GUEST BLOG: Jan Logie – When did we roll over on human rights?

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Recent events in our backyard have led me to reflect on what it is to be a New Zealander. At the heart of this is an assumption I’ve always held that we are a country that promotes human rights internationally.

New Zealand was established by Treaty (admittedly this was because the colonisers would have lost the fight, but still…) we were the first country to achieve universal suffrage, we helped draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, we accepted almost 1,000 Polish refugees even before the UN’s refugee convention was written, and when Australia refused asylum to the Tampa refugees, sending them instead to Nauru, we brought 150 of them to New Zealand.

It’s not that I thought we were perfect. Our position on South Africa and the occupation of East Timor made it clear that our Government prefers to wait until the weight of public opinion demands the right action.

I am worried though that we now only stand up for human rights when we don’t think it will affect our economic or geo-political relationships. New Zealand is spending aid funding on training the violent Indonesian police force who are occupying West Papua. We extended friendship to a regime accused, with much evidence, of attempted genocide in Sri Lanka and rather than accepting refugees turned away by Australia, we now seem to be supporting the detention camps to which these vulnerable people have been shunted. There’s even some suggestion we might send asylum seekers to these camps.

The detention camp in Nauru has been described by Amnesty International as inhumane.“The standard of life under rough tents (leaky and hot) is even not suitable for cattle. The wild and phosphoric atmosphere of Nauru causes several diseases”.

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2013 report into conditions on Manus Island found similar reasons for concern. One detainee put it like this: “In Myanmar, our lives were in danger, and here they are also in danger. At least in Myanmar we were with our families – our wives, children, brothers and sisters”.

This week a young asylum seeker from Iran was killed in the camp on Manus Island and others seriously injured as locals employed by security guards at the detention centre attacked asylum seekers with machetes, knives and rocks.

This attack apparently followed unrest after the asylum seekers were pressured into voluntarily returning to their homelands and told there was no prospect of resettlement in Australia or any other country.

The Manus Island Police chief has said the riots were a result of Australia failing to address the concerns of the asylum seekers.

Last year John Key announced New Zealand had discussed the conditions in the camps with Julia Gillard and was happy with her assurances that the conditions were “world standard”. At this point Key said he’d consider sending New Zealand asylum seekers to these camps for processing if needed.

In doing so, he made New Zealand complicit in the continued human rights abuses at the camps.

Tony Abbott has taken Australia in an even more extreme direction. He has shut down most of the scrutiny of the camps and has chosen not to send any of the asylum seekers to New Zealand for resettlement because he seems to think he will be able to deter people from trying to reach Australia if he can create an environment as bad as the one they’re fleeing from. He doesn’t even want them to have the hope of being resettled.

Even China has spoken out about the conditions in the camps. New Zealand has not.  We need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. We need to challenge breaches of human rights and outright cruelty. That’s what being a Kiwi is about.

 

Jan Logie is a Green Party MP

13 COMMENTS

  1. Sadly, the world is quickly over-filling with people, and refugees are being created. There would be less overpopulation if we just adhered to the concept that 2 children is enough to replace one’s DNA–so get it right the first times, and don’t choose for gender. Religions promote huge families to keep their gravy train rolling, and in turn insist on wars to grab enough territory to sustain themselves. Solve that! Decrease the constantly occurring clashes of too many sects. It will take intelligence and restraint, as well as charity to refugees.

    • And cultures use large families as pension schemes, as it were, which is also the other reason why they favour sons. The favouring of parents of the male goes extremely deep and if you want to look closely exists even in our society. Wholeheartedly agree though about human overpopulation of the planet and this refugee thing is a problem, I fear that absorbing them just leaves a hole where they came from that quickly gets filled, a bit like wiping out possums in a confined forest block, it is quickly repopulated from the surrounding areas.
      Dilemma indeed, damned if you, damned if you don’t

      • actually, that was true in 1960 but it is not true anymore

        in what we consider the “developing” world they no longer have large families. the birth rates over the vast majority of the planet are a lot lower then they were in the 1960’s when our geography text books were written. they are now around replacement rate.

