Australians using children as human shields

Crimes against children are universally reviled. Even criminals hate those who offend against children.

Probably the most cowardly and disgusting act an adult can commit is to use a child as a human shield, or, worse, as a weapon.

Even animals don’t do that.

From time to time we see pictures like the one below, and they’re a certain sign that some conflict has sunk to a moral zero, because adults are using children as shields and weapons.

Children as human shields (

Children as human shields (


We are doing it. The appalling conditions in which we detain asylum seekers are meant to be a deterrent. The recent graphics that appeared on the Department of Immigration’s website depicting the misery, ill health and despair of “detained” asylum seekers clearly shows that their conditions are deliberate, and we’re using them to deter others. That’s a weapon.

DIBP asylum propaganda

DIBP asylum propaganda

And we are doing the same to children.

Children who have committed no crime, whose lives are already in ruins, are being deliberately used by us as a weapon against others. We are holding them in the same awful conditions, and subjecting them to the same misery and risk of disease and death, not because we have to, but because we want to.

This is not morally questionable. This is not morally dubious. This is child abuse of the lowest, most despicable form.

And we’re letting it happen.

Our country is using children as a weapon, and the children are suffering as a result. We are no better than the monsters in the photograph. In fact, we are worse, because there is no “war”, and we’re not fighting for our lives. We’re using children as weapons and permanently damaging them to “stop” people smugglers.

Please write to your Federal MP and Senators and demand that we stop this immediately.

Please write to them. Now.

Thank you.


7 thoughts on “Australians using children as human shields

  1. Peter, how many children have not drowned on their way to Australia since the introduction of the current policy?? Do you feel that parents of economic refugees (and we must agree many of the refugees are “economic”) are guilty of child abuse by exposing their children to all these dangers? How many children were in refugee camps before Kevin Rudd opened the flood gates again?? Give us a break!


    • Bert,
      It’s important not to confuse the issues here.
      There are at least 4 steps involved, and frequently arguments about asylum seeking and asylum granting mix them all together.
      It’s also important to understand that the ALP, LP and NP have all been involved in creating, over time, the current situation. This is not intended to excuse any of their behaviour.
      First of all, the current process for intercepting and where possible actually repelling asylum seekers has been described and promoted as a military exercise. It’s called an “Operation” and it uses stirring words like “Sovereign” as though there is some kind of threat to our borders. A Border is always where an asylum seeker will turn up… You must also remember the PM’s rhetoric about us being “at war” with people smugglers. That war was not posed in terms of preventing drownings, it was posed in terms of preventing people smuggling.
      There is no doubt that a side-effect of the current response has (so far) been to prevent drownings, that we know of. The complete blanket of secrecy thrown over what’s happening means we don’t know whether any boats have foundered. However as a means of preventing drownings, you have to ask a couple of questions: first, why don’t they deal with the asylum seekers on the ground, before they board the boats? Second, what does placing them offshore in internment camps and then holding them for up to FIVE HUNDRED days without processing their applications have to do with drownings? Let’s face it, towing boats back may reduce deaths by drowning, but that argument will disappear the moment the first boat nevertheless, tragically, founders. It’s not really a sensible way to stop the attempts, and saving lives is not its first goal. It’s a great side-effect, but don’t try to justify all of what’s being done simply because, so far, there have been fewer deaths by drowning.
      To justify an entire policy by suggesting that, so far, fewer people have died, misses the point. The previous policy was terrible. As a means of processing people seeking asylum, this one is no better. If the only intent was to prevent deaths by drowning it could be done far better.
      So the four steps I mentioned are: 1. People in another country trying to gain asylum in Australia 2. People trying to reach Australia by boat 3. People being seized, detained, and taken against their will to a third country. 4. People being held in indefinite detention, ostensibly while their applications for asylum are processed, but in reality kept in prison indefinitely in inhumane conditions.
      Trying to prevent deaths at sea by waiting until people board boats and then trying to intercept them only addresses step 2.

