Why has policy on asylum seekers been such a divisive issue in Australian politics and foreign policy?
The dramatic influx of the number of illegal boats entering Australia has recently starred
up issues on asylum seekers. In a recent press announcement made by the Prime Minister of
Australia, it was determined that the government was forced to develop decisive hardline
approaches to the smuggling of people with the aim of strengthening the integrity of the
Australian Immigration functions. A recent survey based on the Australian current immigration
systems revealed that close to half of the Australian population believe that the seekers of asylum
in this country mainly arrive by sea and should be extradited back to their original countries in
order to apply for the typical refugee transfer systems (Beeson,p. 226.2002).
However, it is essential to mention that the government is currently facing challenges and
criticisms from a section of the society in regards to the manner in which this problem is
handled. Beeson (2002) states that this issue is therefore considered controversial since many
people have different views considering that different people from diverse walks of life have
varied attitudes towards the problem of asylum seeking (p. 226). This is primarily attributed to
the difficulties the government faces that accrue from overpopulation, the rapid growth that
affects the financial strength of the nation and so on. This paper, therefore, seeks to determine
the reasons why the policies on asylum seeking are becoming a controversial and divisive issue
in Australian foreign policies and politics.
In giving a typical definition of an asylum seeker it is imperative to determine that these
are people who flee from their homelands of origin for the fear of persecution and who apply for
physical and legal protection in another country for various reasons such as their religion, race,
political affiliation or nationality. Australia being one of the signatories of the Refugee
Convention to the United Nations has the sole obligation of ensuring that the human rights of the
seekers of asylum in their territories are protected irrespective of the rationale behind their
arrival, their places of origin and whether they arrive with or without proper documentation such
as visas (Leaver, & Sach, pp. 621-636. 2006). This apparently determines the fact that whether
the arrivals are validated or unauthorized, the Australian government is held accountable for
giving such individuals the chance to prove their eligibility in becoming refugees before
removing them from their land.
According to sources, the applications of asylum seekers protection should be assessed
by the decision makers who work within the Department of Immigration and Citizenship who are
trained in policies, procedures and law on refugee conventions and protection. The applicants are
therefore required to undergo an interview that provides information of their citizenship in their
own countries and the situations at stake in order to be granted a protection visa (Leaver, & Sach,
pp. 621-636. 2006). Additionally, the applicants are taken through health examinations, security
checks before signing the Australian Values Statement in the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship. It is also essential to state that the applicant who are successfully approved under the
consideration of their claims as refugees and do not meet the lawful reasons for staying in
Australia are always removed from the Australian soil.
Histories of Asylum Seekers in Australia
It is essential to mention that the system that the Australian government is using in
processing the visa applications of the asylum seekers was developed during the 1980s and
1990s as a result of the influx of the number of asylums who sort refuge in this country.
According to sources, most of the asylum seekers originated from China as a result of the
Tiananmen Square incident that occurred in June 1989 that saw the protection visa application
rise to 16,249. From this period to the year 1995, the government changed its systems to include
several members of a family in a single application(Pietsch, pp. 143-155.2013). However, the
system was again reviewed to ensure that each individual within a request makes a single
Current Government Policy
Currently, the government of Australia has initiated an offshore program that holds in
detention unauthorized boat arrivals in Christmas Island until the asylums seekers are either
granted a protection Visa or removed from the Australian soil. This approach is known as the
offshore program that ensures that the people who fail to meet the UN standards and definitions
of an asylum seeker resettled(Pietsch, pp. 143-155.2013). At times, some boat arrivals usually
take longer periods than other as they await the outcomes of their visa applications. In the event
that their applications do not meet the required standards, they are forced to wait for their
removal from Australia.
Assistance from the Government
In order to ensure efficiency during these processes, the government of Australia usually
provides some assistance schemes for the asylum seekers during the application for protection
process. The supports offered by the government include a temporal eligibility for Medicare and
welfare services such as support and professional help in the preparation of their protection visas
and income support(Pietsch, pp. 143-155.2013). It is essential to determine the fact that not all
the applicants are eligible to receive these assistances since they must prove that they are in a
financial hardship. Their eligibility for receiving these assistances is then reviewed by the
government on a regular basis to ensure there are no changes to their situations.
Adverse Impacts of Asylum Seekers and the Australian Action
As a result of the tight regulations enforced by the Australian government of asylum
seeking, the government of Australia has now embarked on an approach that relatively receives
fewer refugees as compared to other nations, a factor that has received a lot of controversial
thoughts. Considering the fact that Australia is the sixth largest country, it only accepts 0.6% of
asylum seekers in the world. According to credible sources, the proportion of refugees who
arrive in Australia does not reach 8% of the country’s total population of immigrants
(McDonald, pp. 605-617.2013). Some of the challenges the government of Australia faces in its
receipt of asylum seekers that have brought a rise of the divisive issues on its policies include;
Rapid Growth of Australian Population;
It is essential to determine the fact that migrants have the ability to affect the population
of a country immensely. Currently, statistics shows that nearly one in every four Australians is
born overseas, a factor that translates to more than 20 million people (Department and
immigration and citizenship, 2009). This, therefore, saw the Rudd Government advocate against
the idea of a big Australia, to mean that the population of this country would possibly rise to 36.9
million by the year 2050. This idea therefore brought an upsurge considering the intense growth
of the population of this country that would infringe on some of the countries amenities.
