Check out the article below. It explains things very well and suggests solutions.
If you want to show your support for a view of Australia as a compassionate nation, willing to do its bit and more to help – rather than the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind”, “lock-’em-up-and-leave-’em” policies of now, there are rallies going on frequently. It’s not always just the capital cities which protest – they just get more attention. Heck, my hometown had two sizeable gatherings last week when vigils to protest the deaths of refugees like Aylan Kurdi were held across Australia. The main protest I know of is the “Walk Together” protest/ rally on October 31st in several capital cities and other places. It’s a “welcoming” protest, so it is more celebratory, perhaps, than some of the others.
From their Facebook page:
“Walk Together 2015 will be a huge celebration of diversity and a loud declaration that thousands of Australians believe we can become a nation known for our compassion, generosity and welcome.
Faced with increasing instances of fear and prejudice, it’s more important than ever for values of compassion and welcome to reign. For the sake of our futures, it’s time to Walk Together.
Saturday October 31st at 11.00 am in your city.
Click through below for local details:
Canberra: starting location: near Westside Acton Park, 3 Barrine Drive
Gold Coast: https://www.facebook.com/events/1461661800807769/
Mt Gambier: https://www.facebook.com/events/407551796122308/
Sunshine Coast: https://www.facebook.com/events/1638407146402799/
Want to volunteer? Host a walk in a city not listed above? Have questions?
There is actually quite a lot of support for a real solution that’s genuine. So this isn’t the only protest occurring, far from it. There’s another one on earlier, on October 11 in Melbourne for instance. It’s called “Stand Up for Refugees” and is aimed specifically at protesting “Operation Sovereign Borders”, the “Border Force Act” and all the unpleasantness surrounding that. (So is perhaps a little narrower in focus.)
Alternatively, if you don’t like traditional protesting for whatever reason, there are other ways to get involved. I mentioned some of them last week, among other posts. Personally I won’t be going to the Oct 11th rally probably – I’ll be elsewhere in Melbourne, attending a picnic run by “Land of Welcome”: “Welcome Home Asylum Seeker Picnics, Learning Each Other’s Food & Culture”. The best way to stop the nonsense of sloganeering and othering and ethnocentrism that’s going on right now is to actually go out and meet people and hear their stories, after all. Ignorance breeds fear, which leads to hatred, which leads to bigotry. But knowledge counters those things, leading to acceptance and then understanding.
Start the boats
At the end of this article you will find a number of references to resources that are generally far more researched than what I have detailed here. I encourage you to have a look at these to assist you in your understanding of the issue as it has certainly helped me in furthering my understanding of the situation.
I must state from the outset that I don’t agree with making the seeking of asylum in Australia so dangerous that Asylum seekers choose persecution and starvation in other countries over asylum in Australia. Sure that solves our refugee problem but what does that mean about Australian culture? I think we must reflect on the fact that it’s not long gone 200 years since Australia’s border were irreversibly over run and changed forever. Maybe we should reflect on how that occurred and seek to avoid the legacy that left for the original inhabitants of Australia and it’s new settlers.
THE BIG PICTURE
There are an estimated 42.5 million people displaced by persecution and conflict in the world.
In 2011 only 0.7% of the worlds refugees were resettled.
In the context of our migration program, the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia is very, very minor. It is less than 1.5 per cent of new migrants.
The USA, Canada and Australia provide 90 percent of global resettlement places.
As at Jun 30, 2015 there are a total of 4,472 people in Australian detention centres (whether in Australia or in offshore detention).
At January 31, 2013, 47 per cent of Australian detainees were Sri Lankan nationals, 13 per cent from Iran and 11 per cent from Afghanistan. Of those in community detention, the largest group were Iranian nationals (34 per cent), followed by Sri Lankans (18 per cent) and Afghan nationals (15 per cent). I have circled these countries in blue on the below map for your reference.
Australia planned to migrate 190,000 people into Australia in 2014-2015. These are skilled workers and their families. Additionally, in the same period, Australia expects to resettle approximately 6,000 refugees (pre 9/9/2015 announcement by then PM Abbott on increasing numbers by 12,000 over an undetermined amount of time).
