The Nauru Experience: Zero-Tolerance Immigration and Suicidal Children

Good and disturbing reporting:

She was 3 years old when she arrived on Nauru, a child fleeing war in Sri Lanka. Now, Sajeenthana is 8.

Her gaze is vacant. Sometimes she punches adults. And she talks about dying with ease.

“Yesterday I cut my hand,” she said in an interview here on the remote Pacific island where she was sent by the Australian government after being caught at sea. She pointed to a scar on her arm.

“One day I will kill myself,” she said. “Wait and see, when I find the knife. I don’t care about my body. ”

Her father tried to calm her, but she twisted away. “It is the same as if I was in war, or here,” he said.

Sajeenthana is one of more than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekerswho have been sent to Australia’s offshore detention centers since 2013. No other Australian policy has been so widely condemned by the world’s human rights activists nor so strongly defended by the country’s leaders, who have long argued it saves lives by deterring smugglers and migrants.

Now, though, the desperation has reached a new level — in part because of the United States.

Sajeenthana and her father are among the dozens of refugees on Nauru who had been expecting to be moved as part of an Obama-era deal that President Trump reluctantly agreed to honor, allowing resettlement for up to 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore camps.

So far, according to American officials, about 430 refugees from the camps have been resettled in the United States — but at least 70 people were rejected over the past few months.

That includes Sajeenthana and her father, Tamil refugees who fled violence at home after the Sri Lankan government crushed a Tamil insurgency.

A State Department spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the rejections, arguing the Nauru refugees are subject to the same vetting procedures as other refugees worldwide.

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement that Nauru has “appropriate mental health assessment and treatment in place.”

But what’s clear, according to doctors and asylum seekers, is that the situation has been deteriorating for months. On Nauru, signs of suicidal children have been emerging since August. Dozens of organizations, including Doctors Without Borders (which was ejected from Nauru on Oct. 5) have been sounding the alarm. And with the hope of American resettlement diminishing, the Australian government has been forced to relent: Last week officials said they would work toward moving all children off Nauru for treatment by Christmas.

At least 92 children have been moved since August — Sajeenthana was evacuated soon after our interview — but as of Tuesday there were still 27 children on Nauru, hundreds of adults, and no long-term solution.

The families sent to Australia for care are waiting to hear if they will be sent back to Nauru. Some parents, left behind as their children are being treated, fear they will never see each other again if they apply for American resettlement, while asylum seekers from countries banned by the United States — like Iran, Syria and Somalia — lack even that possibility.

For all the asylum seekers who have called Nauru home, the psychological effects linger.

Nauru is a small island nation of about 11,000 people that takes 30 minutes by car to loop. A line of dilapidated mansions along the coast signal the island’s wealthy past; in the 1970s, it was a phosphate-rich nation with per capita income second only to Saudi Arabia.

Now, those phosphate reserves are virtually exhausted, and the country relies heavily on Australian aid. It accounted for 25 percent of Nauru’s gross domestic product last year alone.

Mathew Batsiua, a former Nauruan lawmaker who helped orchestrate the offshore arrangement, said it was meant to be a short-term deal. But the habit has been hard to break.

“Our mainstay income is purely controlled by the foreign policy of another country,” he said.

In Topside, an area of old cars and dusty brush, sits one of the two processing centers that house about 160 detainees. Hundreds of others live in community camps of modular housing. They were moved from shared tents in August, ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum, an intergovernmental meeting that Nauru hosted this year.

Sukirtha Krishnalingam, 15, said the days are a boring loop as she and her family of five — certified refugees from Sri Lanka — wait to hear if the United States will accept them. She worries about her heart condition. And she has nightmares.

“At night, she screams,” said her brother Mahinthan, 14.

In the past year, talk of suicide on the island has become more common. Young men like Abdullah Khoder, a 24-year-old Lebanese refugee, says exhaustion and hopelessness have taken a toll. “I cut my hands with razors because I am tired,” he said.

Even more alarming: Children now allude to suicide as if it were just another thunderstorm. Since 2014, 12 people have died after being detained in Australia’s offshore detention centers on Nauru and Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea.

Christina Sivalingam, a 10-year-old Tamil girl on Nauru spoke matter-of-factly in an interview about seeing the aftermath of one death — that of an Iranian man, Fariborz Karami, who killed himself in June.

“We came off the school bus and I saw the blood — it was everywhere,” she said calmly. It took two days to clean up. She said her father also attempted suicide after treatment for his thyroid condition was delayed.

Seeing some of her friends being settled in the United States while she waits on her third appeal for asylum has only made her lonelier. She said she doesn’t feel like eating anymore.

“Why am I the only one here?” she said. “I want to go somewhere else and be happy.”

Some observers, even on Nauru, wonder if the children are refusing to eat in a bid to leave. But medical professionals who have worked on the island said the rejections by the Americans have contributed to a rapid deterioration of people’s mental states.

Dr. Beth O’Connor, a psychiatrist working with Doctors Without Borders, said that when she arrived last year, people clung to the hope of resettlement in the United States. In May, a batch of rejections plunged the camp into despair.

Mr. Karami’s death further sapped morale.

“People that just had a bit of spark in their eye still just went dull,” Dr. O’Connor said. “They felt more abandoned and left behind.”

Many of the detainees no longer hope to settle in Australia. New Zealand has offered to take in 150 refugees annually from Nauru but Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, has said that he will only consider the proposal if a bill is passed banning those on Nauru from ever entering Australia. Opposition lawmakers say they are open to discussion.

In the meantime, Nauru continues to draw scrutiny.

For months, doctors say, many children on Nauru have been exhibiting symptoms of resignation syndrome — a mental condition in response to trauma that involves extreme withdrawal from reality. They stopped eating, drinking and talking.

“They’d look right through you when you tried to talk to them,” Dr. O’Connor said. “We watched their weights decline and we worried that one of them would die before they got out.”

