Diamonds from Sierra Leone

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Quick, reopen our gulag in Nauru! More people are trying to jump the queue and live among us. Outrageous. Only this time, it’s not Iraqis or Afghanis, but athletes from Sierra Leone. That is, the country where they force children to become soldiers (like the poor kid in the picture – a potential shooting Olympian if he migrates here), and thousands of people have had their limbs chopped off with machetes. And I’m sure that on this occasion, Australian Government will welcome them enthusiastically – if they can post decent times.


I’ve never quite understood what the big problem is with taking refugees, and indeed any kind of migrants. Sure, I understand there’s a process to be followed, and that it’s not really fair to let people who just rock up in ahead of those who follow it. I get pretty pissed off in nightclub queues when they let miscellaneous hotties who’ve just rocked up and gone straight to the bouncer in ahead of me.

But if I knew that there was a chance that those hotties were about to get gunned down in some kind of drive-by if they weren’t allowed straight into the venue (and yeah, I do go to those kinds of hardcore clubs all the time, ok?), then I’d be OK with it. More OK than this tortured analogy, anyway.

I would have enormous difficulty telling anyone from a severely impoverished country, riven by civil war, that they couldn’t come and live in a nice place, where the weather was pleasant and there weren’t quite so many people who wanted to kill them. Sierra Leone is only just recovering from being a total basket case, so why shouldn’t support its residents’ understandable position that they’d rather not live there, thanks very much? I know I’d be out of there faster than Jana Pittman can pull out of a baton relay.

In North Korea and China today, many classes of people require internal passports before they can move around freely within the country. (It’s a good way from keeping your rural poor from coming and annoying your political elite and new, rich middle class.) In Beijing, I’ve seen PLA officers inspecting residents’ papers on the way into Tiananmen Square so they can bus the hicks back to wherever they’ve come from. And that denial of the opportunity to seek a better life is why human rights activists have always deemed freedom of movement one of the most fundamental human rights.

The European Union has recognised this freedom between European countries, but now seeks to stop an influx of migrants from the newest, more impoverished members. But why should that freedom stop at national borders? I can’t understand any principled argument why people should have to stay in the country in which they were born, so long as they’re willing to pay tax in and otherwise abide by the laws of the country they seek to join.

The problem, of course, is a practical one. You need the infrastructure and so on before you can just let most of Sierra Leone move in. But fortunately, Australia is in a unique position. We can easily accept millions of new immigrants, as long as they agree to live in Adelaide.

What better place to put them? It’s big, it’s very quiet, and there’s a rather good Bradman Museum. Most importantly, all the native South Australians are moving away to live in more interesting places, so the population’s declining. But sometimes, a quiet town is a real asset. Why not settle millions of people there who won’t care that there’s not much to do on Saturday nights as long as there’s no risk of being tortured for their political beliefs?

So let’s allow all the Commonwealth Games athletes to stay, if they like. (We’re close to winning all the medals as it is.) They would just have to sign a contract requiring them to maintain their primary residence within South Australia. They can freely visit NSW and Victoria on their holidays, of course, but Sydney’s clearly bursting at the seams, and our train system can’t take a single extra passenger. In SA, though, having to stand up on a train is an exciting novelty.

In Sierra Leone, having an un-blown up train at all is a huge luxury, of course. And even if there are some social problems, it’s not like the murder rate could get any higher. It’s time we handed over Adelaide to some people who might actually appreciate it.

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