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Iraqi interpreters coming to Australia

April 10th, 2008

I only saw this item flashing briefly across the TV screen, but it’s an issue that has been vigorously debated in the UK and over at Crooked Timber. The new Australian government, which is withdrawing combat troops (though not some troops guarding our embassy) from Iraq, has announced that Iraqis who have worked with Australian forces in Iraq will be offered resettlement in Australia. The estimated number of Iraqis to receive visas, including family members, is 600. Australia had only about 500 troops on average, so that gives an idea of the scale of commitment that might be expected from the UK and US if they met their obligations in a comparable fashion.

The decision to accept the interpreters ahead of other refugees has been criticised, but I think this is justified. The essential point should be to treat this intake as additional to, rather than part of, our general obligation to accept refugees.

On the same point, this Times story indicates that the first three workers to be accepted under the much more restrictive British program have finally arrived in the UK, and that the program has so far delivered visas to a total of 12 Iraqis and their families. The total estimated intake is 2000.

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  1. Katz
    April 10th, 2008 at 09:59 | #1

    The decision to accept the interpreters ahead of other refugees has been criticised, but I think this is justified.

    Yes. It is the only humane thing to do.

    And let’s look at the real story it tells of Iraq. Surely of all the beneficiaries of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, these westernised, educated pro-COW employees and agents should be first in line.

    So why aren’t they happily staying in put in Iraq preparatory to enjoying the “peace and freedom dividend” that must surely result from the 3 trillion dollars that the US alone has invested in the exercise?

    But these folks aren’t waiting around for that dividend. Neither are they waiting around for the replay of the last US helicopter leaving from the roof of the US embassy.

    Cnce bitten, twice shy.

    These folks are making the correct and intelligent decision.

    Welcome, fellow citizens-to-be!

  2. Socrates
    April 10th, 2008 at 10:26 | #2

    Well this is at least one small moral step forward that the change of government has achieved. Howard would never have even admitted that these people’s lives were at risk, let alone given them visas. Now we can all feel slightly less shame over Iraq. There have still been a million pointless deaths since the invasion, but at least these 600 are saved. And as Katz implied, if the right wing pundits are correct, Iraq is safe, and this is unnecessary, then the 600 probably won’t even use their visas. Not likely.

  3. Hermit
    April 10th, 2008 at 10:59 | #3

    What a stark admission of failure. These people are being taken away from the homeland they presumably wanted to help rebuild. It seems akin to taking doctors away from a poor country.

    If Afghanistan bogs down I suppose it follows we will be taking their ‘collaborators’ in a few years time. There will come a day when lifeboat Australia can’t or won’t take any more.

  4. Gojod
    April 10th, 2008 at 12:39 | #4

    We have a moral obligation to welcome as many Iraqi refugees as would like to come here, without regard to any quotas.
    The C.O.W acted alone. By defying the U.N, we unlawfully violated Iraq’s sovereignty and started this war. We have a moral obligation to accept responsibility for our actions, and face the consequences. Although Australia will most likely never be formally held to account for this war, it is shameless to believe we have the moral authority to turn away any Iraqi who wishes to leave.
    Those who oppose giving these six hundred people visas, especially on the grounds of what they self-righteously believe is right for another country, should be humble knowing that we are unlikely to ever face real justice for our actions.

  5. Donald Oats
    April 10th, 2008 at 18:47 | #5

    If there are any Afghanis or Iraqis who are still somewhere within our “illegal” refugee detention system, they should be processed in priority to the 600 referred to in the article. It is not their fault that they ran away from the violence of war during the reign of the Rat (please excuse my ad-rattus attack, actual rats are pretty neat).

  6. Jill Rush
    April 10th, 2008 at 21:30 | #6

    Those whose lives are at risk because they have helped Australians deserve assistance. There is a moral if not a legal obligation.

    That is why Australia helped in East Timor and it is a sound principle.

  7. April 10th, 2008 at 22:25 | #7

    Although Australia will most likely never be formally held to account for this war,

    Why do you say that, Gojod? The whole world knows that those who invaded Iraq are war criminals. This is not a story that will die easily.