Lawyers with the National Justice Project, a nonprofit legal service, have been mobilizing. They have successfully argued for the medical evacuation of around 127 people from Nauru this year, including 44 children.

In a quarter of the cases, the government has resisted these demands in court, said George Newhouse, the group’s principal lawyer.

“We’ve never lost,” he said. “It is gut-wrenching to see children’s lives destroyed for political gain.”

A broad coalition that includes doctors, clergy, lawyers and nonprofit organizations, working under the banner #kidsoffnauru, is now calling for all asylum seekers to be evacuated.

Public opinion in Australia is turning: In one recent poll, about 80 percent of respondents supported the removal of families and children from Nauru.

Australia’s conservative government, with an election looming, is starting to shift.

“We’ve been going about this quietly,” Mr. Morrison said last week. “We haven’t been showboating.”

But there are still questions about what happens next.

Last month, Sajeenthana stopped eating. After she had spent 10 days on a saline drip in a Nauruan hospital, her father was told he had two hours to pack for Australia.

Speaking by video from Brisbane last week (we are not using her full name because of her age and the severity of her condition), Sajeenthana beamed.

“I feel better now that I am in Australia,” she said. “I’m not going back to Nauru.”

But her father is less certain. The United States rejected his application for resettlement in September. There are security guards posted outside their Brisbane hotel room, he said, and though food arrives daily, they are not allowed to leave. He wonders if they have swapped one kind of limbo for another, or if they will be forced back to Nauru.

Australia’s Home Affairs minister has said the Nauru children will not be allowed to stay.

“Anyone who is brought here is still classified as a transitory person,” said Jana Favero, director of advocacy and campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Center. “Life certainly isn’t completely rosy and cheery once they arrive in Australia.”

On Monday, 25 more people, including eight children, left the island in six family units, she said.

Those left behind on Nauru pass the days, worrying and waiting.

Christina often dreams of what life would be like somewhere else, where being 10 does not mean being trapped.

A single Iranian woman who asked not to be identified because she feared for her safety said that short of attempting suicide or changing nationality, there was no way off Nauru.

She has been waiting two years for an answer to her application for resettlement in the United States — one that now seems hopeless given the Trump administration’s policies.

Each night, often after the power goes out on Nauru, she and her sister talk about life and death, and whether to harm themselves to seek freedom.

Source: The Nauru Experience: Zero-Tolerance Immigration and Suicidal Children 

Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants

Some echoes of the previous Canadian Conservative’s language when passing C-24, along with the sharp decline in citizenship approvals until additional funding and efforts to eliminate the backlog:

Australia’s recently appointed Immigration and Citizenship minister has issued a stern warning to citizenship applicants amid a rising application backlog and dwindling citizenship conferrals  [grants].

“Australian citizenship is a privilege and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” David Coleman, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said in a recent statement.

“Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of the citizenship application process, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, and any behaviour that threatens our national security,” he added.

Australian citizenship approvals plunge to 15-year low

While Australian citizenship approvals have fallen to the lowest level since 2002-03, the number of citizenship applications awaiting processing is at a record high with migrants waiting longer than ever before to pledge their allegiance to Australia.

The warning comes in the wake of Australian citizenship conferrals plunging to 80,652 in 2017-18 – the lowest in 15 years. The Department of Home Affairs attributed the decline in citizenship approvals to an enhanced focus on security measures. The minister says he makes no apologies for it.

“Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by five million people over the past 70 years has helped secure and enrich our nation.

“We will always work to make the system as functional and effective as possible for legitimate applicants. However, we make no apologies for ensuring only those who meet our security and character requirements are given the privilege of Australian citizenship,” said Mr Coleman.

The most common reasons for Australian citizenship refusals

Over 4,000 migrants were refused Australian citizenship last year. Here are some of the most common reasons that can have your citizenship application knocked back.

Citizenship applicants are currently waiting 17-19 months to know the outcome of their applications with the backlog ballooning to nearly 245,000. According to the Department of Home Affairs, 244,765 were waiting for the processing of their applications, as of 30th June this year.

Mr Coleman said more investment and resources, including 150 additional staff, are being directed towards processing of citizenship applications.

“Applications are at a record high—we are a country that many people want to live in and be a part of… We are investing heavily to meet this demand, while also protecting the security and integrity of the system to ensure only legitimate applications are approved.”

A pair of shoes costs Indian migrant Australian citizenship
An Indian national has been refused Australian citizenship for not disclosing his court conviction over a stolen pair of shoes and possessing a credit card that was suspected to be stolen.

The minister said, as a result of boosting resources, more than 33,800 citizenship applications were processed during the first three months of the current financial year as compared to 18,700 during the same period last year.

The Department says one of the reasons behind increasing waiting times is an increase in cases requiring “complex identity assessment”.

“The Government has established a 50-person task force within the Department of Home Affairs to deal with highly complex citizenship applications and ensure they are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Mr Coleman said.

Source: Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants

Australian senator who called for ‘final solution’ to immigration expelled from party

Too extreme even for Pauline Hanson, the leader of the right-wing nativist One Nation party, found his comments too extreme:

Katter’s Australian party has ejected its only senator, Fraser Anning, from the party over his statements about “non-European” migration two months after he made a speech calling for a “final solution” to immigration.

Despite the party leader, Bob Katter, backing Anning’s comments in August, the party drew the line on Thursday, ejecting Anning for ignoring directives not to distinguish between “European” and “non-European” migration because to do so was clearly racist.

The party was under increasing pressure to ditch Anning due to a withdrawal of union support and then a threat by the Labor party to direct preferences away from the Katter party in response to the racial furore.

In his first Senate speech in August, Anning praised the White Australia policy, called for an end to Muslim migration and invoked the term “final solution”. Katter, the federal leader of Katter’s Australian party, declared the speech had his “1,000% support”.

In a statement on Thursday, the president of Katter’s Australian party, Shane Paulger, said that “99% of what Senator Anning has been saying is solid gold” but “1% … is totally unacceptable”.