        see this really interesting talk on TED.com:

        http://new.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies

        the population will stabilise at about 10 billion

        which is still a massive number

        and NZ has a relatively low population density, which is actually a good thing and is what gives us most of our quality of life

        if we lose that then we will end up just like the rest of the overpopulated world

        • You do understand that ten billion is far, far too many for the planet to sustain, don’t you? It is in a bad way with just over half that. To be truly sustainable for us all to be able to live a reasonably modern lifestyle, there is only room for about 3 billion, so you should not feel complacent about population stabilizing at 10.
          Many other species are in grave danger of going extinct as it is.
          Are you prepared to have your kids, grandkids and great grandkids find out HOW the population will stabilize. I suggest to you, it will not be pretty, it needs to stabilize like last week, and not just stabilize but actually go in the opposite direction – NOW!

          • “What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint) is our teeming population. Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us… In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.”

            Tertullian.

            In other words, these bs claims have been around or thousands of years.

          • Raegun,
            According to the two Hans Rosling video posts I and now “Lara” have directed you to, countries like Bangladish have already reduced their birth rates but, for the same thing to happen in Africa,we must lift that continent’s standard of living.

          • Raegun,
            As George Monbiot and many others have pointed out, an African child only uses about a tenth of the resources that you and I consume.

        • When I was in Cambodia, most people I knew came from large families – but did not want to have large families themselves. Once they were getting adequate health services, they were more interested in making sure they could get their children educated.

          And anyway – have a look at the map of population density by country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_population_density_map.PNG

          Are you saying Africa should limit immigration from Europe?

          BTW – When did we roll over on human rights? I’d say in 1980, when New Zealand sponsored, voted for and lobbied support for UN resolutions that provided support for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, which prolonged the war in Cambodia for another decade.

    • DWNATS…these refugees are not escaping overpopulation. They are escaping repressive regimes (mostly Islamic) in the same way people tried to leave communist and socialist regimes in decades past.

  2. Australia is getting to the stage where it deserves a sporting boycott. Democracy, the rule of law, and human rights protections are disappearing for the average Australian, even while many of them are cheerleaders for the vile way in which Labor and the LNP treat refugees. Something needs to wake them up, and it won’t be the cringing approval given to them by Key, who wouldn’t know a human right if it burrowed into his empty chest cavity and did a samba. There are Australians who are against the actions of their governments, in fact there are many of them, but they will not be inspired by the likes of Key.

  3. Can someone please suggest what it is that Australia is to do to halt illegal immigration, they do have the right to do that, but how?

    • This post is about refugees. Illegal immigration is something completely different. Illegal immigrants arrive in Australia by plane, mostly from Europe, and outstay their tourist visas. Australia puts very little effort into stopping them.

  4. Quote:
    “Last year John Key announced New Zealand had discussed the conditions in the camps with Julia Gillard and was happy with her assurances that the conditions were “world standard”. At this point Key said he’d consider sending New Zealand asylum seekers to these camps for processing if needed.”

    I suppose Key would say the same of the Guantanamo camp, that the US still maintain on an isolated territory they occupy on Cuba. The past incidents of “water-boarding” and terrorising with 24/7 exposure to loud music an light that happened there, that will most likely have been done while being based on “evidence-based medical science”, causing no significant harm.

    While the Manus Camp and the one on Nauru are different of course, they are also somehow like high security installations, with limited water to wash and time to “crap”, and I suspect it is all being kept “clean” and “hygienic”, and thus must be “world standard”.

    Following Key’s logic, we will also have to accept that battery hens are kept appropriately to “world standard”, same as pigs in tight sow crates.

    And as MSD and WINZ have now also adopted the ideology that “work will set you free”, which is also supposedly “evidence based”, we must be on track with our “great” human rights record.

    History has been rewritten repeatedly, and one day all critcism like this blog will likely be “verboten” and wiped off the internet, books and what else kinds of records there may exist.

    “Heil” my Leader, John Key!

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