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The architecture of the UK’s brutal new refugee policy is literally and figuratively Australian

The architecture of the UK’s brutal new refugee policy is literally and figuratively Australian

Here’s some rich irony. And we do mean rich.

This year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has adopted with gusto the “stop the boats” rhetoric that has proven so potent in Australia in the past decade. This eerie echo is no coincidence. It has been actively assembled from parts imported from our shores. We’ve noted the return of Australian political strategist Isaac Levido to the UK Tory fold shortly before the adoption of the catchphrase that came to dominate the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison years. 

Sunak is facing criticism for his particular take on the approach — using a gigantic barge, known as Bibby Stockholm, to house “up to 500″ asylum seekers, something being slammed as “inhumane” and ultimately unsafe.

And it’s not just the intellectual architecture that comes from Australia, it turns out, but the logistics.

Via The Independent:

An Australian travel firm previously slammed for its handling of COVID quarantine hotels has been quietly handed a £1.6bn contract covering the UK’s new asylum accommodation ships, The Independent can reveal.

Corporate Travel Management (CTM) was put in charge of the lucrative two-year arrangement in February, weeks before the government revealed it would use a barge as its first offshore accommodation for asylum seekers.

CTM’s founder Jamie Pherous is a longtime favourite of The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window column. CTM has been the recipient of largess on both sides of the pond. As the Indie mentions, it was given a role in the hotel quarantine system in the UK (receiving criticism for “prison-like” conditions, a complaint that this new contract puts in context, we guess). And on top of trousering more than A$3 billion for managing the Bibby, in June it snapped up the highly lucrative travel management services contract for the Whole of Australian Government for at least the next four years.

Greens NSW Senator David Shoebridge noted the “floating prison barge” was “appallingly modelled on the brutal Australian precedent”, while Amnesty International called the set-up an “utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution”, comparing the Bibby Stockholm to “prison hulks from the Victorian era”. Which, again, is ironic.

Because Australia’s involvement manages to reference not only our recent affronts to human decency but the early days of the colony, the brutal floating hulks filled with thousands of convicts, a practice that survived well into the 1800s.

Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

Is Australia responsible for the export of punitive refugee policy? Let us know by writing to letters@crikey.com.au. Please include your full name to be considered for publicationWe reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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