Paulger revealed that both he and Katter had told Anning “there was to be no more use of words like ‘Europeans’ and ‘non-Europeans’”.

“Clearly that is racist; clearly our policies are anti-racist,” he said.

Paulger said that in the title of his plebiscite (restricting non-European migration) bill and a proposed press release, Anning “used the same racial language” despite warnings of “extreme hostility” if he persisted.

“Clearly his divide of ‘European’ and ‘non-European’ would prevent, for example, Sikhs and Filipinos coming to this country,” he said. “His bill said the people should have the last say and that Australia’s policies should favour European migration. Both these things are true.”

Paulger defended the party’s decision to back Anning after his inaugural speech, noting that its policy supported favouring “people who can integrate into our community” and because they felt they knew “what he was getting at” with his warnings against Muslim migration.

He said that 640,000 people that came to Australia every year “overwhelmingly” come from countries without democracy, the rule of law, industrial awards, egalitarian traditions and “Judeo-Christian spiritual belief systems”.

Paulger said Katter’s Australian party supported bringing “persecuted minorities” from the Middle East and North Africa including Christians, Jews and Sikhs, and there should be “no restrictions” on Pacific Islanders coming to Australia.

“In spite of the most severe and clear warnings, Senator Anning has continued down this pathway and consequently we announce the termination of his endorsement by the KAP,” he said. “Clearly Fraser wants the freedom to pursue his crusade. And we think it is best for he and the party to give him this freedom.”

Anning responded to his expulsion from the party in a statement on Thursday night, saying Katter’s press came as a surprise to him.

“I never asked to join KAP,” Anning said. “Bob and other senior party members repeatedly asked me to do so and I only agreed on the grounds that I was free to speak out on immigration, the United Nations undue influence on Australia, stopping foreign aid and the persecuted white South Africans.

“At the time I made my maiden speech, Bob said he supported it 1,000% and Shane Paulger and KAP backed me. I haven’t changed my position but it seems that they have.”

Anning denied being told not to talk about “European” and “non-European” immigration by his party. “How can calling for a plebiscite on a predominantly European immigration program be ‘pure gold’ when I gave my maiden speech on 14 August and somehow ‘racist’ two months later?”

With the exception of Katter’s Australian party, Anning’s first speech was universally panned. Even Pauline Hanson, the leader of the rightwing nativist One Nation party that helped elect Anning to the Senate, decried it as “straight from Goebbels’ handbook from Nazi Germany”.

The speech was criticised by the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the current deputy Liberal leader, Josh Frydenberg, Labor and the Greens.

Source: Australian senator who called for ‘final solution’ to immigration expelled from party

Australia Has a Plan to Keep Immigrants Out of Its Largest Cities

The Provincial Nominee Program in Canada certainly led to a diversification of where immigrants settle even if most went to our largest cities:

Immigrants to Australia will soon find themselves excluded from Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s two largest cities. Instead, new arrivals will be confined to rural, low-growth parts of the country—or so the government intends.

The proposal is part of “a decentralization agenda” announced by the country’s population and urban infrastructure minister on Tuesday. “Nearly all of the growth in Australia is into the three population centers of Melbourne, Sydney and Southeast Queensland. And that’s putting enormous pressure on Melbourne and Sydney particularly, and we see that in the congestion on the roads every day,” Alan Tudge told an Australian TV program.

Australia has been widely criticized for its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, but it settled the second most refugees per capita in 2017, after Canada and Norway. Now the government wants to use migration policy to limit population growth in Sydney and Melbourne, each of which counts more than 4.5 million residents and has grown by more than 10 percent over the past five years. Three in four new arrivals in Australia settle in one of the three areas that would be off-limits to new migrants not sponsored by employers or reuniting with family.

These issues—bursting cities, uneven migration patterns—are not unique to Australia. China has sought to restrict domestic migration to Beijing and Shanghai, citing “big city diseases” like pollution, traffic, and competition for schools, apartments and medical services. In Canada, where immigrants have long clustered in just a couple of cities, province-based visas, meant to draw arrivals to lesser populated places like New Brunswick, now account for one in five immigrants.

In the U.S., virtually none of the country’s largest cities would have added population in the last few decades without immigrants. But the impact of new arrivals is felt in rural areas too: the majority of non-metropolitan population growth between 1990 and 2010 came from Hispanic migrants. The connection between immigrants and economic growth is complicated, but various politicians have floated the idea of revitalizing depopulated areas through immigration. Why not let Syrians settle Detroit? Or Fremont, Nebraska?

In the U.S., at least, where unfettered interstate travel is sacred, plans like Australia’s can provoke unease—even when they are framed, as they usually are, as bonus lotteries to offer green cards to those who wouldn’t otherwise have them. Shouldn’t new Americans be entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including the freedom to move? Why wouldn’t immigrants want to move to the same opportunities sought by native-born Americans? Then again, others point out, employer-sponsored visas like HB-1s already essentially constitute place-based immigration.

Some economists argue confining migrants to low-growth areas doesn’t make sense: Immigrants (and natives) should move to fast-growing regions with high-paying jobs, and those places should provide enough housing and transportation to accommodate them. (Even high-cost cities like New York continue to draw newcomers.) Cities, the thinking goes, function best at scale, strengthened by the increasing potential interactions between people and jobs. That’s little consolation for regions with little population growth, some of whom will pay you to move there.

In the same way that the U.S. helps settle refugees but doesn’t restrict their movement, Canada doesn’t actually make regionally-sponsored visa recipients stay put. In Australia, Roman Quaedvlieg, the former head of the country’s border police, argued that enforcing the new provision would be nearly impossible.

The Australian government hasn’t announced yet how to make sure new immigrants don’t do what immigrants have done for centuries the world over: Move to the big city.

