Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Down To The Doctor's: On Returning to Christmas Island

As a whistleblower on Australian refugee detention facility Manus Island argues, "It's not designed as a processing facility [for asylum seekers], it's designed as an experiment in the active creation of horror to deter people from trying in the first place," * Dr Richard McGrath heads back to help handle medical care at the sister facility at Christmas Island. But not before penning this guest post…

Last evening the building which houses the general practice where I work part-time was damaged by fire, not as extensively as some early reports claimed, but bad enough to close us down for a few weeks. Thankfully no-one was injured, and all staff and patients were evacuated without incident. The roof space was extensively burnt but several of us were able to walk through the place a few hours later and see for ourselves the relatively unscathed state of the consulting rooms. The central treatment bays and nursing clinic areas were the worst damaged by heat, water and smoke. The fire service believe it was probably caused by an electrical source of overheating – I really don't know. (Maybe it was all those lamps I had up in the ceiling over the cannabis plants, though I guess it's too early to tell yet.)

Thanks to those people who sent txt messages and emails of support and sympathy. As it happens, I will miss much of the rebuilding at Masterton Medical because I'm returning to Christmas Island in the next few weeks to assist in the care of refugees and asylum seekers there. This blog's editor likens the Australian immigrant detention centres to concentration camps. There is a grain of truth in that but the situation is complex, and I believe the Abbott government is not doing too bad a job.

In general, libertarians believe in open borders and free association, and so anyone who wants to immigrate to Australia should be allowed to do so. But should adherents of a death-cult religion (whose stated aim is to overrun infidel countries and claim them for Allah) be permitted to pour in freely until they form the majority of the population? I believe they would, given the chance.

And, having landed on Australian territory, should asylum seekers then be allowed to hook straight into the Australian welfare system?

In a libertarian nation, social welfare would be a voluntary act of compassion, and so these refugees would become recipients of charity. The state-run welfare system, on the other hand, relies on terrorist organisations such as our own Inland Revenue Department and the Australian Tax Office to fund their redistribution projects, and so the flow of money is involuntary rather than charitable.

One of the gripes I have with those who have landed on Christmas Island seeking settlement in Australia is that many of these people appear to be quite comfortably-off members of the middle class. They are seen by many across the ditch as queue jumpers, hoping to push in ahead of others who also wish to settle in Australia and are pursuing this objective via the normal channels.

Admittedly, many of these asylum seekers hail from countries where the state takes an unhealthy interest in the private lives of its citizens (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan) or they are part of an ethnic minority targeted for violence (Sri Lankan Tamils). I believe many of them could make a good case for political refugee status. Others, I feel, are less deserving. Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection are charged with sorting out who the genuine political refugees are. I don't envy them their job, as some of the stories told by the asylum seekers of their maltreatment back home are not easy to listen to.

I believe fundamental reform needs to take place in Australia before the libertarian ideal of open borders could proceed peacefully. Firstly, there should be an end to state-run and coercively-financed social welfare. Secondly, the rule of law should be enforced firmly and equally, so that immigrants who break the laws are treated like anyone else and made to compensate their victims. Thirdly, there should be constitutional protection to maintain Australia as a liberal Western democracy, and prevent it becoming an Islamic Republic, or parts of it becoming Islamic ghettos where women are second-class citizens, gay people are hunted down and killed, and police officers fear to tread (as has happened in certain parts of the United Kingdom).    

How do readers feel about the situation on Christmas Island, where the Australian navy is now turning refugee boats back to Indonesia, and where the detention centre population is being gradually shipped out to Manus Island (part of PNG) and to Nauru?

At the end of my first six-week deployment to Christmas Island I put my name next to those of several medical colleagues at the bottom of a ninety page document outlining concerns we had at the quality of medical treatment for some of the asylum seekers. Dr John-Paul Sanggaran deserves special mention as the lead author of this document, which was leaked to the press, who then used it to challenge cabinet minister Scott Morrison. Hopefully, changes have occurred since I left which will make the treatment of our patients there more humane and ethical.

I will report back upon my return in April.

Doc McGrath

[Pics from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)]


  1. I have seen those arriving on Christmas Island, the designer clothes and the jewellery and laptops. The media reports on sub standard medical treatment on Christmas Island is the exact same standards local have no problem in coping with. The report of illegal arriving covered in faeces and urine is a rarity, and there are years of historical photos to prove this. There locals go off island to give birth and not always can the father and family afford the air flights to be at the birth, but no one seems to be concerned about them. What about the locals who have constantly had the doctor and dental appointments cancelled as illegals were given priority?

    What about the families who have been forced out of their homes because they could not afford the enormous rental increases of the island. One such family lost there husband and father to a fatal heart attack the day they were to be evicted from the family home because they were unable to meet the rent increase.

    What about the Aussie families who moved off the island they loved because they no longer felt safe after the 2012 riots? So much sympathy for illegals and Aussie have been neglected as it seems more fashionable to give sympathy to illegal arrivals. The same ones who riot and cause millions of dollars in damage to those who are housing and feeding them. Sorry charity begins at home and if the incentives offered by the government were not so inviting, there would be a lot less illegals dead as a result.

    The Greens and advocate groups should be rejoicing the lives saved instead of complaining about not getting a blow by blow report. It amazes me how selective these advocates are with their humanitarianism.

  2. The Greens rand Lefties eally don't care about the lives of these people. They are just a means to advance their political agenda.


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