The war in Syria has been relatively protracted (since 2011) and has caused more than 4.5 million people to flee the area to neighbouring countries. The Syrian refugee crisis is ‘Europe’s biggest refugee movement since the second world war’ and the reasons for the movement of people are diverse and surprisingly somewhat speculative however, this article provides a good summary. I have circled Syria in red on the below map for your reference.
I will attempt to detail the most common thoughts on the challenges associated with Immigration in general, not just with asylum seekers and refugees.
Challenge: Many people hold a sincere fear that among the legitimate asylum seekers, there may be a number of people present who seek to do damage to Australia whether that is through terrorism or other acts.
We must also be mindful that Islamic State has espoused the dispatch of their soldiers to foreign lands with the sole intent of destruction.
Response: It has been determined that, because of Australia’s exhaustive screening process, the chances of anyone entering the country intending to cause harm or damage is almost nil.
I would also remind Australia of our heritage, we are Australians, we come from the Anzacs, we have a proud history of fighting hard and smart, and winning. We need not be scared of any threats, but always cautious and prepared. If there is a risk to our country or our fellow countrymen/women, isolate it, assess it and then deal with it with determination and conviction.
We shouldn’t let our fear of unknown and unquantifiable threats dilute or dissolve our compassion and humanity when people turn to us for help.
Challenge: Australia already has a rising unemployment rate, we can’t handle any more people that need to be supported.
Response: I haven’t yet read anything that suggests how to effectively tackle this challenge. Things that I reflect on personally are; how much it costs us for our current offshore processing (detailed later in this article) and what benefits to any party we currently see from our existing detention process.
Challenge: Australia’s welfare system can’t handle the additional burden of taking on the refugees.
Response: As above.
I have seen numerous documents justifying the small amount of welfare, asylum seekers who are located in Community Detention are provided. However I struggle to understand how existing Australians such as the elderly and the disabled, afford to live on the amounts paid to them in welfare, therefore I do wonder how someone who does not understand how Australia works, is able to live off less money. Ultimately I don’t think that justifying how much we pay asylum seekers in community detention, by displaying how poorly we support the asylum seekers financially, should satisfy us that we are doing the best by them and us.
Challenge: Refugees and immigrants don’t want to assimilate with Australians or their culture, they will just end up in a ghetto.
Response: Personally, I believe that this should be considered in the integration process. The current situation where we keep people in closed detention centres and then release them into Community Detention with a few restrictions is negligent and really is setting everyone up for failure. If we don’t teach people about Australia and Australians, and we don’t provide Australians with the opportunity to interact with the asylum seekers, how can we expect them to assimilate? Personally I would welcome the opportunity for my family and I to be engaged in the assimilation process. I’ve always welcomed the opportunity to have conversations with immigrants and refugees as it very rarely fails to open my eyes to how lucky we truly are in this country, and how much of a difference giving these people the opportunity to work and live in Australia makes to them and their family.
TYPES OF REFUGEES
From what I deduce, there are two distinct groups who make up asylum seekers
- People who flee because of persecution. These people are generally more likely to be granted refugee status.
- People who leave their country to seek a country with better prospects. These people are usually fleeing poverty and not necessarily persecution. These people are often referred to as ‘Economic Refugees’.
Response: I look at both of these groups and I see merit in why they are seeking asylum. If I was in their situation I would also be considering seeking a better life and better opportunities than what is possible in my country.
I certainly see why it is important to prioritise issuing refugee status for those asylum seekers who risk torture, rape or execution if they return to their country.
Further to this though (and I will detail this later in the article), I also think that, if both the Economic Refugee and the country in which they are seeking asylum, are both able to benefit out of an asylum arrangement, why wouldn’t an arrangement be put into place?
DESTRUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
Challenge: There are widespread reports of asylum seekers destroying any and all personal documentation before they reach the borders of countries in which they are seeking asylum. There are many reasons for this including;
- the intention to delay the process of refugee determination
- hiding the true identity of the individual because they want a fresh start
- panic and uncertainty causes people who are distressed to do things that may not seem logical to onlookers
- nefarious intent (discussed under the ‘security’ topic above)
Response: To this I would state that we must remember that priority number one of our Government is to ensure the protection of Australia and its people. Everything else falls behind this.
People without documentation pose an unknown threat. This is one of the reasons that it takes so long to determine refugee eligibility. Therefore, I would suggest that we certainly need to keep the unknown risk contained until each individual is determined to pose no risk to Australia or her people.
We also need to let the screening process run its course. If the process can’t be sped up without sacrificing its integrity, so be it.
THOUGHTS AND CONSIDERATIONS
The Syrian refugee crisis has arisen from many factors, one of which, regardless of how good our intentions may have been, is that Western societies have been more than willing to enter these lands to teach the population how to wage war on each other and provide the tools in order to overthrow one dictator or regime after another. The problem generally comes when there is never any realistic or practical plan as to how to stabilise the country once the objective has been achieved. It is usually met with the provision of security training for local security forces that are often abandoned and consequently become ineffective. I would suggest that our current situation is an opportunity to show the people how a peaceful democratic society actually functions and we should not turn our backs or be fearful (we should act with caution, not fear). This may be our opportunity to help them to understand the mechanisms of peace as opposed to the mechanisms of war.
I recently had two conversations with two separate people whom I consider very worldly and intelligent. I was surprised that both those conversations, when touching on the topic of immigration and refugees, covered the idea that there needs to be a controlled and democratic location set up within the borders of the lands that the refugees are trying to escape. This is where the refugees, when the crisis that is causing them to flee their homes and when it is safe to do so, should be returned to. I must admit, at that time I hadn’t looked that far ahead and considered this as a plausible option.
Australia is one of the very few countries where the border is extremely secure. People can’t walk, train, bus or drive across our borders. They have to come either by official means through the air or via unauthorised means on the sea. With our technology and our military, we are able to easily identify and transport the people who travel by boat. Australia is truly lucky that we don’t have the challenges faced by countries such as Germany. This means we have a unique opportunity to contain and isolate any potential risks that refugees may pose.
The refugees are fleeing to Australia, because it is safer and has more potential than the country from which they come. In my opinion, Australia can not and must not allow itself to change in order to reflect the culture that is the source of the oppression and the danger from where these people come. However, in saying that, Australia and Australians must be mindful of their multicultural past and accept that refugees don’t only carry the burden of a failing society, there are positive aspects of the culture that they come from and Australians should take the opportunity to learn more about aspects of other cultures while showing the asylum seekers why Australian culture is relatively peaceful and its government is relatively effective.
If we are to take on more refugees and asylum seekers, we must find a viable and sustainable way to do so. Australia is a business, just like any other country. We need to make sure that our expenses aren’t out of control and indeed, it is ideal if our revenue exceeds our expenses. Refugees and asylum seekers are just like me, my family, my neighbours and most other Australians, we are all resources. I work for my employer and in return, I am rewarded. In my case, my employer provides me with professional development and remuneration that I can use to sustain my existence and hopefully further my career. It should be the same for the refugees and the asylum seekers. They flee their country looking for opportunities. Australia doesn’t have huge opportunities as our unemployment rates and welfare rates are already so high. So what we must do is consider if we can create a mutually beneficial arrangement where the refugees and Australia, can work towards a sustainable (and possibly temporary) model where;
- the refugees assist in the development of Australian industry and economy while
- Australia provides them with refuge and develops the refugees understanding of Australian culture including;
- our language
- our history
- embracing multiculturalism
- the peaceful and respectful co-existence of varied faiths
- the mechanisms of democracy and all of its associated systems and consequences.
In 2014, Australia spent $1.2b (that’s $1,200,000,000) on offshore processing. Now, I’m no accountant but I can see that for most of the year, there were about 2,200 people in offshore detention. So that equates to about $545,000 per person to keep them in offshore detention. Things that must be noted here include;
- This does not take in to consideration how many were actually processed in that time
- The government expects the per person cost to decline in consecutive year
- We need to understand the facts.