Source: Australia Has a Plan to Keep Immigrants Out of Its Largest Cities

Australia: Plans to outsource visa processing are scary, former immigration official says

The risks are real without proper consideration and oversight:

A Department of Home Affairs plan to outsource visa processing will lead to increased automation and “premium” services that could undermine the integrity of the system, a former senior immigration official has warned.

Abul Rizvi, a former departmental deputy secretary, told Guardian Australia the potential for a private provider to create a fast and slow lane for processing had “frightening” long-term implications and the proposed use of applicants’ data for marketing purposes was “appalling”.

Rizvi joins the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia in expressing concern about the outsourcing plan, which has not received a final sign-off from the cabinet after months of testing the market for expressions of interest.

In February Guardian Australia reported that departmental briefings to industry had revealed that a successful private bidder could offset the $1bn cost of a new visa processing system by raising revenue through “premium services for high-value applicants”, different access for those able to pay more, and “commercial value-added services”, such as offers from banks, telcos and tourist operators.

Rizvi said he was “very concerned” about the prospect of premium services because “there would inevitably be an incentive for the company to be more facilitative with regard to subjective criteria for applicants who have paid for the fast lane”.

“Any monopoly provider would want to maximise charges for the fast lane and try to drive as many applicants as possible into that lane.”

He said applicants whocould not afford the higher charges were likely to come to Australia on visitor visas and apply for other visas after arrival, exacerbating “integrity problems” caused by the existing backlog of people in Australia because of the department’s “extraordinarily poor administration”.

In July, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, boasted about a decline in permanent migration, despite industry warning that the government was “throttling back the rate of migration by stealth” through longer wait times.

Rizvi predicted that outsourced visa processing would lead to tension between the Department of Home Affairs’ increased use of “subjective criteria” for certain visas and the private operator’s desire for increased automation.

“The company or companies that win these tenders will want to automate decision-making as much as possible to minimise costs.”

Rizvi said it was appalling that “extraordinarily personal information” such as an applicant’s relationship status, job, income and health could be used by a commercial firm for marketing purposes.

The chairwoman of the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia, Mary Patetsos, said it would be “very concerned” about commercialisation of applicant information. She also opposed measures that could lead to an increased cost of visas, particularly for family and partner visas.

“Australia has a long-standing reputation for its impartial, fair and transparent immigration system,” she said. “It should not be put at risk.”

Patetsos warned that premium services “could undermine fairness”. “The opportunity to bring family to Australia to live or visit for extended periods should be available to all Australians – not just the wealthy.”

She said it would be unacceptable for Australian families of limited means to be denied family reunion, which was “integral to successful settlement, social cohesion and wellbeing”.

The deputy national president of the CPSU, Lisa Newman, said a two-tiered visa processing system “will lead to dangerous outcomes”, with the operating company incentivised to to put its profits ahead of the need to assess “gold-plated” visa applicants to the same standards applied to those who could not afford to pay a premium.

“It would also give the company an incentive to further delay processing times for regular customers to try to force them into upgrading.”

She called on the Coalition to abandon the proposal.

The CPSU intends to campaign on the visa outsourcing issue at the next federal election, targeting the immigration minister David Coleman’s seat of Banks, and other electorates with a high number of Australians born overseas, including in western Sydney.

Tender requests went to the market in July and there have been industry briefings in Sydney, Canberra, San Francisco, Singapore and Bengaluru, as well as consultation by the Department of Home Affairs with its workforce.

Groups reportedly keen to bid include a joint venture between Accenture and Australia Post, and a consortium involving Pacific Blue Capital, Qantas Ventures, PwC and Ellerston Capital.

Pacific Blue Capital is run by Malcolm Turnbull’s former employee and friend Scott Briggs. In September, Labor signalled it would pursue the government’s planned outsourcing of the $1bn visa processing system in Senate estimates and called on ministers linked to Briggs to recuse themselves from consideration of the outsourcing proposal.

Source: Plans to outsource visa processing are scary, former immigration official says

Prime Minister Scott Morrison exposes Australia’s big immigration myth

Despite his anti-immigration reputation, many of the points he makes in this interview are sensible:

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has taken aim at Australia’s obsession with population growth, saying it is a “fairly irrelevant statistic” and immigration policy is far more nuanced than many of us realise.

Population growth surged to the top of the political agenda in August as the number of people living in Australia passed 25 million, with prominent figures such as entrepreneur Dick Smith warning our “way of life” would be under threat unless immigration was drastically reduced.

In an exclusive interview with news.com.au, Mr Morrison struck a very different tone.

He identified a pervasive myth at the heart of the immigration debate — that permanent migrants from overseas are the biggest strain on Australia’s infrastructure.

He said temporary migration and natural population growth, caused by the people who already live here having children, were far more significant factors.

“I’ve never bought this idea that the permanent immigration intake is the thing fuelling population growth. Because it’s not borne out in the actual maths,” Mr Morrison said.

“When it comes to population growth at the moment, there are 10 extra people that have got on the bus. Just over four of them are temporary migrants. Just under four of them were born here, a natural increase. And only two of them are permanent migrants.”

A huge chunk of that — 38 per cent — came from the natural increase category. Among the rest, temporary migrants easily outnumbered permanent migrants.

Importantly, growth varied wildly in different parts of the country — a point Mr Morrison felt had often been lost in the national population debate.

“You have got to understand what the population impacts are, not just in terms of how much the national population is growing by. That’s a fairly irrelevant statistic,” Mr Morrison said.

“What matters is what is it growing at in Melbourne; in the western suburbs; in the eastern suburbs. What is it doing in southeast Queensland? What is it doing in Townsville? What is it doing in Perth?”

In some areas, he said, the combination of natural population growth and interstate migration “eclipses international migration a couple of times over”.

“I mean, what are they going to do — stop the Victorians, or stop the New South Welshmen?”

Meanwhile, smaller cities such as Adelaide were simply “crying out” for more immigration, not less.

“The idea of average population growth is about as helpful as average rainfall. It has the same practical meaning,” he said.

