Umm Muhammed Umar
The recent deportation of tennis superstar, Novak Djokovic, from Australia for supposedly refusing to vaccinate has shone light on the poor conditions faced by refugees in the country, especially the 32 that resided in the migrant centre in which Djokovic was sent to and later released from.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Chris Breen (a refugee activist with Refugee Action Collective), and Greg Barns (a lawyer, and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers alliance, both noted that the deportation decision was a populous one, which was influenced by the looming election, and had very little to essentially do with the merit of the case. “Djokovic was seen as a VIP anti-vaxxer who was let in. Initially it certainly seemed there was special Treatment for Djokovic. Uh, but the case quickly shifted after that with Scott Morrison making it a popular move after having let him in.” The hypocrisy was noted, since Morrison’s government is dependent on an anti-vaccine activist, Gregory Christensen, for its majority. In addition, both noted how Morrison was responsible for the spread of Omicron in the country, especially in detention centres, asserting that the public has largely seen through this guise.
Both noted the impact that this has had on highlighting the country’s atrocious refugee policy, with the other 32 people detained at the Park ‘hotel’, together with Djokovic, being refugees, some of them having been held for over nine years. Labour has now requested that they be released, while Breen alluded to the fact that reforming refugee policy, especially in relation to offshore detentions, now receives much support. However, significantly, the Morrison government continues to make reference to border protection as a means of appealing to people’s sense of security and cultural insecurities, especially in a context wherein the government often refers to refugees as queue jumpers. Barns said, “There is now a majority of people who think that the people remaining offshore on Papua New Guinea, should be brought here… people are now becoming aware of just how sick these policies are ……. each case has shown the light on it, but there is a long way to go in turning that perception around [Chris]… what concerns me Is the domestic politics in Australia, that if you play the border protection card, you do well in the polls… which of course is nonsense”.
According to Barns, this scenario was different to the Malcom Fraser government of the 1970s, which worked to develop policies for refugees, and which welcomed those from Vietnam with open arms.