Maryam Namazie
Published in Hambastegi English
September 10, 2001


On 26 August, MS Tampa, a Norwegian ship, rescued 430 plus mainly Afghan asylum seekers on their way to Australia from Indonesia. Though the Tampa had reached Australian waters, the Australian government denied the victims of Taliban’s vile regime their right to seek asylum and land. During the stand off, the Australian government never sent any medical assistance though 10 of the asylum seekers were unconscious on deck and pregnant women were falling ill. Instead, it sent commandos on board and forcibly transferred the asylum seekers to New Zealand and the Pacific state of Nauru where their applications are to be processed. There are reports that the women and children will be processed in New Zealand while the men are to be processed in Nauru.

The Australian government, the only Western country in the world with mandatory detention for all asylum seekers without possibility of review, has now set another dangerous precedent in its assault on refugee rights. It has put into practice the recently fashionable notion that asylum seekers should be processed in ‘safe’ havens and only allowed into the West in a regularised immigration-type manner.

The Australian government has rightly been condemned by public opinion. It is this public opinion that has prevented that racist government from directly returning the asylum seekers to Afghanistan. It is again this public opinion, trade unions, progressive, socialist and rights organisations that can and must continue to demand their return and the right to asylum of the 434 asylum seekers in Australia itself.


On another front, the UK government is demanding the closure of Sangatte, a substandard refugee camp in Calais, France and calling on the military to stop asylum seekers from entering Britain via the Eurotunnel. Clearly the issue at hand is not Sangatte camp; the Red Cross run camp was created because asylum seekers were gathering in Calais and not vice versa. What, then, is the issue at hand? Why can’t asylum seekers come to Britain?

Some say the flow of people to the UK must be stopped because having ‘so many’ asylum seekers is costly. In reality, it costs 1/5 of 1 percent of government spending or £10.00 per head of population; asylum seekers receive the equivalent of 70% of the insufficient income support provided to UK citizens; the European population is greying and immigrants are needed to sustain the economy, etc. Though accurate, these responses are insufficient when dealing with human beings. Even if it does cost ‘too much,’ asylum seekers, ‘economic’ migrants, ‘illegals,’ have a right to come to Britain and live and work here. Even if Iran and Afghanistan were not ruled by Islamic reaction, even if reactionary nationalist parties did not run Iraqi Kurdistan, they would still have such a right. Rights are not dependant on cost, on polls, on one’s method of arrival…

The right at stake is the right of human beings – and not just those with capital – to move, to live and to work anywhere they choose. And like all rights, it is up to us to demand it, struggle for it and turn this human concept into a societal norm.

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