Political Debate over Asylum Seekers

Topics: Refugee, Australia, Human rights Pages: 6 (2000 words) Published: August 28, 2013
Overtime the Australian government’s approach to asylum seekers has been highly controversial and well publicised, both nationally and internationally. Australia is a country that has benefitted from immigration, however in its history, many policies have been employed to deal with foreign settlers arriving in the country. Intake of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia are the caused by various conflicts within the world. However, as Australia is a signatory to the United Nations (UN), we are obligated to accept people seeking sanctuary. Due to previous incidents, the public perception of asylum seekers is negative, making asylum seeker policies a focal aspect of some voter’s decisions. Therefore the Gillard Government have recently introduced a policy, re-branding John Howard’s ‘Pacific Solution’, whilst other political parties promote their own plans (The Economist, 2011). However, it is recommended that, despite the public’s view, these policies impacting on asylum seekers must protect their rights and well-being. A total of 43.7 million people were forcibly displaced, worldwide, at the end of 2010, including 15.4 million refugees, 27.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 837,500 asylum seekers (Refugee Council, 2010). According to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), a refugee is a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a justifiable fear of being persecuted. However, an asylum seeker is a person who has fled their own country and seeking protection as a refugee (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012). Asylum seekers fleeing their country will seek safety any way they can. For many, this means putting their lives at risk, using means of transportation not permitted by the government, as authorised methods have been radically reduced. The main option utilised is arriving to a ‘safe’ country on an unsafe, insanitary and overcrowded boat (Lion, 2013). Australia, under the UN, has responsibilities to protect the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in the country, disregarding their means of arrival and whether they obtain a visa (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012 (a)). As a party to the Refugee Convention, Australia is obliged to assure that people who meet the UN’s definition of a refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012 (b)). As Australia remains a signatory to the agreements made by the UN, they are bound by their provisions. However, Australia’s involvement in a number of global conflicts, consequently, gives a special responsibility upon the country to alleviate suffering that it might itself have prompted. For example, Australia have had or still has armies deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, and as a result most of the asylum seekers in Australia in recent years have come from these countries (Department of Defence, 2013). Therefore, as Australia has no other choice but to accept asylum seekers, the Gillard Government has implemented new policies to reduce their arrivals. Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently backed the Houston report, an independent report on asylum seekers, explaining the urgent move by the government to restart offshore processing on Papa New Guinea and Nauru (Coorey, Ireland, & Wright, 2012). An expert panel led by former Defence chief Angus Houston recommended that Australia process asylum seekers on Papa New Guinea and Nauru (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012 (b)). The "no advantage" principle proposed by the panel ensured that boatpeople will no longer benefit from avoiding official migration channels. Gillard herself proposed a new deal that asylum seeker would be sent to Malaysia, in return for refugee, that had utilized the ‘proper’ channels (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012 (a)). The problem with these policies is that it is re-enforcing John Howards,...
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