“You can have very low levels of population growth that are actually being quite unhelpful in terms of what’s happening in the economy, or social cohesion.

“You can have high levels of it, which if it’s all pretty much skills based and everybody’s in a job and it’s focused on regional areas, it can be quite suitably absorbed.”

The fundamental problem for the government is that most immigrants want to live in our biggest cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, and far fewer are interested in staying in regional areas.

The ABS statistics we cited earlier showed 165,000 migrants, or about two-thirds of last year’s net migration figure, went to those two cities.

There is only so much the government can do about it, beyond placing conditions on some temporary visas, or rewarding temporary migrants who move to regional areas. Mr Morrison signalled he was open to expanding on those initiatives.

But he certainly can’t dictate where permanent migrants get to live.

Source: Prime Minister Scott Morrison exposes Australia’s big immigration myth

Artist says Serena Williams U.S. Open cartoon ‘not about race.’ Experts disagree

Good background and discussion. My reaction looking at the cartoon is that it was racist:

If you follow tennis or Twitter, at all, you have probably seen the cartoon showing Serena Williams stomping on her racket in her U.S. Open loss on Saturday, with her features exaggerated into a caricature.

It is a product of Australia — from the Herald Sun, a tabloid in Melbourne owned by Rupert Murdoch. And it has set off an international storm of outrage, with athletes, fans and even J.K. Rowling denouncing the cartoon as sexist and racist.

How did it come to be?

On Tuesday, the artist, Mark Knight, and his boss tried to explain, arguing that their critics missed the point.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race,” Knight said in an article on the Herald Sun website about the backlash.

The newspaper’s editor, Damon Johnston, backed him up.

“A champion tennis player had a mega-tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” he said. “It had nothing to do with gender or race.”

Let’s examine that defence — with some history, context and a few experts in both cartooning and Australian race relations.

Who Is the Artist?

In Australia, Knight is a household name, known for being provocative. Politics and sports are his two main subjects and in defending his Williams cartoon on Twitter, he pointed to a previous critique of Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios as proof of his impartiality.

But Knight’s critics also point out that he has been accused of racist depictions before.

Earlier this year, he published a cartoon showing African teens fighting and causing destruction. It was an effort to criticize a local politician for banning the display of Sky News, a Murdoch-owned television news channel, from train platforms, but that is not how it was received.

Many Australians argue that Knight’s work reflects a wider pattern. Australia has never fully confronted its own history of racism, and scholars say the conversation around race in Australia is not as robust and layered as it is in the United States.

Ideas like implicit bias are rarely referenced or widely understood, for example, and many people say Knight’s employer deserves a fair share of the blame.

Murdoch’s News Corp. is the largest media company in Australia with assets that include more than 200 newspapers and magazines along with television channels and radio stations.

Many of these outlets, moving loosely together, have stirred racism for decades. And yet the tone and frequency have been intensifying more recently as their preferred party in Australia, the Liberals, have struggled politically.

The Murdoch press is not alone in the case of Williams. The sports media in Australia — in general dominated by white, older men — condemned Williams’ outburst while dismissing her argument that male players are given more leeway to misbehave.

“This is what Australia does,” said Shareena Clanton, an Aboriginal Australian actress and activist. “This is what it has always done to people of colour and, in particular, Black women who reach the top.”

“This whole cartoon is vile,” she added, saying that Williams’ opponent, Naomi Osaka, had been drawn as a white woman. “The fact that it was printed and passed the editor’s room speaks even more volumes about the landscape of our media here in Australia.”

Chris Kindred, a cartoonist in Richmond, Virginia, said it only confirmed what many Americans already knew. “It’s nothing new,” he said. “Australia has an issue confronting racism. Water is wet.”

Do the Artist’s Intentions Matter?

Knight and his editor have said that their motivations were pure.

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the U.S. Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” Knight said in the statement, adding: “The world has just gone crazy.”

That explanation does not work for many cartoonists. Many said that working in the medium of cartooning means soaking up some of the history and that history is, flat out, inseparable from racism.

In interviews, other cartoonists went even further.

“Comics has a very long history of racist iconography, which includes blackface iconography in some of the most acclaimed cartoonists in history,” said Noah Berlatsky, author of Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics.

“Thomas Nast, Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, R. Crumb all used blackface imagery; Dr. Seuss did viciously racist anti-Japanese cartoons during World War II, and on and on,” Berlatsky said. “Using exaggerated racist imagery for comic effect is one of the most characteristic moves of the comic medium.”

It is hard to believe, he said, that Knight did not know this history. A spokesperson for the Herald Sun said Knight was too busy to be interviewed. But cartoonists who have tried to defend similar work in the past have argued that this history inoculates them — that it is just how cartooning works.

No way, Berlatsky said.

“The problem is that picking up racist iconography from 100 years ago in order to attack a Black woman still makes you racist, even if you think you’re participating in the tradition of comics rather than in the tradition of racism,” Berlatsky said. “The tradition of comics very often has been the same as the tradition of racism, and you can choose to push back against that, or you can be racist. Knight has chosen the second option.”

But Is It Fair to Hold an Australian to an American Standard?

Not being American, some cartoonists argue, is no excuse.

“While Australia has its own unique colonial history separate from the United States, the Western world, including Australia, share an esthetic history,” said Ronald Wimberly, an artist and designer known for his commentary on race and comics.

That history includes an effort “to dehumanize Black and brown people by degrading their features into symbols of the subhuman,” Wimberly said, offering a detailed critique of the U.S. Open cartoon, which he described as a failure on many levels:

“Is this cartoon racist? First, what is this cartoon doing? What’s the object? The text is a pretty clear, if flaccid, punchline regarding Serena Williams’ poor sportsmanship. It alludes to Serena being childish and angry (I’d argue that the text relies on racist, sexist tropes, too).

