Australia's harsh anti-people-smuggling legislation has deadly consequences

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Australia's harsh anti-people-smuggling legislation has deadly consequences

Media Release
Wednesday July 4, 2012 11:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"It's one thing to have the harshest possible sanctions regime in place that targets people smugglers and people smuggling operations, but it's high time Australia starts addressing the unintended but lethal consequences of its criminal sanctions regime and its framing of asylum seeker vessels as "crime-related" events," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Following yet another maritime distress situation 50kms off the Indonesian coast, Australia ought to attend to the "devils choice" its legislation has created," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"If you arrest, convict and jail all adult skippers, even if they are broke, unemployed Indonesian islanders from fishing communities that have sailed on the Ashmore Reef fishing grounds for centuries - then such harsh convictions have enormous consequences, in that these adult fishermen will be replaced by under-aged fishermen who crew the vessels."

"If you confiscate and burn all the boats that bring asylum seekers, then the boats purchased by smugglers will become cheaper, more dilapidated and they will develop into "one-way quality" vessels, that are very likely to develop difficulties making the voyage with success."

"If you crack down on, apprehend and arrest the "experienced" middle-order assistant operators, then smugglers will replace these with "inexperienced" or "shonky", "newly arrived" or "fly-by-night" middlemen."

"It's time that our politicians face up to this devil's dilemma and consider that our condemnation and criminalisation of smuggling operations and people smugglers contributes to the circumstances under which asylum seekers try to come to our shores to seek asylum."

"When we face up to this devil's dilemma, we perhaps need to start taking many cold showers and conclude that the only crime smugglers commit is that they deliver asylum seekers to our border without prior appointment. That is the banale truth of it."

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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