COMMENTING ON AUSTRALIA’S response to asylum seekers in the online version of Le Monde in July 2013, one reader remarked: ‘Ils sont étranges ces Australiens, étrangers au Monde’ (‘They are strange those Australians, strangers to the world’). Le Monde had reported on an agreement between then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Papua New Guinean counterpart, Peter O’Neill, whereby asylum seekers intercepted on their way to Australia were to be sent to Papua New Guinea to be processed.[i] Those found to be refugees were to be resettled in Papua New Guinea.
I am completing this essay in mid-October 2015, while sitting at a friend’s kitchen table in Berlin. Over the last few days, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given a round of interviews in which she has encouraged Germans to be confident that the country will be able to cope with the continuing influx of asylum seekers (more than 270,000 in September alone, according to the Bavarian state government). She has also defended her government’s decision to welcome those seeking Germany’s protection, and firmly rejected the idea to treat them harshly in order to deter others from following in their footsteps.[ii]
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