      Your next point is about the status of the refugees. Bert, can I refer yo u to the Department of Immigration (and Border Protection)’s own website, and to the statistics relating to asylum determinations? Very roughly, slightly fewer than 90% of all asylum applications are judged to be genuine refugees, not economic migrants. That’s by the Department applying stringent rules and processes, and under both governments. It’s a complete furphy that these people are really just trying to migrate and game the system. As you yourself point out, it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do. The communications between asylum seekers and others is reasonably good – they know the risks. That journey is a last resort, not a cynical attempt to beat the system. The same goes for the argument about “queue jumping”.
      You didn’t raise that, however it’s really the SOLE basis for the whole of the separate treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat. That is, that they are trying to get in ahead of those who are in some “queue” for law-abiding refugees, and for that crime, they are towed back or interned indefinitely. Bert, there is no queue. Again, the Department actually admits that in its white papers, and if you ask them or the UN it’s agreed that there is no magical place you can stand in line (literally or metaphorically) to apply for asylum and have your application considered. Again, if we were serious, both about stopping drownings and all the other misery associated with smuggling, and about offering asylum to genuine refugees, we would establish a REAL queue and put resources on the ground overseas to let people get into it. We’re spending at least 1.2 BILLION dollars to run those camps, when a fraction of that amount could let us actually stop the whole business.

      You speak of the “child abuse” by the parents of refugee children. These are parents who have left everything behind, abandoned their country, for fear of their and their children’s lives. That’s not child abuse. It’s an awful tragedy for those families, and I’d remind you that 90% of them are judged to be real refugees, really fleeing from something awful. They’re trying to save their children. Now, at the last step, when having tried everything else they board one of those boats even knowing the risks, at that step, are they abusing their children? Perhaps. However it’s not the act of a parent who habitually or carelessly endangers their child. It’s desperation. It’s easy for us to sit in our armchairs and judge those parents, but they are in dire straits. Perhaps the parents of children who remain in their countries, and who are then gassed, bombed, massacred or otherwise killed perhaps THEY are guilty of child abuse also, because they should have fled? But that’s not the point. Even if those parents are guilty at that moment when they board a boat of taking less than the very best care of their children, how in ANY WAY does that justify our behaviour? That they are perhaps bad has nothing to do with what we do.

      Your last question relates to the numbers of children in camps. With respect, it’s irrelevant. Firstly, none of those children should be in camps except, perhaps, for the absolute minimum of time required to consider their parents’ applications. The convention on rights of the child, to which we ar signatories, very reasonably suggests that innocent children shold never be detained unless there’s NO alternative and only then for the minimum time. The Department can (if it wishes) process an application in less than a week. So any child in any camp is there because we’ve decided to put them there in defiance of the laws we agreed to. Secondly, the number of children has no bearing on my original argument. That’s simple:
      1. The real reason we are holding people indefinitely, in awful conditions overseas and denying them EVER a chance to apply for asylum in Australia is as a deterrent. We’re not doing it as a punishment (I hope!) because the only crime they have committed is a trivial one and wouldn’t warrant a fine, let alone indefinite detention. We’re not holding them indefinitely because it takes a long time to process their claims; it doesn’t. We’re holding these people to deter others.
      2. Given that we’re doing this (even if only in part) to deter others, then any children whom we are holding, illegally, in detention, are being abused by us and are very simply being used as human shields. End of argument.
      The number of children in detention has nothing to do with that argument.

      As you probably know, Bert, we rank very poorly with our well developed and even our less developed neighbours when it comes to accepting refugees. We are not showing very much compassion, and we are not helping our “fair share” of the world’s victims. We’re even helping to create some of them, but when we’re asked to help, the best we can offer is to make the process so awful and appalling that others will turn away.
      If we genuinely wanted to stop smuggling, drownings, and the massive psychological and developmental damage that’s happening in the camps we’d process people overseas in a timely way, and integrate them into the community as fast as possible. What we’re doing at the moment is barbaric.
      We don’t have to do all of this to stop drownings. We’re not doing this because they’re not “real” refugees. Our behaviour is in no way justified by the actions of desperate parents. And our behaviour is selfish, petty and trivial compared to many other poorer nations’ willing assistance for people in trouble.

