Ruwan Rangana, from a small village in Sri Lanka, paid the equivalent of $1500 to be able to go to Australia. He traveled clandestinely about 3 weeks in a leaky trawler with dozens of others. But when he reached Australian waters, the boat was intercepted by the Australian Navy. A law passed a couple of years ago gives them the right to turn back boats of asylum seekers without their ever reaching Australian soil. This kind of fast track processing, sometimes no more than a phone call to a border official, enables them to say they have met the requirement and can legitimately deny asylum. The offshore fast tracking, however, is decried and criticized by several human rights groups. Once back in Sri Lanka Rangana was arrested, and was fortunate not to end up in jail because he was bailed out for $45, a heavy sum for his family which makes about $300 a month. When the case is disposed of, he probably won’t face a jail term, say the lawyers involved, but be given a fine around $750, something very stiff for a poor family. Now with no savings and no job, Rangana does odd jobs, barely making ends meet. Yet, he keeps hoping to try again to go to Australia despite the odds, because he feels that even were he to die at sea, it is better than to waste away in poverty.
With variations, some far worse, it is a sad story repeated thousands of times in any number of countries. It underlines that immigration laws in Australia, Europe, the U.S. or many other countries, are made by politicians mindful of their own concerns, not by statesmen and women interested in solving a big human problem.