Violence threat to new system

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 1995, 12:00am

SEEN from the asylum seekers' perspective, the minimal concessions won following last year's violent raid on Whitehead detention centre may not seem much consolation for forced repatriation. Many would assume that they had a right to be informed in advance if they were to be on the next return flight.

Yet the practice of giving prior notice is a recent innovation and whether it is called a right or a privilege, it is, sadly, being abused. Knowing they were to be removed from High Island camp this weekend, some detainees set fire to four of the camp's huts. A Correctional Services officer was stabbed.

Whatever the merits of forced returns, life-threatening protests cannot be tolerated. The Government is now considering whether to revert to removing people without notice.

Given how few basic rights the boat-people enjoy, it will be a hard decision to take. Yet the Government may have little choice but to punish the majority for the violence of the few. The solution is in the detainees' hands: if they want to keep the system of prior notice, they have to abide by the rules.