      • Peter, I accept and understand that you feel as passionately about your point of view as I do about mine. So, let’s agree to disagree. Four points though:
        1.I understand that, per capita, Australia accepts more legitimate refugees than any other country. There may not be a queue, but every successful boat person takes the place of a legitimately interviewed and processed and accepted person in a camp somewhere..
        2.The fact that there were no children incarcerated at the end of John Howard’s period is EXACTLY the point. The system worked, We were not guilty of child abuse, and tens of thousands of refugees were accepted annually and integrated, and financially supported by you and me..
        3. At present Australia DOES have missions overseas where applications for settlement are vetted and refugees are accepted. That has not stopped close to 100,000 climbing on boats to try to get here. And but for the “operation sovereign Borders”, and its predecessors there would have been 200,000. What would you have us do – accept them all? And then what??. How many is enough. Now with Syria’s troubles how about a few hundred thousand Syrians?
        4.Yes the whole bleak episode during the past 6.5 years has cost us, you and me, many BILLIONS. Money well spent do you feel? Compare that with the situation pre-Rudd.
        If you really want to help, ask your local member to increase our annual intake of legally processed overseas interviewed, valid refugees. But for Pete’s sake, let OUR GOVERNMENT determine who come to this country and under what circumstances. Let’s protect our sovereignty like every country must.. That, surely, must the the government’s first priority.

        And Peter, most important of all, allow our government to manage this whole process so that we maintain a successful, friendly, multicultural well-integrated society where everyone has a chance of a job, and where there are no ghettos or racial / religious / cultural tensions.Surely, that must mean that there is a practical limit to the number we can realistically accept each year.

        Your friend, Bert

      • Bert,
        On your point 1 – not true, unless you use a very favourable definition of “legitimate refugee”. See
        On your point 2 – I’m afraid I didn’t understand the point you were making. As with the drownings, not having children in incarceration can be achieved many ways. Not allowing them into the country is of course one way, although obviously trivial. Again, I wouldn’t for a moment disagree that not having children imprisoned is a bad thing, if the means of achieving it doesn’t essentially prevent asylum seekers. Again, my concern is for the result, not to pick on either major party. As I’ve said previously, I think they’re equally responsible.
        On your point 3 – can you provide sources for your stats, please? Over what period are they gathered? Obviously your claim of “would have been 200,000” is unsubstantiated. At best it will be based on an extrapolation from previous data, but if you can provide the data and extrapolation that would be useful. Could you also provide any information about the overseas missions: their locations, annual intake, and length of time to process applications? It’s one thing to say they exist, it’s another to show they’re in any way effective in dealing with those seeking asylum.
        For Syria, I can’t help but wonder at the differing responses from both the international community and from Australia and its closest allies to this humanitarian crisis. Sometimes we send troops to fight, sometimes we stand by and watch. The Syrian people are being killed in their hundreds of thousands, a huge tragedy, and our main concern then is the total number of refugees we may need to accept (in some proportional way). Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are already being housed, and fed, and cared for by countries much poorer than ourselves. So while it’s of great concern, it’s not clear to me that the presence of refugees should change this argument one whit.
        Your point 4 – “We will determine who comes here and under what circumstances”. We always have. At times it was restricted to white people. The spectre of hundreds of thousands of uncontrolled refugees is perhaps the least believable picture of all, and as a justification for what we’re currently doing, totally unconvincing.

        Massive, rapid social or cultural change is never good for a society. Nobody would argue with that. The fact that, year after year, Australia has accepted between 80,000 and 120,000 new residents clearly shows our capacity to absorb and integrate new people and new cultures. It’s a proud achievement. Increasing asylum intake from 15,000 to 20,000 or 30,000 is not going to make the slightest difference to the vastly greater intake that has been happening for decades. It’s simply not an issue, and to pretend that it is is to conjure up fears and problems that we demonstrably haven’t had and won’t have.

