Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees. Mr Rudd has confirmed a deal with Papua New Guinea that means asylum seekers will be sent to Manus Island or PNG for assessment, and if they are found to be refugees, they will be resettled there.
It is constantly discussed on whether people are inherently good or bad, but I think generally speaking we are a construct of our society and unfortunately in the case of Australia and other developed nations, an attitude of entitlement, territorialism and selfishness is very prevalent as demonstrated numerous times in our history.
I don’t think that money has anything to do with Australia’s response to accepting asylum seekers or processing them onshore. The amount of resources that are being spent on processing asylum seekers offshore, as well as the upkeep of on shore detention facilities with some cases of indefinite detention is insane. Surely, the funds can and should be redistributed on more appropriate solutions.
The real issues of why asylum seekers are arriving are constantly unmentioned in the debate. The political rhetoric demanding that the boats be stopped is ridiculous. If ‘we’ really want to stop the boats, it is imperative to look at the root causes (violence, war, persecution etc) in the home nations and work from there. Simply diverting the issue (in this case, refusing to accept asylum seekers who travel by boat) does nothing to actually solve the problem.
Bob Carr constantly talks about destroying the ‘business model’ of people smugglers but in this case we are not talking about trafficking people for exploitation. Asylum seekers willingly risk their lives and the lives of their family just for the possibility of life in Australia. The alternative is almost certain death for many.
The general process in determining a refugee in Australia (as I understand it) is a two-part process:
1) Establishing the identity of the asylum seeker and the authenticity of the level of risk the asylum seeker faces in their home country (in order to grant refugee status); and 2) Receiving a positive security clearance by ASIO.
However, it doesn’t matter if you are granted refugee status if you receive a negative assessment by ASIO. Entry to Australia will be refused on this basis alone.
There are serious implications with receiving a negative assessment as there are very few opportunities to review your assessment (i.e. ASIO has no obligation to tell you why you have been rejected) and there are even fewer opportunities to appeal a decision. Even where an independent review is conducted, ASIO is not obliged to action the recommendations.
The problem then with this process is that some countries will not accept citizens back who have claimed asylum elsewhere or they will arrest and detain (and often execute) the asylum seeker. In these cases, Australia won’t deport the asylum seeker and thus starts the indefinite detention process. Sometimes an alternative country is approached to resettle the asylum seeker but this is also a difficult scenario. As another nation, why would you accept an asylum seeker who has been refused entry to Australia?
While not all negative ASIO assessments are incorrect (well, I hope), there is a very grey area in particular with Sri Lanka. The civil war was incredibly violent and volatile and there of course was a lot of civil participation. Now that the war is over, involvement in the war (either direct or indirect) is being held against asylum seekers in their applications.
These are just some of the big issues surrounding asylum seekers in general. Specific to the PNG solution however, my main objections are: 1) It is purely racially motivated. The vast majority of asylum seekers are from the Middle East and Asia. Following WWII and later following the promotion of Nelson Mandela to president in SA, Australia gladly went out of its way to assist ‘white’ asylum seekers flee (and so we should have).
Now however, the fear of the unknown is being used to scare monger and justify these new hardline policies.
2) PNG is a developing nation and doesn’t have the resources to resettle refugees.
If we foot the bill, then this demonstrates again how the new policy is racially prejudicial i.e. you aren’t worthy to live here, but we’ll let you live there. White Australia policy anyone?
3) PNG has an even less progressive government than Australia and has allowances in its legal system for discrimination. Homosexuality is a criminal offence; and the death penalty is used.
Unfortunately, refugee outflows will continue as long as there are governments that threaten and oppress their people and as long as there are wars and conflicts.
Media has constructed our western society to be misinformed and now the words of ‘illegal, boat people’ is sadly commonly used.
As an aside, it is also really important to note that this policy currently applies to asylum seekers who arrive by boat. If you are lucky enough to have access to travel documents (real, forged or otherwise) which will then allow you to get on a plane, then your application will be processed on shore when you present at immigration.