Updated: On not doing the human thing

20 02 2019

This is likely our last PPT post on the Hakeem al-Araibi case. Our last post was about failures on the Thai side.

Until now, we had not seen an admission of fault by the Australian side for its role in passing on information to the Thai authorities based on an Interpol Red Notice that should never have been issued and that should have been trumped by the Australian government’s acceptance of Hakeem as a refugee.

Fronting parliament – that would be an innovation in Thailand – Australian Border Force officials have had to admit “human error” in the Hakeem case, “saying processes that might have prevented him from being detained in Thailand ‘broke down’.”

But as seems all too common in security agencies with bloated power, Commissioner Michael Outram seemed to refuse to accept full responsibility.

Hakeem spent “spent two months in a Bangkok prison after having an Interpol red notice issued against him, despite being recognised as a refugee,” but the commissioner backed away from taking responsibility: “Asked if he would like to apologise to Mr al-Araibi, Mr Outram said he could not say whether the mistake directly led to his detention.” He went on:

But to offer an apology for him that would say that I’m accepting that the outcome, what happened in Thailand, was entirely due to that error. I can’t say that without speculating.

Such disingenuous is a feature of belligerent security agencies, as is well known in Thailand.

Outram told the Senate hearing that “ABF staff regularly received red notice information from the AFP [Australian Federal Police] which they then needed to cross-check against other government information, a process which could take 14 days.”

It remains unclear why more care was not taken in reporting Hakeem to the Thai authorities. “Human error,” perhaps, but undue haste as well. Why?

Have heads rolled? No. Impunity  is not just a Thai phenomenon. In the West it is made worse by ridiculous managerial-speak.

The best Commissioner Outram could do was apologize that “an error occurred within Border Force and that is something that we’re taking very seriously…”. But they are not taking Hakeem’s personal distress very seriously. Can he take legal action?

Managerial-speak went berserk when “secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, told the hearing his department was looking at ways of using ‘sophisticated algorithms and data matching’ to automate the process.” He buried it all with this nonsensical prose:

But to accelerate that program would mean that other programs potentially are not funded equally, to an equal level of priority and it’s a question of then managing those priorities…,

Just saying sorry to Hakeem would have been a human thing to do.

Update: It is good to see that that Amnesty International Australia “has called for the Australian government to conduct an independent investigation into what it called ‘a monumental mistake’ that led to the much-publicised arrest and detention” of Hakeem in Thailand. Amnesty’s Tim O’Connor declared:

It is absolutely unacceptable that Hakeem, a completely innocent man supposedly under the Australian government’s care, was detained for 76 days in Thailand in fear for his life simply because someone at Border Force forgot to send an email….


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