Here in Australia asylum seekers are in the news almost on a daily basis. There has been a flood of boat people arriving under the Labor government, and it appears that they do not know how to slow this down. Indeed, there are a number of related, but different, issues which get entangled here. There are issues about immigration, refugees, asylum seekers, queue-jumpers, multiculturalism, illegal aliens, assimilation, guest workers, and so on.
Different nations will have differing scenarios to deal with. And geographical realities will also influence how this all pans out. Island nations like Australia will have somewhat different border control issues than, say, the US, with its 1950 mile long border with Mexico.
Then there is the major difference between a genuine refugee, fleeing persecution or war, and an asylum seeker who may just want a better life or better opportunities in a Western nation. Plenty of other issues and distinctions arise, and all nations must have some immigration policy and some border protection schemes.
These are complex issues, and much needs to be said about it all. I have just penned an article looking at how the Bible looks at some of these topics. Here I simply wish to point out the obvious shortcomings of current government policy.
Two recent articles highlight the very real failures of the Labor government when it comes to asylum seekers and immigration reform. This article will focus on these two pieces, and hopefully I will pen another piece looking at possible solutions.
The first item was written by Piers Akerman and is entitled “Border policy as leaky as smugglers’ boats”. In it he notes how the current Labor government has set an all-time record for asylum-seeker arrivals. Under Ms Gillard there have been 5547 arrivals (by the close of business on Thursday). The numbers would be even higher today.
Says Akerman, “She owns this benchmark … because she pushed for the softer approach to asylum-seekers introduced by the Rudd government in 2008, and she is responsible for the proposal to open a regional refugee-processing centre in East Timor.”
He continues, “Further, her Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has permitted the public release of his own department’s guidelines for the admission of purported asylum-seekers. This ensures that people-smugglers can brief their clients in advance on what to say to Australian officials when they land, enhancing the odds – already tilted in their favour – for acceptance as genuine refugees. Not since 2004, before former prime minister John Howard stopped the boats, has Australia seen such an influx of people-smugglers and their fare-paying passengers.”
Her attempts to win support in the area is not going down very well either: “Gillard and her government are deluding themselves and attempting to fool the Australian public with the foolish pursuit of the East Timor processing centre. This can be seen from the total lack of interest in the proposal expressed, most politely, by the Malaysian and Indonesian leaders she met during her recent ASEAN tour, and the reluctance of the East Timorese government to have anything to do with the project.
“Rarely, if ever, has any proposal put forward by an Australian political leader been greeted with such a distinct lack of interest. It wasn’t a question of regional leaders expressing a lack of enthusiasm for the centre – there was simply no support whatsoever for the plan. By creating the impression that Australia has an open-door immigration policy that applies particularly to those who use people-smugglers and arrive by boat, Gillard has been forced to scramble to house the thousands who want to jump the queue of UN-approved refugees and take advantage of our generosity. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is now racing the tide to build centres in every state, except Tasmania, and every territory, except the ACT, to shelter the thousands of new arrivals.”
He concludes as follows: “Under John Howard, migration to Australia soared with little complaint because the Coalition government firmly maintained controls on who could enter the country. Those who chose to break the rules were penalised.
“Globally, the West is under siege from Muslim immigrants who have decided they no longer wish to live in their traditional homelands, but want to take advantage of the benefits offered by countries with a strong European-oriented culture. Unfortunately, as is apparent in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, many of these new migrants do not accept the culture of their chosen country, but wish to retain the cultures of the nations from which they claim to be seeking refuge.
“Under the guise of multiculturalism, the same changes are occurring in Australia. We no longer decide who can come here; we accept whoever arrives, after a minimal identity and health check. Then we help them bring others, defined by their culture and accepted by Labor as family members, though the relationships would be considered tenuous by the norms accepted of our culture. The Gillard government has totally lost its way, and Australia has lost control of its immigration policy.”
The other article is found in today’s Australian with this headline: “Onshore detention centres now bursting at the seams”. This is how the article begins: “Australia’s onshore detention facilities are facing the same accommodation crisis as Christmas Island. The Department of Immigration admits the surge in boat arrivals has forced it to abandon previously determined bed limits.
“The latest immigration figures show the Curtin detention centre is housing hundreds of detainees above the announced capacity. The Scherger, Northern and Leonora facilities are also on the verge of spilling over. A total of 747 asylum-seekers were last night being housed at the Curtin facility, in the remote West Kimberley region of Western Australia – despite a previously announced limit of 600 at Stage 1.
“Work on Stage 2, which will accommodate an additional 600 places, is not due to be completed until April. Customs officials last night boarded another unlawful boat northwest of Western Australia’s Middle Osborn Island. The two passengers and single crew member were being transferred to Christmas Island for processing, bringing the number of people on the offshore detention centre to 2894.
“The vessel pushes the number of boats to arrive under Labor this year to 118. The Australian revealed yesterday the Christmas Island facility was already more than 400 people over its 2500 limit with temporary shelter provided by tents and marquees in widespread use on the island.”
Stories such as this seem to be found daily in the media. Clearly there are some major problems here, and current government policy on immigration and asylum seekers seems to need some immediate adjustment, to say the least. Every nation has a right to control its own borders, and every nation should be allowed to determine who comes in and who does not.
But at the moment, it looks like everything is up in the air. People-smugglers are certainly happy about the current situation. But unless some drastic steps are taken soon to change course, our problems will continue to compound and worsen, perhaps to a point of no return.