|I believe the best formulation of the correct position on immigration is that used on The World's Smallest Political Quiz: Let peaceful people cross borders freely.|
The alternative position was well symbolised a few years ago by the boatload of 460 so refugees heading for Australia who were rescued by the ship 'Tampa' and then left in limbo in the Arafura Sea while politicians pontificated and Australians screamed murder. John Howard's xenophobic treatment of these people won him an election, and found many Australians saying that the ship should be sunk by the Australian navy. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
At the time I wrote a piece describing the reasons for my disgust - as it is no longer online and I believe it relevant to this discussion, I ask your indulgence to post it here.
Bloodstains on the Refugee Red Carpet
Some years ago a ship loaded with contaminated rubbish set sail from Philadelphia. It was refused access at every port and, like a modern-day Flying Dutchman, the globe-wandering ship seemed destined to roam the seas forever. Like that wretched refuse-ship we have just seen another unwanted cargo floating off the north-west coat of Australia - this time, a human cargo.
For eight days 460 rescued Afghani refugees lay on the Norwegian ship Tampa, after the Australian Air Force spotted their sinking boat limping away from Indonesia. Norway, Indonesia, and Australia refused them entry however, and Afghanistan's Taliban offered the refugees no charity should they return. The refugees threatened to jump into shark-infested waters off Australia's Christmas Island should the Tampa turn about. Australia's 'humanitarian' response was to place SAS commandos on the ship to force it away from Australian soil.
Nobody wanted these 460 refugees. Many wished they would just 'go away,' blanking out the reality that the only place for them to go was to die. Helen Clark eventually offered to take 150, who are now accused of 'queue jumping.' There is still no welcome mat out for the other 310, or for other refugees around the world.
People everywhere risk their lives to escape their impossible existences, and all around the world the barriers to them are up. People-smugglers 'assist' them, and the victims they smuggle are so desperate they submit to the risks, and the price-gouging. Victims like the 58 'illegal' Chinese immigrants who were ejected from Belgium last year, only to be suffocated in the back of an airtight, hermetically sealed truck at Dover - dying like so much unwanted cattle.
How bad are people's lives that they risk suffocation, drowning and shark attacks to escape the horrors of their former homes? And what of our culture, our politicians, and ourselves when 460 homeless people risk their lives in this way, and we condemn them to die for having the temerity to interrupt our own comfortable lives?
Many Australasians no longer value other human beings it seems - they are just so many problems they wish would go away. Wherefore this new inhumanity? I submit that the Welfare State mentality is responsible - New Zealanders who wish that the Tampa refugees would just 'go away' expose the dark underbelly at the heart of the Welfare State.
"How so?' you ask. "Isn't the Welfare State a model of benevolent charity?" It is not. The Welfare State is not voluntary charity, it is based on compulsion, forcing every person to be responsible for every other person whether they like it or not. And like it or not, those who pick up the cheque for New Zealand's welfare state resent that forced imposition.
By its nature, the Welfare State dehumanises people - viewing them as just a wallet or a mouth - and the people with the wallets are naturally upset at the prospect of many more mouths being fed at their expense. So, for eight days, the dehumanising moral bankruptcy at the heart of the Welfare State lay exposed on that container ship floating off Christmas Island, and the Welfare State earned a new symbol: Australian commandos pointing guns at sick women and children.
There is a better way to deal with immigrants and refugees. Libertarians have always maintained that peaceful people should be able to cross borders freely as long as they forswear any claim on any existing welfare state - I suggest that this philosophy of libertarian self-responsibility offers a simple solution to the current impasse.
New Zealand currently accepts 750 refugees annually, housing them, feeding them, and watering them - nannying them - to ready them for New Zealand life. Most refugees have already shown sufficient gumption to escape the horrors of their own homes, and most immigrants quickly demonstrate that such nannying is unnecessary by achieving spectacular success in their new land.
So why this enforced imposition on the taxpayer and the immigrants? It's as if the government fears we might pick up diseases from them - 'diseases' perhaps like the hard work, enterprise, and initiative that successful immigrants so frequently display. To be sure, we must bar known criminals and terrorists, but that doesn’t necessitate such overly expensive and bureaucratic immigration procedures.
I say, why not simply let people look after them voluntarily? Many charitable New Zealanders and Australians are calling for the Tampa refugees to be allowed in, so why not answer their calls literally? I suggest the easiest solution is for John Howard and Helen Clark to announce that between them they will accept all 460, but only as long as 460 charitable Australians and New Zealanders can be found to take full responsibility for them until they are on their feet - 460 people who will offer their own voluntary welfare and 'naturalisation services' to help these people start their new life. Who could object to that?
Finding 460 should not be a problem, and with the initiative the refugees have already shown in getting to Christmas Island, I would expect that getting on their feet will not take them very long.
This solution demonstrates the simple benevolence at the heart of the libertarian philosophy. Compulsory 'charity' is a misnomer - it dehumanises both taxpayer and recipient, but when charity is voluntary, people are set free to be benevolent again.
The Welfare State is a killer for open immigration, and a killer for many immigrants and for refugees thrown into the hands of unscrupulous people-smugglers. I call on Helen Clark to set these boat people free through the generosity of benevolent New Zealanders - not through tax-paid welfare - and I suggest she and other New Zealanders begin to take a good hard look at what the welfare state does to people.
And I suggest that the simple libertarian philosophy be adopted with all immigrants: that we allow all peaceful people to pass freely just as long as they make no claim on the welfare state. Until it is dismantled, that is.
Peter Cresswell is an Auckland architect, and leader of the Libertarianz party.
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