October 22, 2014 by tpizzle14
Australia prides itself on being an accepting multicultural nation willing to give anyone a ‘fair go’; however, this is not reflected in our immigration policies. By law anyone who “arrives in Australia seeking asylum is entitled to have their claim for refugee status assessed fairly within our jurisdiction” and Australia is not allowed to return people to a country where their life or freedom are threatened, signed in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. However, Australia’s policy of offshore processing avoids this perceived burden of processing refugees through its “PNG Solution”. Countries such as Italy refer to this as the “Australian model” to describe a system that shifts the responsibility of immigrants to another country.
So, how many refugees does Australia help resettle each year? According to the UNHCR Australia is ranked 47th in the world for hosting refugees, resettling only 20,000 refugees each year with this number dropping. The UNHCR also reports that there is an estimated “23,000 people around the world who are forced to flee their homes each day, in search of asylum.” Currently, Australia is home to only 0.2% of the world’s refugees, a very small number especially when compared to Germany who is the largest first world country hosting 571,700 refugees. Australia’s ‘turn back the boats’ policy that escorts asylum seekers to detention centres outside Australian Territory can be seen as inhumane when compared with countries such as Italy who, despite being in recession, spend US$13 million a month on their ‘Mare Nostrum’ rescue operation that has already rescued more than 140,000 people trying to get into Europe on unseaworthy vessels since the beginning of this year. This program provides life jackets, food and water as well as a compulsory medical examinations to contain diseases such as Ebola, to all refugees rescued before taking them on shore to Italy where they are processed and allowed to move into Europe to start their new lives within a day.
Australian Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, as well as PM Tony Abbott have been criticised for their ‘closed book’ approach to Operation Sovereign Borders which commenced September 18, 2013. This meant that the government did not have to tell anyone about how they have dealt with refugees coming to Australia by boat, silencing the media on Australian Naval actions towards asylum seeking boats. Operation Sovereign Borders is a military-led solution to Australia’s asylum seeker ‘problem’ with its main aim being to detect, intercept and transfer seagoing asylum seekers.
There is a perceived and highly unrealistic notion that Australia has large numbers of refugees flocking to our shores and that we do not have the resources to look after them. This is largely untrue and an attitude that needs to change, especially as we reflect on countries such as Germany who house a significantly larger number of refugees than Australia or even Italy who provide a humane approach to dealing with refugees rescuing them from their dodgy vessels and providing them with the resources they need to start a new life in Europe, despite Italy being in recession.
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Refugee population by country or territory of asylum | Data | Table. 2014. Refugee population by country or territory of asylum | Data | Table. [ONLINE] Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SM.POP.REFG. [Accessed 19 October 2014].
Emma Alberici. 2013. Italy does not turn back the boats. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-09/alberici-italy-asylum-boats-australian-model/4875134. [Accessed 14 October 14].
UNHCR. 2014. 2014 UNHCR regional operations profile – Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48e996.html. [Accessed 14 October 14].
SBS. 2012. Does Australia take in its ‘fair share’ of refugees?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/goback/about/factsheets/8/does-australia-take-in-its-fair-share-of-refugees. [Accessed 16 October 14].
Sophie McNeill. 2014. Recession to force Italy to abandon Mare Nostrum refugee rescue program. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-14/recession-to-force-italy-to-abandon-mare-nostrum/5811262. [Accessed 16 October 14].
ABC. 2014. Scott Morrison says he will stop holding weekly asylum seeker briefings. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-14/scott-morrison-says-he-will-stop-holding-weekly-asylum-seeker-b/5200158. [Accessed 17 October 14].
ABC. 2014. Tony Abbott happy to be ‘closed book’ on border operations as Labor demands details on asylum boat turn-backs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-09/indonesian-military-chief-discussed-boat-turnbacks-with-adf-boss/5191486. [Accessed 17 October 14]
Australian Customs. 2014. Operation Sovereign Borders. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.customs.gov.au/site/operation-sovereign-borders.asp. [Accessed 17 October 14].