Economics as a Social Science

Topics: Refugee, Australia, Right of asylum Pages: 6 (1241 words) Published: May 25, 2014
Asylum Seekers: A Political Economic Analysis

The arrival of asylum seeker by boat is of great debate in Australian politics. A vast number of competing aspects and differences of opinion makes the issue exceptionally complex and difficult to analyse. The core issues including a brief description of the problem, why the problem exists, the winners and losers of the current situation, why it matters and what can be done to improve the situation will be analysed in this essay.

The Australian government’s current asylum seeker strategy is primarily focused on preventing the arrival of asylum seekers in Australia. The policy, known as Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) is a military-led operation based on the premise that asylum seekers are threatening Australia’s national security (Liberal Party of Australia, 2013). The policy aims to increase offshore processing and also seeks other countries to resettle refugees in (Liberal Party of Australia, 2013).

The OSB policy states that refugees who arrive by boat will only be resettled in Australia as a “last resort” (McAdam’s, 2013:441). These refugees will only receive a temporary protection visa (TPV) – meaning they will never permanently resettle within Australia (McAdam’s, 2013). Another significant aspect of the OSB is “turning back the boats” to Indonesia to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers who reach Australia and deter those considering seeking asylum via boat (McAdam’s, 2013:441).

A key aspect of the OSB is the use of a cartoon campaign that depicts distressing images of asylum seekers in detention (Laughland, 2014). The campaign appears to be aimed at discouraging Afghan asylum seekers from making the hazardous trip to Australia. The campaign, accompanied by the slogan “No way. They will not make Australia home”, shows those travelling by boat to Australia will not be offered the opportunity to rebuild a safe life (Laughland, 2014).

The cartoon campaign highlights the lack of transparency of the OSB for the Australian public as it offers no details about where the campaign is to be published or the cost of the initiative. The cartoons also provide the first acknowledgement from the government that the Australian navy is in fact sending boats back to Indonesia (Laughland, 2014).

Turning back the boats was a key election promise made by the Coalition when in opposition to capitalise on the considerable fear found in the Australian public. Now in government the Coalition maintains that the OSB will protect Australia’s nation security, protect people from people smuggling and prevent further deaths at sea (Liberal Party of Australia, 2013).

Asylum seekers are the most obvious losers from the current policy as they are unlawfully treated as criminals and intruders. Offshore detention and resettlement leaves asylum seekers in appalling conditions and prevents them from building the safe and stable life they had hoped for (McAdam, 2013). The use of TPVs have been shown to have serious harmful psychological effects on refugees as they are left in constant limbo and fear, unsure if they will be forced to return to their dangerous country (McAdam, 2013).

It can also be suggested the Australian government is disadvantaging itself through its own policy. Indonesia has stated it finds the OSB policy “offensive and a threat to its sovereignty” as boats are returned to its territory (McAdam, 2013:441). This places even more pressure on an already strained relationship with one of our closest neighbours (Reece, 2014). Additionally, the Australian policy is attracting considerable negative attention around the world, particularity from the United Nations Human Rights Committee due to the inhumane and lawless treatment of asylum seekers (ABC, 2014).

Transfield Services, however, receive substantial gains from the OSB. In February 2014 the company announced it had won a 20 month contract to service and guard the Nauru and Manus Island detention...

Bibliography: Reece, N. (2014), ‘How to make our asylum-seeker policy firm but fairer’, The Age, 24 March 2014, [accessed 30/03/2014].
Laughland, O. (2014), ‘Australian government targets asylum seekers with graphic campaign’, The Guardian, 11 February 2014, [accessed 30 March 2014].
McAdam, J. (2013), ‘Australia and Asylum Seekers’, International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 435-448.
Murphy, K. (2013), “Australia’s Asylum Seeker Vergogna”, Eureka Street, Vol. 23, No.20, pp.18-19.
Liberal Party of Australia. (2013), ‘The Coalition’s Policy for a Regional Deterrence Framework to Combat People Smuggling’, Liberal Party of Australia, 2013, [accessed 2/4/2014].
UN General Assembly. (1951), ‘Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’, United Nations, No. 189 p. 201.
ABC. (2014), ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 31 March 2014, [accessed 31 March 2014].
Isaacs, D. (2013), ‘Asylum seekers’, Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, Vol. 49, No.2, pp.85.
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