    The issue may not have much currency in the Australian media at the moment, but you know how the meejah works… A change in climate, a few stories start to break, a bombshell revelation – suddenly there are calls for a Royal Commission!

  8. jack strocchi
    April 10th, 2008 at 23:12 | #8

    Rudd is to be congratulated on taking this small step to rectify the mess we helped to create in Iraq. Australia should take as many Iraqi “coalition collaborators” as possible. Otherwise those people will get it in the neck when we leave.

  9. April 11th, 2008 at 07:49 | #9

    There are huge numbers of needy refugees seeking to come to Australia and no special provisions should be made for specific groups since this will inevitably lead to others being excluded by constraint. Almost all applicants have specific needs (often they are not humanitarian) and I am interested to know why John sees the needs of the Iraqis as above those from, for example, Africa.

    He must have much better information that those in charge of making selections. Need? Economic motivations? Ability to resettle?

    And of course we must prioritise intakes on the basis of refugee needs and Australian needs. We want people who will make good citizens in Australia. There must be a quota on total intakes given the aggregate scale of refugee needs.

    Refugee policy is a tough one. Labor’s resettling of Vietnamese refugees after that war was supposed to be based on need. However virtually all Vietnamese admitted under than program had family ties in Australia. The whole thing had a smell about it.

    ‘Admit them all’ in addition to those we were already going to admit is just posturing and does not reflect careful thought.

    The assumption in the comments is that the allies (as Gandhi calls them ‘war criminals’) have lost and the terrorists will take over. I don’t think that is clearly going to be the case and of course I absolutely reject the negative characterisation of the mission in Iraq.

    Ridding the country of Saddam and seeking to institute democratic processes might be naive but it does not make the allies ‘war criminals’.

    The lies get endlessly repeated. Socrates, there have been nowhere near 1 million lives lost in Iraq. The Lancet studies were wrong.

  10. conrad
    April 11th, 2008 at 08:02 | #10

    “The assumption in the comments is that the allies … have lost and the terrorists will take over”

    I think you’re missing reality here HC. It seems to me that the main unknown variable is who will take over. Whether that happens to be a bunch of warlords, a “terrorist” organization, or Iran, I imagine the main effect is going to be essentially the same, excluding which groups happen to be on the losing end of the distribution and the absolute number of them. Or are you saying that McCain is going to win, massively increase the troops (despite most of the Iraqi population not wanting them), and that after 4 years everyone will suddenly love each other?

  11. rabee
    April 11th, 2008 at 09:14 | #11

    HC,

    I understand that you dislike pmfeelgood thomas-the-tank-engine.

    But I’m surprised to read your comment.
    I’m really confused

  12. Katz
    April 11th, 2008 at 09:23 | #12

    [Quiggin] must have much better information that those in charge of making selections. Need? Economic motivations? Ability to resettle?

    How about “duty of care” HC.

    Does the Right believe in the concept of duty of care?

  13. Gojod
    April 11th, 2008 at 09:33 | #13

    HC: “Ridding the country of Saddam and seeking to institute democratic processes might be naive but it does not make the allies ‘war criminals’.”

    Starting a war without just cause makes you a war criminal. That’s the crux of the matter here.

    Yes Ghandi, the whole world knows. But can you seriously imagine Bush and his kronies fronting up to the Hague? Most likely never.

  14. gandhi
    April 11th, 2008 at 11:11 | #14

    That’s why I am only calling for a Royal Commission at this stage, Gojod!

    I notice Stephen Smith today declaring that Bush’s decision to cancel further troop cuts will not affect Australia’s withdrawal plans:

    Mr Fitzgibbon said Australia was not walking away from Iraq.

    “We have an obligation to do what we can on the non-military side to rebuild their country.”

    Why do we have an “obligation” to rebuild Iraq if we have not done anything wrong there? Similarly, why do we have an “obligation” to bring these Iraqi refugees home with us?

    The official narrative makes no sense unless you agree that we are guilty of war crimes.

    Who’s going to ask the Foreign Minister (or better yet the PM) about that?

