In 1951, the United Nations held the convention on refugees that Australia became sanctioned. The document described who a refugee is, their rights and the protection that is accorded to them by the other countries. The main principle states that refugees cannot be returned to their home country if they may be in danger. Meanwhile, countries are supposed to cooperate and ensure their rights are protected. This essay focuses on the analysis of the policy of those seeking asylum in Australia based on the Neoliberalism framework.
It worth noting that in 1967, the protocol that removed the limitation on the convention was established making the policy universal. In the convention, a refugee is defined as a person who seeks protection from a state because they are freeing their home. These people are usually afraid of persecution because they belong to a group that is prosecuted or based on factors such as race, politics or religion. They are usually seeking assistance with the help of an international agency. On the other hand, asylum seekers are people who free their country but seek protection after they arrive at the border of other countries without a valid visa.
The analysis is framed using the neoliberalism framework. Neoliberalism supports deregulation and privatization and less government spending. According to the theory, the government is only supposed to interfere with creation then allow free trade to occur (Carson, & Kerr, 2017). Paradoxically, the framework encourages the free flow of capital but restricts the movement of labor through migration. In the developing countries, globalization has negatively affected the availability of employment making citizens migrate to western states looking for a better life. Meanwhile, neoliberalism makes it difficult for these migrants to enter such states. In this case, the framework will explain the social, economic, political and historical factors affecting the implementation and development of the policy on asylum seekers.
One concept of the neoliberalism framework is the externalization policy. This is a policy that was practiced by the European Union and it involved the settlement of migrants in a third country such as Turkey to prevent their entrance into the European Union. Similarly, the Australian government introduced the offshore processing policy where asylum seekers were to be processed in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Later, the government decided to settle and process the immigrants in these countries.
One of the economic factors that have affected the development of this policy is the privatization of the state’s services regarding migration. This is where the state privatized the running of the detention center and the processing seeking asylum especially when the offshore processing was established (Lueck, Due, & Augoustinos, 2015). Under this management, seekers do not receive free advice as they did before, the living conditions have deteriorated and the refugees are afraid of insecurity. Another economic factor that contributed to the development of the policies on asylum seekers was the need for cheap labor from immigrants. This mainly occurred at the end of the second world war. Presently, the use of cheap labor is still preferred compared to the domestic labor that is more expensive. Therefore, the policy’s lack deterrence of immigration has negative effects on the economy in relation to cheap labor.
Politically, neoliberalism has made the Australian government stop supporting itself using labor-intensive policies and switch to capital-intensive policies. This also changed the role of states in the international economic order. As a result, developing countries have become manufacturing centers in order to attract capital leading to regional migration. Domestic politics are some of the factors the factors that affect asylum seekers policy. In 1990, the government was under pressure due to the increase in the number of unlawful immigrants. The number was approximately 90,000. This led to the fear that the government was incapable of controlling its borders. Consequently, the mandatory detention policy was implemented in 1992. This was also to protect the country’s immigration program.
In 1999, the government led by Howard introduced the temporary visa in an attempt to discourage asylum seekers from the middle east. People still complained despite this attempt leading to the offshore processing policy in 2001. This mainly triggered by the need to refuse entry to a ship from Norwegia. In 2007, the government under Rudd abolished the policy on offshore processing. In 2012, due to the increased number of asylum seekers, the government under Gilliard reintroduced the policy. This government also succeeded in reducing the number the number of people who had been detained for more than a year between 2011 and 2012.
Socially, countries derive their national identity from shared attributes. In addition, countries protect their national identity by eliminating factors that lead to foreign influence (Brain, 2010). The protection against foreign influence can also be used to unify social groups in the country that are differing. In the asylum seekers policy, the government has used restrictive measures to reduce and stop the settlement of refugees to protect the national identity of the country. Prior to this, the government’s support of multiculturism has encouraged the settlement of refugees in the region.
Another social factor is the changing attitudes towards migration. In the 1990s, when the refugees arrived from Vietnam due to the war, Australians were sympathetic and quickly resettled them. Australians were against the regime that ruled in Vietnam. Therefore, the refugees were easily accepted since they shared a common enemy. During that time, refugees were given permanent residency and they were allowed to leave the detention center and return when their names were called in roll call. However, when the number of refugees increased they began to feel threatened due to the high rate of employment.
Neoliberalism is centered on self-interest where states do that which is beneficial to them. Based on this, the other social factor is self-interest where the government does not care about the rights of the refugees. This is demonstrated by the detention fee that was imposed on asylum seekers after the detention centers were established. It is worth noting that debts incurred due to this policy were rarely recovered and the policy was abolished when Rudd took over. Additionally, asylum seekers that were processed in offshore detention centers did not get legal aid which was given when the processing was onshore.
Historically, Australia was recognized under a white policy where the residents were white. After the second world war, asylum seekers were allowed into the country due to high demand for labor (Stratton, 2009). Moreover, they were allowed to reside in the community before the approval of their refugee status was done. In the 1970s, when the international community was experiencing economic down times, the rate of migration reduced but remained relatively high after the Fraser government accepted refugees from Vietnam. Notably, the country resettled a large number of refugees between 1975 and 1995. As the country began to embrace neoliberalism and the economy recovered from the post-war period restrictive measures on immigration were imposed as illustrated below.