“But cartoons are a drawing medium. Now, I don’t want to blindly attribute intent, but setting aside the possibility that the cartoonist is just that poor a draughtsman, the drawings seem to ridicule Serena’s appearance. These aren’t very good likenesses. Mark isn’t using the medium to support his joke by, say, depicting Serena as a baby, in which case the pacifier should have been more prominently featured.

“Cartooning uses the shorthand of symbols to depict things. This is our craft. Using symbols. The pacifier is a symbol of immaturity, it alludes to a baby throwing a tantrum. But Mark is also drawing from a different history of symbols here. Racist and sexist symbols. Mark critiques the appearance and performance of Serena’s body in relation to race and sex, not her sportsmanship.”

Wimberly said there was only one conclusion that anyone who knows anything about cartooning or race could come to: “Whether or not Mark intended to draw on the racist history of the symbols, he has. His intent is irrelevant. Either he is a deliberately racist cartoonist — or an incompetent and careless cartoonist.”

Kindred, the cartoonist in Virginia, said that it ultimately comes down to quality, not just sensitivity.

“We want people to make better commentary,” he said. “Racism is a lazy joke to lean on.”

Source: Artist says Serena Williams U.S. Open cartoon ‘not about race.’ Experts disagree

Peter Dutton Shapes Australia’s Immigration Policy in His Image

Good long profile on Dutton and his approach to immigration. As always, it is the apparent hypocrisy and preferential treatment that highlight the issues:

When a suicidal 10-year-old boy in an offshore detention camp asked to come to Australia for psychiatric care, Peter Dutton’s answer was no.

When an Australian combat veteran requested a refugee visa for his Afghan interpreter, Mr. Dutton — Australia’s top immigration official — also refused.

But when an Italian au pair, who worked for a former colleague, needed a reprieve from deportation, Mr. Dutton obliged. It was at least the second European au pair for whom he made an exception in 2015, calling the visa a “humanitarian act.”

Critics across Australia are calling it something else: hypocrisy that reveals an unjust immigration system.

“I’m totally disgusted that the minister has used his powers to intervene in those cases,” said Jason Scanes, 41, a former Army captain who has campaigned unsuccessfully for years to get a visa for his Afghan interpreter. “I’m just asking for a fair process and a fair go.”

Australia has always struggled with who belongs. The first British settlers slaughtered the Indigenous population, and xenophobia has shaped the nation since its earliest days when the government restricted migration to whites. In some ways, Mr. Dutton, 47, a former police officer who has been in Parliament since 2001, is simply the latest in a long line of Australian leaders to seize on concerns about foreigners and security to advance their political careers.

But since taking over the immigration portfolio in 2014, he has also made the job uniquely his own.

Promoted last year to oversee even more of the country’s security apparatus as minister for home affairs, Mr. Dutton has become the country’s unsmiling face of enforcement, defending Australia’s harsh offshore detention camps, delaying citizenship applications, and arguing for cuts in overall immigration.

The approach has won accolades from conservatives at home and abroad, including President Trump. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Dutton also nearly became prime minister, leading a party coup only to be defeated by Scott Morrison, another former immigration minister known for strict enforcement.

Mr. Dutton has not ruled out another go. With Australia’s Senate holding hearings this week on whether he appropriately approved the au pair visas, he has defended his decisions with righteous indignation.

“I am a person of integrity,” Mr. Dutton said in a recent radio interview. “I’ve never been compromised. I never will.”

But legal experts and former officials argue that the trouble with country’s immigration system extends beyond one man. Few other developed democracies imbue a single elected official with so much power and so little public oversight.

Australia has given “God powers” to its immigration ministers, legal experts said, allowing Mr. Dutton to make Australia’s already opaque border control and immigration system even more vulnerable to cronyism, secrecy and abuse.

“Our migration system has never been as fair or transparent as it claims when it comes to race or disability,” said Susan Harris Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University. “The treatment of the au pairs combined with the dreadful tales of traumatized children on Nauru underscores the juxtaposition of this kind of leniency for some, with cruelty to others.”

A history of racism?

Australia’s first immigration minister, Arthur Calwell, assumed the job in 1945, the last year of World War II, aiming for both nation-building and national security.

Australia must “populate or perish,” he said — and the immigrants must be white.

“Immigration policy always had this duality,” said Gwenda Tavan, an immigration historian at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “On one hand Australian officials for successive generations knew they needed people to populate the country but they also only wanted certain types of people.”

Even after Australia fully abandoned the White Australia policy in the 1970s, few checks and balances followed. Since 1989, the immigration minister has actually gained power, with Parliament and the courts expanding discretion and control.

One result is now clear: Mr. Dutton has had the right to grant visas as he favors with limited scrutiny.

In one case from 2015, according to leaked emails that emerged last week, Mr. Dutton halted the deportation of Alexandra Deuwel, a 27-year-old Frenchwoman who had worked as an au pair for the cousin of Gillon McLachlan, the chief executive of the Australian Football League.

Ms. Deuwel’s tourist visa had been canceled after she told border officers she would receive free accommodation for “helping the family’s children, cooking and riding horses” — a violation because tourist visas do not allow people to work.

The McLachlan family is both popular and generous to Liberal Party causes. The emails show Ms. Deuwel’s visa was granted a few hours after Mr. Dutton’s office received the request.

In another case in 2015, an Italian woman linked to the family of a former police colleague of Mr. Dutton’s was also released from detention after he intervened.

A Senate inquiry, launched by the opposition Labor Party, is now scrutinizing his actions. Last week, senators demanded details about Mr. Dutton’s use of his power of “discretion” in immigration cases, including 4,129 visa interventions since 2014, of which 25 involved tourist visas.

Previous investigations into discretion reaching back to 2004 yielded little reform or transparency, and former officials say Mr. Dutton’s intervention in the au pair cases were probably legal.

Under Australian law, the immigration minister can overrule an immigration decision as long as he (most have been men) deems the reversal “in the public interest.” These exceptions must be exercised personally by the minister and the courts have resisted restricting them.

