Tag Archives: malaysia solution

The facts about Australia’s asylum seeker “problem”

August 04, 2012

Australia receives very few asylum seekers compared to other nations — and we could do much more to help these most vulnerable people, says Jai Goulding.

WELCOME to Australia, an island and a continent consisting of two land masses — the mainland and Tasmania. In area, it is the sixth largest country and the smallest continent. It is about the size of the mainland states of the US, excluding Alaska, and approximately 24 times the size of the UK

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their own country and applied for protection as a refugee, and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted. The majority of onshore asylum seekers actually arrive in Australia by air with a valid visa. They then apply for onshore protection through Australia’s humanitarian program. Boat people is a term that usually refers to refugees, illegal immigrants, or asylum seekers who emigrate in boats, many of which are sometimes old and crudely made.

The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has reached 43.7 million people, the highest number in 15 years. Afghanistan continues to be the prime country with the most refugees under UNHCR responsibility across the globe. There are three million Afghan refugees, and they are one out of three of the total worldwide number. Women and girls make up 47 per cent of total refugees. In total, 15,500 individual asylum applications were lodged by unaccompanied or separated children throughout 69 countries.

Countries facing conflict and disruption feature heavily and a big trend seen is the number of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. Developing countries host four fifths of the world’s refugees. Pakistan, Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic are the top hosting countries globally for refugees. Australia takes 21,805 people which represent 98 per thousand of population. The public debate on asylum seekers has been focusing on boat arrivals but, as mentioned, government figures show that the large majority of asylum applicants arrive by plane.

In 2010, soon after becoming Prime Minister, Julia Gillard adopted the Howard mantra of  ‘Stopping the boats’ with her unlawful (According to the High Court) policy of offshore processing for unauthorised arrivals. The Pacific Solution was the name given to the Australian Government policy (2001- 2007) of transporting asylum seekers to detention centers on small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland. It had bipartisan support from both the Liberal National government and Labor opposition at the time

Mandatory detention in Australia refers to the Australian federal government‘s policy and system of immigration detention, which has been active from 1992 to date, pursuant to which all persons entering the country without a valid visa are compulsorily detained and sometimes subject to deportation. While the term mandatory detention is used to describe the detention process, there is a voluntary aspect to this detention in one sense. In almost all cases, at any time, they are free to return to their country of origin, and will be assisted by the Australian Government, if they so choose.

Gillards ‘Malaysian Solution’ to the issue – that is, sending new arrivals by boat to Malaysia –was rejected by the High Court. The plan was ruled invalid, but the decision means the Labor Government has nowhere to send the illegal asylum seekers off shore, and they ’claim’ that they now have no deterrent against people smuggling. However, they have proposed to use both Nauru and Malaysia, but the Opposition have rejected this. Many human rights advocates, including the Australian Greens Party disagree, and have proposed an alternative proposal.  Independent MP Rob Oakeshott had an unsuccessful bill debated in an attempt to overturn  the High Court decision on the 28 June this year.

Refugee advocates stress that offshore processing is an appalling waste of taxpayer funds and patently against the national interest. Reestablishing processing on Nauru, for instance, is estimated to cost millions. The Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, said that the Labor Government is picking up where John Howard left off on asylum seekers, but the Greens will remain opposed to offshore processing

Of course, whether it is a Malaysian, Pacific or Timbuktu solution, all are temporary fixes to a comparatively insignificant problem. As The Age columnist Tim Soutphommasane noted, last year Australia received 15,226 boat arrivals, compared with Greece’s 56,180, Italy’s 91,821 and Spain’s 74,317.

After two weeks of assessing the evidence, discussing policy and reporting on fieldwork, the asylum seeker expert panel has made its findings. They recommend that Australia should negotiate with regional governments for the establishment of asylum claim processing centres in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia so that asylum seekers do not need to travel further afield in order to access protection.

The panel also recommended that Australia should work with regional governments to find regional solutions to refugee protection. Countries that agree to provide refugee protection, including Australia, should provide air transport from origin and transit countries to destination countries for all persons assessed as being in need of protection. Providing an opportunity for legal and safe passage to Australia could help reduce unauthorized entries. They say that Australia should negotiate with OECD and middle income countries to increase their refugee intake and take diplomatic initiatives to support an embargo on the sales of arms to conflict areas.

Finally, the experts note that it is already within the power of the executive government to ensure that all Australia’s international obligations towards asylum seekers are honored. However, legislation should be passed which expressly incorporates the Refugee Convention and Refugee Protocol and all human rights treaties to which Australia is a party into Australia’s domestic law without change.

