Giving no quarter

This is a curious little report.

The United States has rejected more than 300 refugees under the Australia-US refugee deal, leaving the men in Australia’s offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

That’s fair enough; I suppose, their borders, their border entry requirements.

What sort of percentage of these previously slam dunk new American residents were rejected?

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the target of resettling 1250 refugees was not going to be met, hampering the Coalition’s goal of closing down the detention centres.

Crikey, that’s nearly a 25% rejection rate.

“I don’t think we’ll get there,” he said. “There’s been over 300 that have been rejected by the United States for various reasons. They will make decisions about who they will bring under their migration program.”

Various reasons“.

Any chance we, the taxpayer who funds these rejected applicants, could learn what those reasons might be?

Mr Dutton said there were 95 people who have either withdrawn from consideration or rejected an offer, 295 who were in the pipeline for approval and 531 who had been re-settled.

Withdrawn or rejected an offer of resettlement to the USA…. after an expensive and perilous journey across 2 continents and half an ocean followed by several years on an island in the middle of nowhere?

Is anyone else wondering why? A quick scan of the rest of the article would suggest that nobody else is interested in the details.

This is interesting though:

Under the deal, Australia would reportedly accept dozens of Central American refugees in exchange for those in the Australian offshore detention centres, but Mr Dutton said only two Rwandans accused of mass murder by the US had been re-settled in Australia. 

The pair were taken to the US more than a decade ago and charged with murdering eight people in a brutal 1999 machete attack in Uganda.

Wait, what?

“We don’t have plans to bring any others from America at this stage,” Mr Dutton told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

Oh, that’s ok then. Just the two accused of genocide then. Could someone please let me know what postcode they were relocated to?

He said the historical perspective and circumstances of the allegations needed to be taken into account as well as what has happened in the intervening period.

What does that even mean, do we think?

Because Australia doesn’t have many Tutsi these two accused murderers are not so likely to repeat their actions?

Or, over time, a mass murder event becomes less serious?

If you’re confused by Dutton’s statement, you’re not alone.

“That’s a different situation from someone who just sexually assaulted a girl on Manus in the last 12 months,” he said.”We aren’t bringing in people posing a risk.”

Excuse me if I’m unconvinced by that word salad.

In fact, I’m sure I read something similar from the Argentinian authorities in 1960 after Albert Eichman was captured.

Mr Dutton said the Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and international partners would continue to vet asylum seekers and Australians returning from war-zones in Syria.

“They’re complex cases. We’ll look at them compassionately but realistically,” he said.

Right, but back to the arrangement with the USA; it would seem something came up in their vetting that didn’t in ours. Comparatively quickly too, given that these asylum seekers were on Nauru and Manus, under Australian Federal care for 4 or 5 years.

There’s more from Mr. Dutton:

“If we’re bringing teenagers back, for example, who may have been listening to the propaganda rhetoric, having watched horrific circumstances, bodies being mutilated, over a long period of time, what threat those individuals may pose to our country if they’re returned”

What, as opposed to two people accused of doing the killing?

Anyway, these two potential mass murderers aside, what about the nearly 25% rejected applicants? Why might the USA quickly deem them to be not the type of person to be admitted to their country?

Here’s another data point you might not be aware of or have forgotten, certainly the news report seems to have omitted it; the deal wasn’t contingent on the applicants being genuine asylum seekers under the UN definition, they only had to pass a basic safety vetting.

Bill’s Opinion

Why might someone sitting for years on Nauru or Manus withdraw from a chance to be relocated in America?

The Guardian suggests it’s because America is horrid to Muslims, because that’s what several of the asylum seekers told them. More horrid than half a decade on an isolated Pacific Island?

We seem to be missing quite a lot of relevant information here.

Why would the USA be able to determine someone isn’t suitable to be relocated in their country when Australia has been happy to keep that person housed, fed and Xbox’d to their heart’s content for years?

Again, we seem to be missing quite a lot of relevant information.

Incentives matter. The urgency to investigate and adjudicate on an asylum seeker’s case when they are living outside of the country to which they are applying is not as great as when they are potentially about to arrive on your shores.

As for withdrawing an apparently slam dunk application to America because of “Islamophobia“? Our razor suggests that’s unlikely to be the real reason; an explanation requiring fewer assumptions to be correct is that there is something in one’s past that, if or perhaps when discovered by the American authorities, would require you to answer a bunch of difficult questions.

Save the children…. from Oxfam

Oxfam are in the news for the wrong reasons again this week. An investigation by the UK’s Charity Commission has found there was an institutional cover-up of child abuse by Oxfam’s staff in Haiti.

On a lighter note, I still chuckle at Bill Bailey’s joke that Haiti is the evil 8th dwarf that Snow White doesn’t like to talk about.

The noisy outrage quite rightly generated by this root and branch moral failure by one of the world’s previously best-regarded charities risks drowning out two interesting questions;

1. What ratio of applicants for the foreign aid worker jobs apply because of the access to vulnerable kids versus those who discover latent kiddie-fiddling tendencies on arrival?
2. Are the charity’s incentives such that an institutional cover-up was always the most likely response to complaints?

My first question is facetiously-written but its underlying curiosity is serious; presumably there are going to be some applicants to a job located in a disaster zone who aren’t there for altruistic reasons or even reasons of simply needing employment, but because it’s a good opportunity to undertake behaviours that risk imprisonment and public censure back home.

I bet that percentage is a larger number than anyone would wish to acknowledge. It’s certainly not zero.

The second question brings us back to one of my favourite short reads, Steven Kerr’s “On the folly of rewarding A while expecting B”.

Incentives matter.

How are the executives and senior managers in Oxfam rewarded and for which behaviours do they receive negative consequences? If being open and honest about the validity of a serious complaint impacts the ability to raise funds, thereby impacting the future salary and bonus pool available to employees, is it really that shocking if issues are swept under the corporate carpet?

Bill’s Opinion

Oxfam is, like many charities, a fundraising organisation with an aid-distribution department attached.

No, really they are, I’m sorry if that statement seems inaccurate or bursts an illusion you were suffering from.

The fact that any charity exists for more than a few short years is proof of two things;

1. It was woeful at achieving its stated outcome through reasons of incompetence, and/or setting too high a target and/or public apathy, or
2. After achieving the stated outcome, the people drawing a salary from the charity didn’t fancy closing the operation down and getting another job elsewhere so expanded the charity’s scope.

Oxfam was created to send food to the Greeks who were starving after the Nazi occupation in World War II. At some point, the Greeks were fed and someone in a boardroom in Oxford said, “Right then chaps, job well done. Shall we close the operation down and head off to the pub or is there something else we should do with this large organisation we find ourselves in charge of?

Somewhere along that road the very existence of the organisation grew a perception of worth and quality beyond the life of the initial mission statement. Subsequent corruption and scandals were inevitable from then.