Refugees forced to queue

Where is the compassion for the 128 Afghan men conned by Indonesian people smugglers and dropped 50 kilometres short of Australia just over a week ago? Where is the outrage?

I've not heard or seen a note of it despite what must have been a crushing blow for these men and the families who, no doubt, had been hoping to join them in Australia. The smugglers, no doubt to avoid the risk of long jail sentences in Australia, dropped their paying passengers off at N'Dao island, 50 kilometres short of Australia's Ashmore Reef, and the smugglers were out of sight with the money before the asylum seekers realised they'd been duped of their life savings.

In my column in the Herald today I argue that not only should we ditch the people smuggling penalties, we should pay the smugglers a bonus for every asylum seeker safely delivered. Among the reasons I put forward is that those who pay people smugglers to take them to the head of the queue instead of languishing passively in an Indonesian refugee camp are the very people we need in Australia. We have more than enough people who queue patiently, and they're usually queuing for the dole.

For that reason, and perhaps for compassionate reasons, shouldn't we send a ship for the 128 Afghans who are now reduced so unfairly to waiting their turn in a refugee camp?

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