As Australia develops long term approaches towards burden sharing and protection obligations, priority should be given to the urgent resettlement of asylum seekers already within our region, particularly populations located in transit countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Prioritizing the resettlement of those already within the region would reduce the regional burden significantly, therefore reducing the number of asylum seekers who take to boats — while also increasing goodwill within the region. This new priority would result in a very significant increase of the relevant populations of concern in Malaysia and Indonesia without affecting the overall refugee intake.

It is important that we continue to be a welcoming nation, because multiculturalism is positive and beneficial. We need to end the politics of fear and division, end the public appeals to our fears and prejudices and call out what is best in the Australian people — our compassion, inclusivity, generosity and ability to welcome the newcomer. Meeting and listening to people’s journeys is the best way for attitude transformations to take place, because people can understand and begin to empathise.

We shouldn’t forget that on those leaky unauthorized boats are valuable citizens, who will improve our lives. New Australians include a job creating Burmese entrepreneur, an Iranian researcher working on a cancer cure, or a talented Afghan novelist. There might even be a Tamil public servant destined to implement policy for, shock horror, a future Coalition Government.

(You can read more by Jai Goulding on his website Jai’s World. The version of this article on Jai’s website also includes many other useful links and references.)

This news article was originally published here: http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/politics/the-facts-about-australias-asylum-seeker-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-facts-about-australias-asylum-seeker-problem


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Amnesty International report shows why Australia must never revisit the Malaysia swap deal for seekers

May 24, 2012

Amnesty International’s latest annual report card explains in clear terms the risks involved were the Gillard government to succeed in its quest to resurrect the inhumane Malaysian people swap, according to the Australian Greens.

“The report states the deal to expel 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 refugees who were awaiting resettlement would contravene our international obligations to people seeking our protection,” Greens’ human rights spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

“It cites the successful legal challenge to the deal which resulted in the High Court reminding the Gillard government it must abide by the obligations of the Migration Act. The act forbids Australia from expelling people to places where their rights could not be guaranteed.

“Malaysia in August 2011 broke international law by forcibly returning Uighurs to China, routinely detains undocumented migrants indefinitely and in some cases canes them.

“The Gillard government ought to stop trying to revive the Malaysian deal as the Greens will never support it.

“Australia is also continuing to breach the Refugee Convention by warehousing asylum seekers indefinitely in remote and inhospitable parts of the continent. This is causing easily preventable mental and physical damage to people who’ve fled persecution, torture and trauma.

“The Amnesty report also notes the shameful continued violation of the rights of First Australians. For example, indigenous residents in remote parts of the Northern Territory have limited access to basic services like water.

“Instead of being a world leader in upholding people’s rights, Australia has in the past year recoiled and rejected many United Nations recommendations that would have improved human rights.

“While the federal government agreed to ratify an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and consider ratifying a convention for indigenous people, several important rights advancements continue to be ignored.

“On a positive note, in February 2012 all Australian federal, state and territory governments endorsed a national plan to reduce violence against women and children.

“The Greens will continue monitoring how governments are adhering to this plan, as well as continuing our efforts to ensure the government stops trampling on the rights of Australia’s indigenous people, asylum seekers and other people at risk of harm.”

Source: http://noosagreens.org/2012/05/amnesty-international-report-shows-why-australia-must-never-revisit-the-malaysia-swap-deal-for-seekers/

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Deadlock on asylum issue strikes at the heart

December 27, 2011

Standing firm ... Tony Abbott.Standing firm … Tony Abbott. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

Dear Tony  Abbott,

Barely a week ago, as most of us were preparing for Christmas, the media  brought news of the fate of more people seeking safety in Australia.

This time the numbers of the dead were more startling, more disturbing. And  it’s not just the numbers. The agony of the few survivors reminds us starkly how  increasingly impossible it is to just stand by.

The media have also been telling us that you have been hesitating to  compromise on more compassionate responses, within Australia or overseas.  Perhaps it’s the idea of co-operating with a government you despise that holds  you back?

Yet we need you to co-operate because the story of asylum seeking is part of  our national story, too. This is less because we are largely a nation of  immigrants than because our governments – including those of your own Coalition  –  have involved us in some of the cataclysmic events that have led to this  profound disruption in countless lives.

However cautious each national government must be about who can live within  its borders and who cannot, this is a global issue as pressing as any other this  century. And it is not going away. What we are witnessing is a 21st-century  tragedy with women, men and children in their hundreds of thousands needing a  place to call home.

