A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Some are more equal than others: Australia’s dual citizens and their evacuation from Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 15, 2007

In November I wrote a bit about Canada’s proposal to charge Lebanese-Canadians for the cost of their repatriation to Canada during the July war: Some are more equal than others: Canada’s dual citizenship debates.

Similar discussions have evidently been taking place in Australia, and have now been settled. Lebanese Australians who reside in Australia will not be charged for the cost of their repatriation; those who reside in Lebanon will be asked (not required, but requested) to pay.

Here is the article:

Lebanon evacuation cost $30m, gov’t says

The evacuation of Australians from Lebanon last year cost the federal government more than $30 million.

And the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it expected to recover only a fraction of the money after the government decided not to force evacuees to repay the cost of their repatriation.

DFAT on Thursday said the total cost of getting around 5,000 Australians out of Lebanon after fighting broke out with Israel last August was almost $30.4 million.

That covered the cost of evacuating people home by air, evacuating them to Turkey and Cyprus by sea, accommodation, using Beirut’s convention centre as a processing point, medical support, food, interpreters and visa services.

DFAT said the government had decided to seek reimbursement of evacuation costs in cases involving dual Australian-Lebanese nationals who were permanent residents in Lebanon, and those who had recouped money through insurance.

But the system was voluntary, and the people would not be forced to pay back the money.

“What we’re doing in order to manage the financial recovery process is inviting the individuals to self-nominate,” DFAT’s consular division first assistant secretary Rod Smith told a Senate committee.

That process was only just getting underway, he said, but the government did not expect to recover much money from the exercise.

“We don’t expect it to be a great deal, certainly not close to the costs to the government of the evacuation,” Mr Smith said.

“I would think it would be not more than in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Howard government’s decision not to make people repay their evacuation costs reflected the view that they were caught up in extraordinary circumstances, he said.

“Nobody could have predicted that commercial air services would have been cut when they were,” Mr Smith said.

“It [the evacuation, I presume, and not Israel’s airport bombings] was seen as a reflection of the seriousness of the government’s consular role.”

Although I dislike immensely the Lebanese tendency to acquire second nationalities for precisely such instrumental purposes, I dislike even more the idea that democratic governments should construct hierarchies of citizenship.

Perhaps a better solution is to take more seriously the requirement (which at least in the United States is a legal requirement honored almost entirely in the breach, rather than the observance) that those who take Australian, Canadian, US, etc. citizenship do forswear the nationality of the country they have left behind.

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One Response to “Some are more equal than others: Australia’s dual citizens and their evacuation from Lebanon”

  1. S. Worthen said

    That would reduce the US tax-paying base…

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