- We need to understand the situation.
- We need to look to our past to see what has happened in history in order to address issues and situations such as this.
- We need to make a plan that satisfies as many of the people, countries, laws and international requirements as possible. This means the satisfaction of short term and long term goals.
- We need to implement the plan and encourage as many of the other lead countries and agencies to be involved as possible.
Australia is currently in a situation where it is suffering from extreme drought and we are facing some pretty tough economic times. In last weeks blog, I spoke of the farmers who have been devastated by drought in Western QLD. I proposed the construction of a pipeline that captures our reclaimed water and sends it West. The biggest problem with this is that it is extremely expensive and getting a labor force large enough to undertake the work required is logistically difficult as well as very expensive.
In light of the current situation, I think that Australia has been presented with an opportunity to help develop itself, as well as assist in the protection and development of people who seek refuge in our country.
We have an opportunity to engage skilled Australians to mentor and train refugees in skills that will assist them in one or more of many things including;
- If peace and safety is brought back to Syria and subsequently the refugees are eventually sent back, we are in a position to send them back with skills and knowledge that will make them invaluable to the redevelopment of their country.
- If the Syrian conflict persists, the time that is spent in detention has been effectively used to train the refugees in English, vocational skills, Australian systems, methodologies, expectations and requirements. Therefore they are more likely to be accepted into many countries as a skilled migrant and no longer as a refugee. The time will also have been used to assess suitability for integration into Australian society.
In order to do this I would propose that refugees be provided with a similar ‘award wage’ to that of apprentices and trainees, however because many of the expenses of the individuals are being met by the government, the government would garnish wages in order to pay for the costs of provision of essential services. When the refugees are assessed as being able to be released from detention, I would hope that the refugees are able to enter society (whichever that ultimately is) with knowledge, skills, self-confidence and some savings.
With the demise of the mining boom, there are huge numbers of highly skilled and experienced Australian workers who could easily lead a multicultural workforce in the achievement of these common goals.
Additional to this, I would say that we should not exclude Australians from undertaking the jobs that would be created from the above proposal. If Australian workers, apprentices or trainees want to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented, they would be more than welcome as this would assist in the assimilation process as both cultures could learn a lot from the interactions with each other.
It seems like an oxymoron but intolerance would not be tolerated by any party. Mutual respect, courtesy and professionalism is crucial for all involved.
If I can draw any comparison of what I have proposed to other existing frameworks, I would compare this proposal to the ChAFTA, where in this instance, Australia would perform a similar role to Chinese businesses and the refugees would be similar to the workers that China would bring in to work on their projects. The major difference is that the financial benefits of this proposal are kept within Australia, the physical assets that are created remain Australian (building a revenue generating asset for Australia again) and instead of just providing remuneration to the workers who come and go as needed, we are investing in their personal and their countries future.
I would also like to note that what I am proposing is a more humane version of what happened to many refugees that resulted from WWII. In many cases, refugees were held in countries until they were able to be sent back to their countries of origin. Often the intent of the refugee camps or ‘displaced person’ camps were simply to keep people alive. Today, in this case, we have an opportunity to do much more.
BY PUTTING ASIDE POLITICAL AND CULTURAL RHETORIC AND BY WORKING TOGETHER, WE CAN TURN DISADVANTAGE INTO ADVANTAGE AND BUILD TWO NATIONS SIMULTANEOUSLY.
AUSTRALIA CAN SET A NEW GUIDE POST FOR THE WORLD TO MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF ALL FUTURE HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS.
About the author: Kris Bullen comes from a blue and white collar background and therefore sees merit in the focus of most political parties, but he has become disillusioned by the combative political arena that has emerged. Kris believes that as a consequence of the unwinnable ‘battle for supreme political victory’, Australia and its people, culture and future have been forgotten. Subsequently, in an attempt to redress the balance and return some democratic power back to the people, Kris is running as a Candidate for the Online Direct Democracy Party in the electorate of Fairfax.