No Ethics in Migrant Detention

No Ethics in Migrant Detention.

Statement from speakers at Festival of Dangerous Ideas. Sydney, Australia September 2015. 

We are thrilled to be in Australia this week for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and are all greatly looking forward to our respective events at the Sydney Opera House.

For authors dealing with themes of social justice and basic fairness, this feels like a critical time to be invited to join Australia’s public debate. For instance, at the very time we entered the country, Australia’s Border Force was in the midst of a shocking attempt to expand its powers, announcing plans to perform random document checks on the streets of Melbourne.

We were very pleased that, in response to public outrage, this plan was quickly scrapped – a powerful testament to the importance of the right to protest and freely express dissent.

As we have learned more about the migration debate here in Australia, we were surprised to discover that the festival’s co-curator, the Ethics Centre, is no mere bystander.  One of its board members is retired Major General Andrew James Molan, co-architect of Tony Abbott’s “Operation Sovereign Borders,” the draconian program relying on the remote island detention centres condemned as cruel and inhumane by multiple respected human rights organizations.

Molan is so proud of his accomplishments turning back and imprisoning asylum seekers that he has recently proposed Australia as a model for Europe. “In Australia’s situation… judicious boat turn-backs was the key. Now success is the continued application of ­effective policies with resolve,” he has written.

As festival speakers, we wish to separate ourselves – in the strongest possible terms – from Molan’s views and policies. Australia’s cruel practices towards migrants are wholly unacceptable, and they most certainly should not be exported to Europe, where they would make an already intolerable moral crisis far worse.

We also wish to express our firm solidarity with this country’s courageous migrant rights movement, which has long fought against the unjust treatment of asylum seekers in Australian-controlled detention centres, as well as on the streets of Melbourne.

We look forward to sharing more dangerous ideas with you in the days to come.

Tariq Ali

Johann Hari

Naomi Klein

Laurie Penny

Jon Ronson