We know how Australia treats refugees and people arriving informally by boat. But their backpacker visa scheme is equally xeonophobic and almost as barbaric – as the tragic murder of a young British backpacker has exposed.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung [from Derbyshire, England[ was murdered in a remote Australian backpacker hostel in August 2016 … along with another Briton, Tom Jackson, 30, who courageously tried to save her.
The “remote Australian backpacker hostel” is not part of any resort. The one in which Mia was killed by another ‘inmate’ was in backblocks Queensland next to a field of nothing but rocks, snakes and sugar cane, a place Mia told her Mum, Rosie,was "like a prison.” It is part of a network of virtual slave-labour camps into young travellers are thrown while working out the 88 days the Australian government demands to extend their tourist visa.
Young travellers who want to extend their one-year working holiday visa in Australia are obliged to carry out 88 days of work on farms or in construction, carrying out unpopular, often extremely arduous labour.
To accommodate them, a network of grim hostels has sprung up - such as the one where Mia died in Home Hill, Queensland - which act as employment agencies as well as offering bed and board in sparse dormitories.
The flow of work day by day is often sporadic and backpackers are at the mercy of sometimes exploitative hostel owners and employers.
"It's modern-day slavery," says [Mia’s mum] Rosie.
"The work is back-breaking. Sometimes the hostel owner takes passports away from the young people if they owe them money for rent.
"There's quite a bit of sexual harassment too in some places. No one wants to blow the whistle, they all just want their visas… In the hostels there's a tense, febrile atmosphere, with drink and drugs."
By stripping the right to free movement from these young adventurers experimenting with life in a new land, the government has given almost total power over their young lives, work and welfare to what amounts to plantation owners and their overseers. The wretched young folk housed cheek-by-jowl in this hostel were woken every day to clear rocks from the fields, at pay rates well under minimum wage. To whom was there to complain ? Certainly not the government, whose job it should be to protect rights. And precious few Australians, to whom keeping people out of their big, broad land has become almost obsessive.
If those outposts on Nauru and Manus and Christmas Islands can be called concentration camps, then these are like the quarters reluctantly doled out to plantation slaves.
Since her murder, Mia’s mother Rosie has begun a campaign to highlight the exploitation of young backpayers by a system that simply invites inhumanity.
"Closure for me would be to see this campaign get off the ground. I hope that I can get the message out to other young people and their parents that there are dangers out there which they may not have anticipated."
Rosie says: "Through this campaign we could save lives. Mia is not the first person to die in that situation - how many girls have been sexually harassed on the farms, leaving life-long scars?"
Paul Broadbent, chief executive of the UK-based Gangmasters Licensing Authority, has met Rosie and backs the campaign. He says: "Rosie's campaigning is courageous and admirable and, as an organisation that exists to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers, we fully support her endeavours."
You simply cannot discuss immigration without addressing all the effects of limiting the right to free movement. Including how it places those left out at the mercy of those who exploit the limits to exploit the lives of others.
If you’re a left-winger struggling to find a reason to opposed closing borders, then just think of the power imbalance that creates, and what it makes inevitable …
[Pic from the Herald article]