In 1989, detention centers were established to detain asylum seekers before their status is approved. The mandatory detention policy was later established in 1992 by the government led by Keating where asylum seekers are detained while health and security checks are done. The detainees were supposed to pay for the detention. They are also given the option to return to their countries during the waiting period. The detention is mandatory for anyone who is in the Australia illegally. In the 2000s, the offshore policy was introduced to the asylum seeker policy (Phillips & Spinks, n.d.). Under this policy, asylum seekers were to be detained in Nauru and Papua New Guinea as their status was determined. Additionally, the government introduced temporary protection visa and the turning back of boats. In 2013, the Australian government decided that the processing and settlement of asylum seekers, if they are refugees, will be done in Papua New Guinea (Pickering, & Weber, 2014).
This policy breaches the international law on the rights of refugees according to the United Nations. This is due to the detainment of asylum seekers indefinitely under harsh living conditions in Papua New Guinea. The government has given itself the power to send back asylum seekers arriving using boats which are in violation of the convention. The policy supports the separation of families which is against the international law. Moreover, these detention centers are homes to children who undergo physical and emotional torture and abuse. Meanwhile, the government has dismissed the allegations about the policy.
One of the factors that affect the implementation of the policy is the allocation of funds. In the 1980s, the state had small centers where asylum seekers went to get resettled. Over the years, the government has shifted the location of such centers with the aim of using the least amount of money. Under the leadership of Rudd, the government was able to remove offshore processing and allow advice to be given to asylum seekers in the detention camps. As a result, the number of arrivals increased between 2009 and 2010.
The government also increased the budget allocation for the migration program to approximately $ 200 million which involved expenses and upgrading funds. This shows that the funds allocated determined services offered by the government under the migration program. Presently, the government is spending a lot on the management of the offshore processing centers. In the budget of 2015 to 2016, it allocated around $800 million to the project. Within two years, it added $ 340 million to the budget. In 2016 and 2017, the estimated sending is expected to reach at least $ 1 billion. Evidently, privatization has its own disadvantages.
An analysis of the offshore centers between 2012 and 2016 revealed that the number of asylum seekers between July 2013 and April 2014. Afterward, the trend has been declining and the number of asylum seekers in September 2016 was below 1500. Based the nationality of the asylum seekers, the majority were from Iran and they went to the center in Papua New Guinea. The centers had the largest number of children seeking asylum between 2013 and 2014. Later on, the trend has declined in a similar manner as the trend of the total number of those seeking asylum. In 2014, the number of arrivals was 889 and the number of departures of refugees to their original countries was 303. This means the rate of departure to arrival was 34 percent. In 2015, there were 63 departures with no arrivals ("Australia’s offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG: a quick guide to statistics and resources", 2016).
The purpose of this information is to explore the factors that contributed to the implementation and development of the policy. The information provides an understanding that can be used to find ways to improve the policy. The information can be used by those that are opposing the current policy to find new ways of advocating for its abolishment. The essay also looks at the effects of the current policy. Based on the analysis, the current policy has succeeded in lowering the number of those seeking asylum in the country. However, it has increased the violation of the rights of refugees, especially in the offshore detention centers.
The language used in the policy development is authoritative. It is expressed by the officials in the government. It is characterized by words such as the issuance of a permanent protection visa, regional processing arrangements and policy dilemmas. Authoritative language is mainly used by people who have the power to control something or make decisions. The language used showed that the officials have a lot of knowledge about the policymaking process and factors that affect it in Australia. In some cases, the officials used authoritarian language when they were addressing the deterrence on the immigration program.
In conclusion, the policy on those seeking asylum in Australia is a controversial issue. This is because of the contrasting perspectives of the United Nations and the Australian government. The Australian government is practicing neoliberalism through deterrence of migration. On the other hand, the United Nation expects it to protect the rights of refugees. Evidently, the policy is violating their rights but it also needs to protect its national interest. The easier solution is an approach that is able to cater for the country’s national interests while protecting the rights of refugees.
Australia’s offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG: a quick guide to statistics and resources. (2016). Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 11 October 2017, from https://About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/Offshore
Brain, M. (2010). Governing the Market: Threats to Australia's Stability and Security. National Economic Review, 30-34.
Carson, D., & Kerr, N. (2017). Australian social policy and the human services. Cambridge University Press.
Lueck, G., Due, E., & Augoustinos, A. (2015). Neoliberalism and nationalism: Representations of asylum seekers in the Australian mainstream news media. Discourse & Society, 609-626.
Phillips, J., & Spinks, H. Immigration detention in Australia. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
Pickering, D., & Weber, K. (2014). New Deterrence Scripts in Australia's Rejuvenated Offshore Detention Regime for Asylum Seekers. Law & Social Inquiry, 1007-1024.
Stratton, M. (2009). Uncertain lives: migration, the border and neoliberalism in Australia. Social Identities, 678-690.
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