Is Australia Paying Smugglers to Stay Away?

By Dan Cadman on June 15, 2015

Recently I had occasion to blog about Australia, which is poised to pass a law that will aid in denaturalizing foreign-born terrorists and terrorist supporters who immigrated to the country and then took the oath of citizenship.

I approve of the law, said so in the blog, and observed pointedly that our own country has failed in such attempts. But I also poked some gentle fun at Aussie Prime Minister Tony Abbott for walking back the original parameters of the legislation (which would have included Australian first-generation children born of immigrants) because of misplaced concerns over leaving terrorists stripped of citizenship "stateless".

Now Abbott is showing us another side of his apparently multifaceted approach to all things immigration and citizenship. Australian and British media are reporting that, according to leaks from government sources, his government has been paying alien smugglers not to land would-be migrants on Australian shores. When confronted about it, Abbott avoided a straight response and said that Australian authorities were bound "by hook or by crook" to do whatever necessary to defeat maritime attempts to smuggle.

It was an interesting response and raises any number of serious moral and ethical questions that merit careful examination. What is clear, though, is that — if it's true —combined with other measures Australia has taken, such as paying foreign governments to accept interdicted migrants into offshore resettlement facilities, it has been largely successful. The amount of maritime migrant smuggling has gone down in the past few years from thousands to nearly zero.

Compare that with what's going on in the Mediterranean, where in just one weekend, nearly 6,000 migrants were picked up by EU nation ships and landed in Europe.

Note that this unprecedented flow of intended migrants was after the announcement of the EU's new, supposedly "get-tough" measures to stop the alien smuggling that I and other observers believe is destined to failure because it rewards intended migrants for attempting their illegal crossing, regardless of the risks. (See here and here.)

Perhaps it's time for the equivalent of an international forum, a kind of G-7 / CANZUS summit to discuss the phenomenon of mass illegal migration, which seems to be morphing into the norm, and how to combat it while at the same time recognizing legal obligations toward those who truly meet the definition of refugee.

What is becoming obvious is that, as the poet Yeats once wrote in "The Second Coming":

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned...