Perverse insentiver – asylsøkerutgave

Australia har sett seg lei på den økende strømmen av asylsøkere fra Indonesia, og har innført strenge minimumsstraffer for sjøfolk som hjelper migrantene over havet. Med visse kanskje ikke helt tilsiktede resultater.

Boat crew ‘getting rich on jail pay’
MANDATORY sentencing — a key element of Labor’s policy to deter asylum boats — is having the opposite effect, encouraging Indonesian crew attracted by Australia’s relatively high prison pay.

by: MARK DODD
From: The Australian
July 23, 2012 12:00AM

Lawyer and former diplomat Anthony Sheldon says jailed crew members can make $20 a day in Australian jails, in his submission to the Gillard government’s expert panel on asylum-seekers.

The submission coincides with the 89th asylum boat’s arrival at the weekend, a large vessel carrying 144 passengers arrested northeast of Christmas Island.

This brings to 6107 the total of asylum-seekers detained this year, including more than 164 crew, mostly Indonesian.

In a five-page submission, Mr Sheldon, a fluent Indonesian speaker and former diplomatic attache, testifies to having worked in Indonesia “on issues of people-smuggling and illegal fishing”.

The threat of imprisonment in Australia serves as no deterrent for Indonesian boat crew, he says.

“The preference of a number of older fishermen is to remain in detention in Australia,” Mr Sheldon says in the submission.

“Depending on their jobs in prison, they can earn up to $20 per day, making them wealthy beyond comparison upon their return to their villages after their sentence is served.

“They also receive free dental and medical services during their imprisonment.

“Combined with the relative safety of their work in prison compared to the dangerous work at sea, Australian imprisonment is very desirable.”

Endemic corruption in Indonesia and to a lesser extent in Malaysia helps the unhindered large-scale movements through the archipelago of asylum-seekers bound for Australia, most of whom are travelling on fake passports, Mr Sheldon says.

Interviews with Indonesians about attitudes to people-smuggling revealed useful cultural insights, including one analogy likening asylum-seekers to a “plague of rats” moving though a house.

“If you don’t stop the rats, they will move on and are not your problem,” one respondent told Mr Sheldon.

Under Australia’s mandatory sentencing laws for people-smuggling, first-time offenders receive a minimum five-year term.

“It is frustrating that the designed deterrent (mandatory sentencing) is actually serving to increase the number of SIEVs (suspected illegal entry vessels) coming to Australian shores.

“I have confirmed this situation by interviewing Indonesian prisoners in Australia, and many of the fishermen in Indonesia, who corroborate this belief.”

Corruption is a big problem in stamping out people-smuggling, Mr Sheldon says.

” This has been illustrated by numerous accounts of witnesses I have interviewed relating stories of people-smuggling organisers bribing their way out of custody.”

A public awareness campaign about a prisoner exchange treaty with Indonesia, highlighting the fact that boat crews could face the risk of serving the balance of their prison terms in Indonesian jails would have a desired deterrent effect, he said.

Together with Brisbane barrister Mark Plunkett, Mr Sheldon successfully presented the first legal cases challenging the issue of Indonesian minors being held in detention in Australia.

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