Australia is offering asylum-seekers in its Pacific immigration camps up to $10,000 (US$9,400) if they voluntarily return to their home country, a report said Saturday, prompting outrage from refugee campaigners.
Fairfax Media reported that those returning to Lebanon from detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny Pacific state of Nauru were offered the highest amount of $10,000.
Iranians and Sudanese were given $7,000 if they dropped bids for refugee status, Afghans $4,000 and those from Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar $3,300, the report in The Sydney Morning Herald said.
The Herald said under the previous Labor administration — in office until last September — the payments were much lower, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “return packages” were standard practice but would not reveal what the maximum payments had been.
“It has been the standard practice for more than a decade for settlement packages to be offered to those who voluntarily return home,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The packages are tailored individually for every person who decides to voluntarily return home, he said.
“The packages range (in terms of) value and it’s not just in terms of any financial element, but also training, support and other issues to assist people to get on their feet when they return,” he added.
Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government should be ensuring that asylum-seekers’ claims were being properly processed, not issuing “blank cheques”.
“When Scott Morrison was in opposition, he opposed Labor’s own reintegration packages and now he is offering sums which are triple the amount,” Marles told the ABC.
Australia has toughened its policy on asylum-seekers in recent years, with those arriving on unauthorised boats now refused residency in Australia even if they are deemed refugees.
Instead they are held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru and are expected to be resettled in those countries if their claims are valid.
Since the policy was introduced, more asylum-seekers have chosen to voluntarily return to their country of origin while the number of people attempting to reach Australia by boat has dried up, with no vessels arriving for six months.
Morrison’s office said 283 people had voluntarily returned home from offshore processing centres since shortly after the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott won power in September.
Refugee campaigners criticised the idea of the payments, and said returning asylum-seekers could still face persecution back home.
“The idea that you would put people in a hell-hole like Manus Island, treat them abysmally and then try to bribe them to go back to the appalling circumstances they left shows just how morally bankrupt this government is,” Greens party leader Christine Milne said.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said he had spoken to detainees in PNG who had accepted the money to return home, adding the amounts had risen several times after an Iranian asylum-seeker died in riots on Manus in February.
“The money that’s being offered to some people… it’s straight out bribery,” he told AFP.
But he added: “Relatively few people are taking the money.”
Doctor fighting fraud charge cites Donald Trump in his defense of doling out COVID-19 drug
As President Donald Trump promoted the drug hydroxychloroquine, one California doctor took his recommendations to the bank.
According to the San Diego Tribune, Dr. Jennings Staley is being charged in what appears to be the first case involving the drug. The FBI is charing Staley with mail fraud as part of an effort hailing hydroxychloroquine as a "miracle cure" and the "magic bullet" to an undercover agent posing as a patient, court documents say.
The few police willing to join in solidarity with protesters
Reports of the protests across the country are focusing on the violence, clashes and property damage caused by a small few rather than the peaceful protest of those rallying against injustice and the police standing in solidarity with them.
A few captured positive moments of cities where officers support the protests and believe Black lives do actually matter.
There were moments of protesters fist-bumping police, hugs with police, and in one incident in New York City over the weekend, one officer was separated from his unit. Protesters surrounded him with locked arms to protect him from those being violent. In Miami, Florida and Seattle, Washington, police joined protesters in kneeling.
Trump shows all the signs of being ‘rattled’ now that the White House is under siege from protesters: columnist
In a column for the Atlantic, longtime political observer Peter Nicholas stated that Donald Trump is showing all the signs of a scared man as massive protests have broken out across the country over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four former Minneapolis cops -- and angry Americans are taking their case all the way up to the White House gates.
As Nicholas wrote, "Presidents live within a protective cocoon built and continually fortified for one purpose: keeping them alive. But inside the White House compound these days, Donald Trump seems rattled by what’s transpiring outside the windows of his historic residence."