Australians, cattles, refugees and Four Corners

Would Australians agree that human lives are more important than Australian cattle?

The Gillard government’s decision to temporarily ban all live cattle exports to Indonesia — in response to public backlash after an expose by Four Corners — was welcomed by animal lovers in Australia.

Migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants detained in Malaysia are now hoping that the ABC’s Four Corners programme will also investigate their predicament.

The evidence of brutality against migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants in Malaysia are overwhelming. Below are just three sources for the record:

1. Amnesty International’s brief on the Australia refugee deal with Malaysia highlighted how Malaysia pays lip service to human rights and that refugees are most vulnerable to abuse:

Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention or Protocol; Malaysia has a record of human rights abuse; Malaysian law does not distinguish between illegal migrant workers and asylum seekers/refugees; Those transferred will be at risk of detention or arrest; Regular immigration raids and arrests; Refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia are vulnerable to abuse; Those transferred may face ill-treatment in Malaysian detention centers or jails; Malaysian authorities practice caning;

2. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, highlighted blatant acts of abuse by the Malaysian authorities:

There were a number of credible reports of Malaysian immigration authorities’ involvement in the trafficking of Burmese refugees from immigration detention centers to the Thai-Malaysian border. Several credible sources reported that immigration officials sold refugees for approximately $200 per person to traffickers operating along Thailand’s southern border. In turn, the traffickers demanded ransom – ranging from $300 for children to $575 for adults – in exchange for their freedom. Informed sources estimated 20 percent of the victims were unable to pay the ransom, and were sold for the purpose of labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

3. It has been reported in the Malaysian Parliament that 1,535 people — including migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants — died in Malaysian government detention centers from 2003 to 2007. The Malaysian government has not provided any details on the number of deaths in custody since.

If the Gillard government can take such a drastic measure of temporarily banning live cattle exports to Indonesia based on one documentary, then surely this government can call-off the “Malaysia solution” on the overwhelming evidence of human rights abuse by Malaysians and the Malaysian authorities.

Surely, Australians would agree that human lives are more important than Australian cattle. Could I be wrong?

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University.