  15. April 11th, 2008 at 18:22 | #15

    Rabee, In the case when I petitioned Minister Vanstone to help: the person had been shot, her brother’s shop in Bhagdad bombed and there were written threats that they would all be killed. They were well-educated Iraqis who faced no clear resettlement problems.

    What would anyone do?

    They have, I believe, successfully resettled in Australia.

  16. rabee
    April 11th, 2008 at 22:38 | #16

    The issue I guess HC is that we have a group of people who work for us in Iraq and whose lives are in danger because of this work. If we leave, then we simply have to bring them back with us.

    We have to come to terms with the reality that many Iraqis don’t like us much; and that they will kill those that work for us. We also have to come to grips with the idea that those who don’t like us will inherit what’s left of Iraq–drop the fantasies associated with the likes of Ahmad Chalabi or Ayad Allawi or even Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The Iraq that we leave behind will be a much more dangerous place for us and our friends than it could have been had we strong armed the little sh*t Saddam into behaving himself.

    I guess what I’m saying is that these interpreters are in pretty much the same situation as the person on whose behalf you petitioned Vanstone. She was working for the British in Basra and because of that she was shot.

  17. April 13th, 2008 at 07:56 | #17

    Who are our real friends? As Kevin Rudd told the Chinese this week, a real friend is one who tells you truths you might prefer to ignore.

    The Australian people told Howard that the war was wrong, but he went ahead anyway. These Iraqi interpreters may be the darlings of the pro-war elite, but the ordinary people of Iraq, who continue to peacefully oppose the occupation in the midst of violence, should know that many millions of ordinary Australians support their desire for freedom and independence.

  18. A Kurd
    August 5th, 2008 at 12:17 | #18

    Hi all

    Thank you all for your support to the Iraqi’s coming to Australia, I am an Australian Citizen and was a refugee. And I am forever glad and thank full for the opportunity that was given to my family and I to come to this great country.

    Now thanks to Australia I and most of my family of 9 have completed our university education here and would have never had the opportunity to even complete high school as a refugee.

    So thank you all for your support and I hope those New Iraqis that are coming to Australia be just as grateful as I am. And I am sure that they will be…

  19. Mohammed
    August 19th, 2008 at 20:30 | #19

    We are the Iraqi interpreters who worked with Australian forces in Iraq and were given the permanent residence in Australia. When the Australian government made the decision, they said that they had moral obligation towards us because we helped their troops and we may get killed if they leave us there. They sent a committee from the ministry of Immigration to meet us in Iraq. This committee told us about our future in Australia and promised us the following:
    1- We would get payments for each member in the family.
    2- They would provide free temporary residence for the first three months and then we would get permanent residences for just 30% of the family payment.
    3- They promised to provide immediate free medical care for us.
    4- We would be able to contact our families as soon as we leave Iraq.
    5- We will get good jobs because we are qualified persons.

    That and more what they promised to do but what we found here. We were shocked when we get here.
    1- When we left Iraq they prevented us from calling our families. And even when we reached Australia they did not help us to call our families just to say we are fine.
    2- They failed to provide houses for us. Even those who were lucky to get houses, they have to pay 50% of their payments per a month and more in some cities. They just got the first month free then they had to pay. For example we have 5 families still living in Quest motel in Dandenong because IHSS failed to find houses for them.
    3- We got medical problem but no one helped. We have to pay for specialist each visit and also to chemist to get medicine. For example my five year son had simple infection and I told the medical team in Jordan and then in Perth and Melbourne but in vain. At last my son’s case developed and his eyes and mouth were blocked with blisters.
    4- We failed to get good jobs as qualified persons. Some of my friends asked for jobs and they told them that they can be cleaners. That is why they decided to go back to Iraq.
    5- We are now like beggars asking charity organizations to provide furniture and food vouchers. We cannot afford to pay the bills, houses’ rents and medical treatment.

    These and more details we have. We need your help to get our rights. We sent complaints to Immigration and defence departments but no one listened. Some families went back to Iraq and others have decided to follow because of our shameful life here. Please contact me if you need more information

    Yours
    Mohammed Aldhula’ee
    Iraqi interpreter
    1/72 Oakwood Avenue
    Noble Park
    Victoria
    Australia

    Phone: 0403225355

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