Philip Ruddock, a politician in the governing party and former immigration minister, said such discretion was necessary.

“It’s inevitable that the black and white law fails you from time to time,” he said, citing examples from his time in government: parents with work visas and a disabled child who had been denied entry, and a school principal denied a visa on medical grounds for a disease that would not manifest for a decade.

“I’d much rather a system where you have politicians making these judgments who are accountable to the people as opposed to judges you can’t sack,” Mr. Ruddock said.

Still, he acknowledged that requests for ministerial intervention have risen to thousands of cases under Mr. Dutton from a few dozen cases in the late 80s, adding pressure to intervene and making the job harder.

Each intervention, he said, must be carefully considered. “You have to think to yourself, ‘What would the implication be if this were to be more widely known?’ ” he said.

A culture of secrecy?

In many other countries, discretionary powers are more limited and transparent.

The American system is decentralized: The State Department oversees visa approvals, the Department of Homeland Security handles admission, immigration benefits and deportations, and the Department of Justice oversees the immigration courts.

“It’s not housed in one individual,” said David Leopold, a Cleveland immigration attorney and former president of the Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington.

In Canada, a Commonwealth country like Australia, discretionary powers come with more specific guidelines. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent body, rules on asylum claims, and annual reports with data on temporary admissions decided through discretion are published online.

Similar reports used to be part of Australia’s public calendar too, until recently. After Mr. Dutton rose to take over the new Ministry of Home Affairs, information became harder to obtain.

In July, The Australian, a conservative newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, reported select details from what appeared to be the ministry’s annual report, crediting Mr. Dutton for reducing the annual permanent intake of immigrants by 10 percent.

But the ministry has declined to release the full report. Mr. Dutton did not respond to requests for the report, or an interview.

“Why is it secret?” asked Abul Rizvi, a former senior immigration official, “Why can’t we look at it?”

An ambitious minister

Those who have worked closely with Peter Dutton describe him as civil until crossed, less interested in policy than politics, and quick to see the world in black and white. Mr. Dutton rarely smiles in public, and sounds most passionate when condemning critics.

He first ran for office at 19, losing a campaign for the Queensland State Senate, then became a state police officer. Wealth came later through property deals.

“He’s just a Queensland cop of the past,” said Cheryl Kernot, whom Mr. Dutton defeated to enter Parliament. “He is an old-style cop, and I don’t think he’s changed from that at all.”

Mr. Dutton’s appeal to voters has long been based on his working-class roots and family-values conservatism. He has said the hearings on his actions are motivated by politics and threatened to publicize “quirky” cases that opposition politicians have asked him to intervene in.

“I’m gobsmacked by the hypocrisy,” he said.

His supporters seem unfazed. “I can’t condemn him,” said Andrew Schloss, general manager for a health care business next to Mr. Dutton’s district office in a Brisbane suburb. “He holds a conservative view. I am relatively conservative.”

The larger problem, critics of discretion said, is that Australia has given too much leeway to immigration ministers at a time when the fear of foreigners can be easily exploited.

Ministerial discretion has become a metric of compassion.

The Senate hearing last week examined cases in which Mr. Dutton intervened, but also those he did not — for example, that of a Tamil asylum seeker whose wife and children had already received protection visas. The man was deported in July, despite requests for ministerial intervention.

The most damning examples for Mr. Dutton may yet come from beyond Australia’s border.

Soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Australia finalized plans for the so-called Pacific Solution — a policy under which migrants (mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan) who tried to reach Australia by boat were sent to detention centers on the island nation of Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Thousands of migrants, many of whom later qualified for resettlement as refugees under international law, have since been held in these offshore camps, which have become a global human rights embarrassment for Australia.

Under Mr. Dutton, government support for the detainees has been cut and conditions have deteriorated. Twelve people put in the detention campshave died since 2014.

On Nauru, where 900 people are still detained, “children as young as 7 and 12 are experiencing repeated incidents of suicide attempts, dousing themselves in petrol, and becoming catatonic,” according to a recent reportby the Refugee Council of Australia and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Leaders from both of Australia’s major parties have defended the policy, saying it eliminates incentives for human smuggling and dangerous sea journeys.

But this week, photos of dark-skinned children stranded on Nauru have competed with images of the white au pairs smiling and enjoying Australia’s beaches.

The women have since returned to their home countries.

The children remain in limbo off the Australian coast.

Source: In Australia, One Man Can Decide a Migrant’s Fate. Did He Abuse That Power?

Australia: Immigration levels reach 10-year low under Peter Dutton’s new rules

Significant shift:

The number of people permanently migrating to Australia has dropped 10 percent, with official figures reaching the lowest level in more than a decade.

Tough new vetting rules imposed by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has seen the annual intake cut by 21,000 people.

A crackdown on fraudulent claims and more visa refusals has also contributed to the drop, the largest in more than 10 years.

Immigration now stands at less than 163,000 people annually from a previous peak of 190,000. The 2007-08 recorded intake was 158,630.

Dutton’s new integrity measures have also led to a 46 percent rise in visa refusals and a 17 percent increase in application withdrawals.

The number of people permanently migrating to Australia has dropped 10 percent, with official figures reaching the lowest level in more than a decade. Picture: AAP

“The government has had real focus on making sure not only we restored integrity to our border but (also) to our permanent migration program,” Mr Dutton told 9NEWS’ Ben Fordham.

“Looking more closely at the applications that are made. Making sure that we’re bringing the best migrants possible into our country.

“In the end we want our migration program to work in our country’s best interests.”

Mr Dutton has accused the previous Labor governments of “ticking and flicking applications”, claiming that the Turnbull government on the other hand is applying close scrutiny to all applications.

“If we’re right, we end up with a better migration intake,” he said.

The changes have seen an annual fall in skilled migrations by more than 12,000.

Mr Dutton previously suggested a drop in the official migrant ceiling from 190,000 to 170,000 to colleagues – though no official attempts to enforce this were made.

