Australia is a nation of migration. Our first Australians migrated here some forty thousand years ago. Since then we have seen our nation build on a diverse heritage of cultures that has contributed to our proud nation.
Our immigrant heritage is quintessential to being Australian. It is not necessary to have been born in Australia to be Australian and it would be hypocritical to suggest that any person is undeserving of Australian citizenship simply because he or she wants a better life. However, there needs to be a process of immigration that is fair to all who want to come to Australia and at the same time does not undermine the social or economic fabric of the nation.
History teaches us a lot about migration and social integration. When Xenophobic non-inclusive social integration policies were implemented in the Western Empire in the 5th century, in place of the more liberal policies of the former Roman Empire, the process failed as social instability caused the Western Empire to fall.
There is a global migration occurring right now with more than 50 million people forcibly displaced from their homes currently. Eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees are currently living in developing countries. It is not a uniquely Australian problem with 1,865 people dying while attempting to cross the Mediterranean as of 31 May 2015. A further 166,000 people were rescued at sea by the Italian authorities in 2014. There were an estimated 8,000 people stranded on boats close to Thailand in May 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration. Similarly there an estimated 25,000 refugees and migrants who attempted to cross the Bay of Bengal in the first quarter of the 2015, approximately double the number in the same period in 2014.
Creating a framework that respects the rights and needs of people who seek to become Australians, to enjoy the lifestyle we largely take for granted, while preserving that lifestyle competitively for our own citizens, is perhaps one of the most perplexing issues we face as a nation. It is a delicate balance of performing our humanitarian responsibility to those who are less fortunate than us without compromising our own existence. This issue challenges the very notion of what it is to be Australian in the land of opportunity without a discriminatory class system.
“For those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share” Australian National Anthem
Just over half the asylum seekers currently coming to Australia arrive by air. The number of asylum seekers arriving by boat as irregular maritime arrivals has fluctuated with Government policy but did increase significantly during the Rudd and Gillard Governments.
The increasing trend toward illegal entry by boat, primarily via Indonesia, is problematic for three reasons:
- Firstly, the risk to life in making the perilous journey to Australia in barely seaworthy vessels is profound and unacceptable to both the migrants and the defence personnel deployed to intercept them. The humanitarian implications of this situation are very publicly on display and public policy failures are impacting on Australia’s humanitarian reputation internationally and domestically.
- Secondly, the sheer number of people trying to enter Australia is placing an unmanageable burden on Australia’s systems to receive, shelter and process these people. Again, the humanitarian implications of this situation are very publicly on display and public policy failures are impacting on Australia’s humanitarian reputation internationally and domestically.
- Thirdly, the ease of entry and inability to process the asylum seekers adequately is now posing an unmanageable national security risk with evidence mounting that undeserving and undesirable individuals are being inappropriately assessed and managed by immigration and security personnel. Just under ten percent of irregular maritime arrivals are not ultimately granted refugee status.
Australian citizens are being forced to fund the entire program of interception, processing, transport and repatriation either in Australia or elsewhere. In addition, national security is increasingly under pressure and the opportunity for entry by undesirables and the implications for Australian citizens if they are successful are profound.
Genuine asylum seekers are being caught up in a wave of irregular maritime arrivals and Australia is unable to deal with their circumstances in an appropriate and compassionate way and timeframe.
The success of the illegal transportation of people to Australia is providing an incentive to non-refugee aspirants. In turn, this is creating a financial incentive to crews who transport them, placing all in harm’s way unduly.
CountryMinded is obliged to address an asylum seeker policy - “The parable of the Good Samaritan challenges us to understand that violence towards those who are the least powerful among us can take the form of legislative acts or of human indifference and disconnection.” Lilia Fernandez
There are two issues that must be addressed.
First we must deal with the issue of irregular maritime arrivals. CountryMinded is committed to meaningfully deter asylum seekers from boarding boats in Indonesia or any other country in order to seek asylum in Australia.
Second we must address the inhumane and grossly wasteful treatment of asylum seekers. We must mitigate the financial cost of asylum seeker interception processing, housing and repatriation to the Australian taxpayer. Above all though we must demonstrate humanitarian compassion in balance with deterring unacceptably dangerous irregular maritime arrivals.
It is clear that we need to reform the processing of asylum seekers to end the extraordinary waste that is now expended in the industry that has sprung up around the detention of these people. The current bureaucratic process is ineffective and the
Department has no demonstrable capacity to competently assess the legitimacy of the claims by asylum seekers. It is apparent that this aspect of the asylum seeker issue is not being addressed, while it is perhaps the bigger source of apprehension for the Australian public.
Subject to an initial security and health screening, we would require that if asylum seekers are to be granted temporary visas, they only be allowed to enter the community on strict social contracts. The conditions of these contracts should compel them to close digital monitoring until such time as the Australian Government is satisfied they pose no threat.
These temporary visas should provide conditions in relation to settlement and assimilation into the Australian community, compelling a commitment to Australian culture, and compelling a productive contribution to the Australian economy. Specifically this is aimed at minimizing the risk of socially isolated enclaves.
It is sensible for this social contract to encourage asylum seekers to be relocated into regional communities where current social infrastructure is underutilized as a means of justifying ongoing investment in regional services and as part of a faster and more successful social integration. It would provide stable labour that in many cases would be potentially skilled and highly motivated to support regional business.
Any breach of this kind of social contract should result in termination of the visa.
CountryMinded will pursue policies in regard to asylum seekers and border security that:
- Restrict Australia’s migration zone to the mainland.
- Commit any boat found in Australian waters, that is seaworthy and carrying asylum seekers, to be turned around and escorted out of Australian waters. Any immediate humanitarian needs of passengers or crew shall be met at interception and vessels adequately provisioned.
- Vigorously prosecute suspected people smuggler ring leaders and organisers who benefit substantially financially and their defence should not be subsidized if they have means.
- Seek to coordinate joint prosecutions of asylum seekers with authorities in countries of origin including harmonisation of laws, including seizure of assets provisions.
- Ensure faster provisional processing of asylum seekers claims and screening for health and obvious security risks. Successful refugees should only be granted temporary visas and conditional release into the community on a strict social contract subject to close electronic monitoring for a probationary period in lieu of detention.
- Deploy refugees on temporary visas in work for the dole type programs, particularly in the construction of their own housing and infrastructure requirements. Skilled migrants should have their skills assessed and augmented. Regional programs should be given priority.