        Your friend,

      • As you said, we can continue these arguments forever, which I don’t have the time for. So, I’ll try to be as brief s possible. By the way, I have no official stats like you have – I am still not 100% retired and have a lot more on my plate than worrying about refugees etc. Having said that, my point is that the Australian Government is responsible to the Australian people for managing the Australian affairs in the best interests of its people, without, whilst doing so, causing harm to others..
        One of the many areas of responsibility is population policy. Since just after the war, we have had an official migration policy, varying, as you say, around 200,000 pa. Initially whites only, then later on it was made more inclusive. It has been a great success. At all times, just like now, an aspiring migrant must go to the Australian embassy and apply. In my case, I was initially rejected as I had a medical problem that had to be fixed up in Holland before I could re-apply and was accepted as a migrant. Thus there was and is a application and screening process. In my case I was young, well-educated, healthy and thus desirable. (This was in 1960 during the time of the Snowy Mountain project, where everyone was immediately employable).
        Today – no difference, except there are now different tests as to education and profession. Given the demand for places, we can afford to be selective – we would not expect anything less from our Government. And so, we accommodate some 180,000 – 200,000 new Australians a year, from all corners of the globe, and all religions
        It may have been during the aftermath of Vietnam, that we first started accepting refugees, many arriving by boat. I think we accepted some 250,000, mainly during Malcolm Fraser’s PM-ship.who must have formulated an official refugee policy at that time… Despite some initial gang and triad problems, Vietnamese were successfully integrated and have become an important part of the Australian mix.
        Ever since the 1950’s (and I think in fact before then), our Gov’t has had a defined policy of population management – so many migrants, meeting certain defined, considered desirable, criteria (including ability to bring a lot of cash into the country) and so many refugees, whose only test was to prove that they were genuine refugees (which of course raises an interesting issue: how do you check a person’s bona fides if they have lost or destroyed all personal identification papers??). I imagine that the policy today would include a rough rule as to how many from Africa, how many from the Middle east, Afghanistan etc. Now, there are two ways of applying for entry as a refugee: One is to go to the local Australian embassy (directly or via a UNHCR office) and prove refugee status, based on your identification papers and arguing your case. The other is to buy a ride on a boat, and hope to be dropped off on a deserted beach so you can bulldoze your way in. “J’y suis, j’y reste” sort of thing. .
        The question now is: What should the Australian government do? We have decided that we’ll take (say) 25,000 genuine refugees. Those who apply overseas, don’t cost us a penny, until they are accepted and we transport them across – those who bulldoze their way in, often without papers, must be tested as to their genuine status (and if knocked back, smart-arse lawyers will help them game the system by appeal after appeal), in the meantime we must house them, feed them, look after their health issues……….If they are found to be non-genuine refugees, we have to try and get them back to their country of origin, which may or may not accept them.

        Peter, for Pete’s sake, surely, interviewing and accepting a refugee abroad is better for everyone than the system that prevailed up to July last year. We are now landed with many thousands of applicants, genuine and otherwise, who must be processed and re-located elsewhere, somehow, one day….. Is this meant to discourage intending boat people? You bet – and so it damn well should be. I say again – surely our Government should be entitled to determine who will come here and under what circumstances. Stop the bloody boats, and do the application process overseas.

        By all means, be generous – suggest to your MP to increase our intake to 50,000 or 100,000 (and then be prepared for your taxes to rise), but let it be an orderly system, not the unholy mess that evolved post -Rudd., Processing them in one week?? You serious?

        One final thing – I migrated on my own age 19. If I had been a Afghan Azari today, I would hitch a ride to Indonesia, rob a shop and buy a ticket on a boat to Australia. Of course we can understand it from the refugee’s point of view. How about looking at it from OUR point of view for a change?

        Your mate,

        Bert ,

      • Bert,
        My point of view is the only one to which I can legitimately lay claim…

        The unholy mess that currently exists is, by now, wholly and solely in the coalition’s hands, together with its consequences. Regardless of the sins or triumphs of the past, this is where we are now.

        It has led to this, and, like the G4S guard, we should be appalled at what happened.

        We decided the punishment for queue-jumping was indefinite detention on Manus Island, nobody else. We were in charge of what happened inside that “facility”, nobody else. To pay with your life for queue-jumping seems a bit harsh, no?

        We clearly agree on some principles, and not on others…

        Your friend,


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