The current ceiling was introduced under Malcolm Turnbull, replacing Labor’s generalised “target” of 190,000.

Source: Immigration levels reach 10-year low under Peter Dutton’s new rules

Racism, citizenship and schooling: why we still have some way to go

Interesting article on the Australian and New Zealand experience with education approaches for Indigenous peoples. Spoiler alert, the better model is New Zealand with the Maori (I was always impressed when my New Zealand diplomatic counterparts would be both in English and Maori):

At a Senate Estimates hearing in May, LNP Senator Ian MacDonald saidhe found it difficult to find any but “very rare” cases of racism in Australia. Though, he did concede perhaps this view had developed “living in a bubble”. Bubbles are dangerous places from which to make public policy.

MacDonald may not have had personal experiences of racism, but 20% of Australians have experienced racism in the past 12 months due to the colour of their skin, ethnic origin or religion.

Racism means people experience citizenship differently. It means opportunities and capacities are not equally available to every citizen and egalitarian justice, the idea of a “fair go” for everyone, doesn’t work as it’s intended.

Racism divides societies and fractures the idea of common nationhood. It helps explain why some people don’t get a fair go at school, for example.

Racism and school policy

Schools operate outside MacDonald’s bubble. But they aren’t ideologically neutral.

Historically, education policy was explicit. Schools were not meant to work for Indigenous people. In the 1890s, inferior curriculums were officially circulated for Indigenous people.

By 1937, the idea of inherent Indigenous intellectual inferiority remained. A parliamentary committee heard and ignored arguments for better schooling:

I say that a full-blood can be educated just as well as a half-caste or non-Aboriginal…I say they must have qualified teachers…At present they are not qualified…

Indigenous people could be excluded from New South Wales public schools until 1972.

Separate schools for Indigenous peoples were established to meet the requirement for education set out by the Aboriginal Protection Acts. But education was usually for domestic service or labouring, and often marked by physical and sexual abuse.

Exclusion is the lived experience of some of the parents of Indigenous people who are in school now. As well as being a denial of equal human worth, the experience of racism at school directly predicts lower test scores.

Racism also occurs at other levels of the education system. For example, in 2017, an Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association member survey found 60% of Indigenous doctors and medical students had experienced racism and/or bullying during training.

Education and culture are universal human rights. But when some people can bring their knowledge, experiences and worldviews to school and others can’t, it produces systemic discrimination. It means different people get different levels of access to education.

Who decides what knowledge counts

Canadian multicultural political theorist Will Kymlicka argues:

the state unavoidably promotes certain cultural identities and thereby disadvantages others. This may be true, but the state can also intentionally promote some cultural identities at the exclusion of others.

In 2008, Julia Gillard insisted bilingual schooling discontinue in the Northern Territory. It was an ideological position that undervalued the relationships between language, cultural identity and intellectual development. Nor did it consider that there are broader and more important contributors to school effectiveness such as teacher quality.

The question of who decides what knowledge counts for Indigenous people is also important. Can Indigenous people really be equal citizens if they can’t contribute to these decisions?

Again in 2008, a Northern Territory government submission to an inquiry into the Northern Territory Intervention made it clear even the citizen’s right to go to school was conditioned by systematic racism.

According to a government submission, policy measures to combat truancy were problematic because if they worked, the system would not be able to cope with the anticipated increase in school attendance. The failure of this policy was expected and accepted for Indigenous citizens.

Where are we now?

In Australia and elsewhere in 2018, policy rhetoric allows Indigenous peoples to pursue higher aspirations. It insists on fundamental human equality and aims to shift MacDonald’s observation from the naive to the prophetic. Eliminating racism from public policy means positive difference is a reasonable expectation of citizenship.

Everybody should enjoy the same political capacities to influence what happens at school, why and for whose benefit. The claim for influence, as a capacity of citizenship, inspires the contemporary call for a guaranteed Indigenous voice to parliament.

But diminishing racism and the policy failure that it causes requires Indigenous voice at all levels of public policy-making and implementation. Culture counts not just in classroom practices, but also in policy evaluation.

There are, for example, important arguments of equal citizenship for Indigenous policy makers to examine the apparent contradiction between low Indigenous achievement in NAPLAN and the only Closing the Gap target on track to be met – halving the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020. Policy failure can be reduced by replicating examples of success.

What does work?

In 2016, a National Health and Medical Research Council forum proposed establishing an Aboriginal community-controlled education sector. This would parallel the 143 existing community-controlled health organisations and contribute to a citizenship of influence.

The Indigenous Stronger Smarter Institute’s educational principlesreflect an expectation that schools must work equally well for everybody; that education should occur on principles of equal citizenship. This includes acknowledging and embracing a positive sense of identity, Indigenous leadership in schools and school communities, and having high expectations for Indigenous staff and students.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership provides examples of these principles working in practice to improve Indigenous achievement. But the institute’s listed instances of “what works” are not generally measures that have been trialled, evaluated and replicated across whole school systems.

All New Zealand schools are evaluated explicitly and publicly on Maori achievement and their efforts to improve it. Many have raised Maori achievement with reference to an Effective Teaching Profile developed by the Maori led Te Kotahitanga research and teacher professional development project. Its six presumptions are that:

  • teachers care for their students as culturally located human beings above all else
  • teachers care for the performance of their students
  • teachers are able to create a secure, well-managed learning environment
  • teachers are able to engage in effective teaching interactions with Māori students as Māori
  • teachers can use strategies that promote effective teaching interactions and relationships with their learners
  • teachers promote, monitor and reflect on outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in educational achievement for Māori students.

Te Kotahitanga and its successor professional development programmes are widely implemented and the Coalition Government Agreementbetween the Labour and New Zealand First parties commits to further investment in the project.

The contrast between Australia and New Zealand is ultimately one of expectations about what it means to be an Indigenous citizen entitled to a “fair go” as racism’s opposite.

Source: Racism, citizenship and schooling: why we still have some way to go