settler colonial legacy, invasion paranoia, and the prominence of ‘stopping the boats’ in political point-scoring sets it apart as a laboratory of border policies which have been exported around the world. The UN’s says that Australia is in breach of the Refugee Convention to which it is a signatory. This is one step towards calling for sanctions against Australia. To succeed, the campaign must be global and grass-roots. International allies are called upon to draw attention to the violence the Australian state enacts against refugees daily by engaging creatively in a boycott of Australia abroad.

Antiracism – Alerta, Antifa
antifa_stencil_peace_cnd_logo-555pxThe violence that is an integral part of the conduct of Operation Sovereign Borders and the internment camps can only be justified by resorting to and encouraging further racism. Far Right racist groups are supporters and beneficiaries of policies that are (either explicitly or tacitly) predicated on impugning the character of and demonising asylum seekers, refugees and ‘foreigners’ generally. The presence of racist groups within Operation Sovereign Borders raises serious concerns for the safety and well-being of those whom they confront on the high seas beyond public scrutiny.

anchor_silhouetteWe take inspiration from the many alliances of autonomous refugees, asylum seekers and anti-racist activists opposing not only the cruel and unusual treatment to which refugees and asylum seekers are subjected but also the idea of the border itself as a central myth in the creation of moral panics and economic vulnerabilities.

8 Comments

  1. We know the inhumane policy persued by the present & the past Govts going back to Howard is morally wrong & a travesty of justice toward people suffering persecution from whence they came & to where they have come. But how do we convince the bogans who support this Govts actions that it is morally bankrupt & must be beaten?????

  2. Best of luck for this enterprise.

    One element not covered in your prospectus is the destabilising effects of Abbott’s detention policies on host nations.

    These hosts must be sufficiently poor and small to be bullied into compliance by the Australian government. Yet poverty and diminutiveness cause fragility and instability. We see Nauru’s rule of law collapsing under the weight of the detention camps.

    I believe that this fragility is the weak link in Abbott’s policy. He will not be able to continue to send detainees to collapsed states. And those states will renege on agreements. Abbott will be forced to admit that OSB is a logistical failure and a strategic disaster.

    Bring it on.

    • Isn’t offshoring & its impact part of questions about supply chains and infrastructure? And each point in that machinery will have its own approach, issues. Different people will have different ideas about which point is most important.

      Is there something practical you would suggest in the case Nauru & Manus that should happen now? Various people have talked about a flotilla. There are other suggestions floating around as well. But surely there’s a kind of complicity involved in waiting around for Abbott to admit anything or watching other countries be devastated in the process.

      It’s possible to develop links with Pacific Islanders and across to Indonesia; just as it’s possible to refuse to work in this system, and just as it’s possible to question the funding of it by, say, worker’s superannuation funds. All of these things are concrete things that can be done, now. And they are all connected because they are all part of the same machinery. Many of them are being done. They require focused support, networking and amplification. It’s doable.

  3. Someone called Gloria Kelly posted this on AsRc Facebook, thought it might be useful here: “The chairman of Transfield Services is Tony Shepherd http://www.transfieldservices.com/page/AR2013/Board_of_Directors who is the former CEO of the Business Council of Australia and who Tony Abbott recently appointed to his Commission of Audit. According to Doug Cameron in his blog titled Abbott Outsources Policy to Big Business http://www.dougcameron.com.au/abbott_outsources_policy_to_big_business “The appointment of former Business Council of Australia CEO and Transfield Chairman Tony Shepherd set alarm bells ringing from the start. Shepherd presided over the transformation of the BCA from a partisan but nevertheless serious player in policy development into a still partisan, but rent-seeking outfit whose policy positions have led it to be a bit of a laughing stock. The performance of Transfield under his stewardship has been nothing short of abysmal.” Furthermore, he states: “At Transfield, from where he resigned as Chairman to take up his Commission of Audit appointment, Shepherd presided over a collapse in the company’s market capitalisation to barely a tenth of what it was before the GFC. Shepherd and his fellow board members brought this about through ill-judged acquisitions resulting in after tax losses, impairments and write downs of over half a billion dollars; bringing with them job cuts aimed at cutting costs. Transfield is a shadow of its former self and a time when the people who actually owned the business ran it.”

  4. Archie archives has suggested a new front in Australia’s war: Bangladesh (to stop Rohingya?)
    “ATTEMPTING TO STOP THE ROHINGYA?

    Thanks, Vince for finding this gem. We have been wondering for a while just what has happened to the patrol boat HMAS Childers. Janes reported a couple of days ago, “The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) Armidale-class patrol craft HMAS Childers arrived at Chittagong, Bangladesh, on 27 January for what was described by Acting Minister for Defence Senator George Brandis as a landmark visit and “significant milestone” for Australia’s and Bangladesh’s navy-to-navy relationship. “Australia and Bangladesh have conducted some minor naval interactions during regional bilateral activities in the past, but this is the first time an [RAN] ship has visited the country,” said Brandis. “This historic visit to Bangladesh will enable some increased understanding in how we each operate, which will lead to better interoperability in areas common to our navies.“
    http://archiearchive.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/refugee-boat-timeline-to-february-1st/

  5. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately:

    Polling shows that 59% of people polled do NOT believe that most asylum seekers who arrive by boat are genuine refugees. Only 30% believed that most boat arrivals are genuine refugees.
    Now, those of us who get our news from someone other than Murdoch know this not to be true. We know that greater than 90% of people who arrive by boat will later (much later), be recognised as ‘genuine refugees’.

    Of the 1000 people surveyed, 60% felt that boat-arrivals should be treated more harshly.

    59% of those surveyed felt that boat-arrivals should not receive financial government assistance.

    All these figures tell us that the majority of Australians have no idea who is on these boats. No concept of the types of persecution they are fleeing. No idea that there is no ‘queue’ for asylum seekers to be processed and re-settled. They don’t realise that (for example), in 2011, only 0.7% of the worlds refugees were resettled. These figures also show us that people do not know, or do not believe, that the conditions on Manus and Nauru are tantamount to torture.

    Personally, I refuse to believe that people don’t care. I’m convinced that the problem is that people DON’T KNOW.

    This needs to change. Television shows such as those shown on the ABC’s “4 Corners”, and SBS’ “Go Back To Where You Came From” are great. I always watch them. But truly, they are preaching to the choir.
    Add to that the fact that it is nigh-on impossible to get decent reportage out of these places. Successive governments have made it increasingly difficult for us to know what is going on. For the Abbott government, it’s pretty much their modus operandi.

    How do you get the rest of Australia to listen and learn? I don’t know. If we knew that, we wouldn’t have this problem.

    I don’t have any answers here, so if you read this far hoping for a revelation, I apologise :) I just think it’s important to know what the problems are before trying to come up with a solution.

    Actually, there’s one other thought I’ve had. Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? If you did psych in highschool, you probably covered it. It’s basically the idea that humans have a hierarchy of needs that looks like a pyramid. The greatest needs are at the bottom, and include physiological needs like breathing, food, water etc. We move up the pyramid through Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and eventually (so the theory goes) we reach Self Actualisation at the top.
    Now, it’s my personal theory that governments like to try and keep most of their constituents near the bottom of the pyramid. If we’re all worrying about where our next meal may come from, job security, and mundane things like that, we’re never going to get to a point where our greatest needs are ones like morality, truth and creativity. It is in the governments’ (not just in Oz, but all over) best interest that we live in a permanent state of fear. They want us to always worry that someone is going to come and take what is ‘rightfully ours.’ They appeal to our most basic emotions of fear and greed.

    Once again, I don’t know how you change that. Revolution, anyone?

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