As a result of this, the Australian government has attributed this overpopulation to
immigration. The Labor party therefore took a drastic measure in developing policies that would
control the population growth since the increase in the country’s population would result in
overpopulation that would directly cause an impact on the countries employment capacity,
economy, welfare programs, and the governments funding (McDonald, pp. 605-617.2013).
Financial Tension for the Government
It is also essential to note that one of the common responses of the government of
Australia in regards to asylum seekers that arrive by boat is in the country’s ability to provide
support and assistance to this people. As determined by some sources, many of these asylum
seekers move from poor and undeveloped countries to a wealthier nation (McKenzie, &
Hasmath, pp. 417-430.2013). As a result of this, they are in a position of creating new tensions
between the Australian governments from the huge financial assistances required to initiate their
wellbeing in their soils. Sources from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship state that
between 2008 and 2009, the country assisted close to 2792 asylum seekers at a tune of 7.05
million dollars, a factor that shows how the countries resources are infringed.
Overpopulation in Detention Centers
The detention centers especial those in the Christmas Island have reported incidences of
overpopulation that results from the government’s aversive attitude towards the boat arrivals and
the delays in announcing the eligible asylum seekers (McKenzie, & Hasmath, pp. 417-
430.2013). The government initiated an approach that resulted in the crowding of the asylum
seekers in the detention centers by delaying the immigration process for up to six months.
It is essential to consider the fact that the Detention Centre at the Christmas Island is only
able to handle a capacity of 800 immigrants, but is now has a capacity of over 2000 people
waiting for their applications approval (Flitton, p. 37. 2003). The authorities there therefore use
every facility to shelter the asylums in the centers, a factor that goes against these people human
Local Residential Safety Concerns
Security issues remain one of the controversial issues that have also risen from this
subject since many of the Australian population fear that the acceptance of the asylum seekers in
Australia may result in terroristic attacks (Lock, Quenault, & Tomlinson, p. 35. 2002). It is
imperative to ascertain that most of the boat arrivals lack the required identification materials to
disclose the reasons why their government is trying to persecute them, a factor that makes it
harder for them to travel through the required conventional channels. It is therefore feared that
the immigrants may harbor terrorists that try to escape from one country to the other, a fact that
may raise security concerns in a nation.
Approaches the Government Can Take in Solving the Problem
It is essential for the government of Australia to develop more regional asylum centers.
This approach would therefore enable the asylums that arrive by boat to get their tickets from a
regional processing center, a fact that would not only solve the issues of overcrowding but would
mitigate the chances of people being smuggled in the country (Lock, et.al). The government of
Australia should also consider the rights of the population seeking asylum in their country and
treat them with dignity instead of taking tough stances that frustrate such people.
Additionally, the government should also work out on modalities of hastening the visa
application and approval processes to ensure that the delays witnessed in this centers are reduced
(Cameron, pp. 241-259.2013). Those who fail to meet the minimum threshold of being
considered and offered asylum in the country should be repatriated in a proper manner. It is also
essential to ensure that women and children who arrive in this country as asylum seekers are also
given fare treatments (Freedman, pp. 175-198. 2010).
It is therefore essential to determine the fact that the settlement of the asylum seekers in
Australia remains one of the hard debates the government of this country is currently facing. The
Gillard government has therefore made its stand on this issue by developing tight policies on the
people seeking asylum in this country(Lock, Quenault, & Tomlinson, p. 35. 2002). Many of the
Australian people are mainly concerned about the issues of overpopulation that has been
witnessed in the detention centers since this aspect has a direct impact on the country’s economy
including the quality of life and morals of this country.
According to sources, the rates of unemployment in Australia sprung up to 5.8% in the
nation’s population, a factor that sees the government argue that an increase in its population
would eventually increase the rates of unemployment in this country(Bleiker, Campbell,
Hutchison, & Nicholson, pp. 398-416. 2013). As a result of the rising unemployment issue, the
country’s economy is affected since much of the tax payers money is channeled into the benefits
of the unemployed population.
The boat arrivals as compared to the air arriving asylums are known to destroy their
identification details, a fact that makes it hard for the concerned authorities to process their visas
due to the lack of credible information. Due to this fact, the asylums are forced to wait longer in
the detention centers, a factor that has spanned the population in the detention facilities(Johnson,
pp. 195-209.2007). Due to this, the nation fears that it may suffer attacks from either terrorists or
diseases due to overpopulation. It is consequently crucial for the Australian government to
ensure its boarders are protected and to ensure that decisive approaches of handling the asylum
seekers are properly initiated.
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