You know, as do we, that people do not risk their lives and their children’s  lives because they want to be free to do late-night shopping at Kmart. They  leave everything that is familiar and dear to them because their lives have been  overtaken by fear. Even their fear of the deadly travel to unwelcoming countries  is self-evidently less than their fear of what ”home” has become.

Asylum seekers   are largely fleeing social violence, including war. Our  governments have made us complicit in some of those horrors.

Rather than limiting our national involvement to aid and peace-keeping  forces, or to more intelligently supporting global and local efforts to resolve  complex social divisions peacefully,  Australia has participated in dangerously  isolating Iran, and in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have displaced  countless people whose need for respect, safety and shelter is probably much  like our own.

As we continue to gather around laden tables, you might also agree that we  have failed adequately to meet the global challenges faced by those fleeing   hunger, particularly in Africa. Far fewer of those refugees or asylum seekers  think of Australia as a possible haven, but they are also part of our story.

Living on the margins and in poverty, with all the dangers to health, spirit  and life that such poverty implies, they must endure the now-familiar contempt  of millions who do have a place to return to at the end of their day.

Like many of the asylum seekers looking towards Australia, those fleeing  Africa are largely funded by their families out of a collective purse. Their  fear of disappointing those left behind can only be imagined.

Like many coming towards Australia in  perilous boats, they were, presumably,  meant to carry the hopes of those left behind. How could they easily admit that  this journey has taken them only to more misery, or that the so-called promised  lands of plenty offer them neither safety nor hope?

Hope, as you would know, is a currency vital to the human spirit. Western  governments – and opposition parties – have entrenched policies that seek to  deflect asylum seekers by withdrawing most meaningful notions of  ”asylum” and  by denying hope.

That the world’s asylum seekers nevertheless continue to hope is testimony to  the human spirit. It is also heartbreaking.

Mr Abbott, I am just one voice among many thousands saying that the political  ”deadlock” on this matter is more than deadly. Again and again, I hear other  Australians  say  there is no more time to waste. Many of us see this as a  global issue in which Australia’s ”problem” is proportionately less than that  of almost any other wealthy nation. We see this as a vital local issue too,  where our national identity as people of a fair go hangs precariously.

Some might argue that a lack of co-operation between you and the Prime  Minister and her government is literally killing people.

However you interpret it, there has to be a better way: a better way to  understand the causes of this vast 21st-century upheaval. And a far better way  to address, with decency and compassion, its most urgent effects.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/deadlock-on-asylum-issue-strikes-at-the-heart-20111226-1pah8.html#ixzz1hiHoPxEh

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Malaysia ready to accept asylum seekers in Aussie swap deal

December 24, 2011

MELBOURNE: While opposition leader Tony Abbott flatly rejects the asylum  seeker swap deal with Malaysia, a senior Malaysian official has said Kuala  Lumpur was ready to move quickly to implement its arrangement with  Australia.

“We are happy to bring back the agreement with the Australian government,” the official told ‘The Age’ newspaper.

He said Malaysia respected the non-refoulement principle — which demands that  refugees not be returned to places where their lives or freedom could be  threatened.

“We completely respect the policy of non-refoulement. It is a requirement of  the (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) that Malaysia has agreed  to.

“The UNHCR will be processing all asylum seekers who arrive in Malaysia under  the arrangement,” the official said. — Bernama

Abbott said on Friday he would immediately sign off on a deal to reopen an  asylum-seeker processing centre on Nauru, but remains opposed to Malaysia.

Abbott welcomed the meeting between government and opposition members to  discuss the government’s offshore processing proposal.

The government says it will reopen Nauru in return for the opposition’s  support on Malaysia, but will not reintroduce temporary protection visas.

Abbott said his party would sign off on Nauru “here, now”, but would not lend  any support on Malaysia.

“I think the time for Malaysia has well and truly passed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nauru government has denied it could accept large numbers of  asylum seekers quickly.

A government spokesman Rod Henshaw told The Age newspaper the country was  willing to assist Australia, but the previous two asylum seeker centres were  being used by a primary school and an economic advisory body, the Nauru  Rehabilitation Corporation.

“There is the issue now of the school, and you would have to kick out the  Nauru Rehabilitation Corporation – that would take negotiation,” said  Henshaw.

“There are all these sorts of questions. Or do they look at a fresh area and  start again, and that’s more than a few weeks.”

Establishing a new site would involve flying in all building materials and  labour to the tiny Pacific Island.

Federal government sources said the reality was Nauru couldn’t be opened  within weeks and wasn’t an interim measure. — Bernama

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2011/12/24/malaysia-ready-to-accept-asylum-seekers-in-aussie-swap-deal/#ixzz1hWy8XtJY

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