The Curmudgeon


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Troubling Foreigners

The home affairs select committee has registered mild concern that episodes such as this one cost the taxpayer too much. About a thousand children a year are being held in places that are "essentially prisons" while awaiting ritual sacrifice upon the altar of tabloid pacification; the average stay is something over a fortnight, but stays of up to two months are "not uncommon". Every so often an extra frisson will be added by releasing a child and then re-detaining them. Nobody knows exactly how many are being held or what condition they are in; the home affairs select committee finds this "troubling". Doubtless the home affairs select committee would describe sexual abuse, starvation and recreational homicide as frankly irritating.

The committee's recommendation is to speed up the asylum process by kicking people out faster; much as a Texas humanitarian might argue that a long wait on Death Row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and therefore the lawful and Christian thing would be a quick tar and feather and then the lethal injection. The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, waxed indignant about the fact that "these children have done nothing wrong" and "should not be being punished", but stopped a judicious distance from saying that no innocent child should ever be put in prison: "It must always be absolutely the last resort to keep a child detained for any length of time." Given that the tabloids', and hence the Government's, default position on asylum has for the last ten years lain somewhere between thuggish incompetence and hydrophobia, virtually everything being done these days is the last resort.

Additionally, of course, the detention centres are run by private companies, whose welfare the Government cannot afford to ignore. If the free market were interfered with sufficiently to shorten waiting times or imprison fewer units, or to compel those private companies to buy into the liberal fiction that an asylum seeker is an actual human being and then keep records to prove they were doing so - that, certainly, would be troubling.


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