Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Australian generosity towards those in real distress is being diminished by illegal boat arrivals

Australia takes in more asylum seekers per head than any other country. Close to 10 per cent of the refugees resettled worldwide are taken by Australia. But nothing will ever be enough for the Left. The Left WANT the divisions and tensions the boat arrivals are causing. Their "good intentions" are just a mask for the contempt in which they hold their own society

IN the debate over asylum all sides believe there is an answer: and they have it. Human rights advocates argue the only humane course of action is to welcome those who arrive by boat.

The large majority of Australians, however, do not see the asylum issue in such straight-forward human rights terms. A number of surveys during the past 18 months indicate the majority favour policy to deter boat arrivals, including mandatory detention.

An August Nielsen poll found 15 per cent of respondents considered boats should be sent back to sea and another 52 per cent that asylum-seekers should be kept in detention while their claims were assessed.

More detail is available in the Scanlon Foundation surveys, four of which have been conducted since 2007. The just released 2011 findings indicate only 22 per cent favour granting the right of permanent residence to asylum-seekers arriving by boat; 39 per cent favour asylum in Australia, but only on a temporary basis; the remaining 35 per cent want boats to be turned back or the asylum-seeker detained pending deportation.

The value of the Scanlon Foundation surveys is that a broad range of questions (81 in 2011) are asked. This enables consideration of patterns of response and the finding is that attitudes to asylum correlate with a person's values, hence attitudes are not likely to change simply as a result of new factual information.

The advocates for asylum may well respond that if that is public opinion, then it should be ignored; that what we need is leadership and political consensus to do the right thing. But what is right is not so simply determined.

For a start, majority opinion is not simply to be stereotyped as prejudiced. The surveys show that majority opinion supports the humanitarian program, which recruits asylum-seekers overseas. It is just that this support does not extend to irregular arrivals.

Second, a generous reception policy is likely to lead to an increase in boat arrivals, with consequences not simply to be ignored.

How do we know that there will be increased arrivals? We need only examine the pattern of the past decade. In 2000, 2939 asylum-seekers arrived by boat; in 2001, 5516 arrived. In the following six years, with the enactment of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, arrivals were reduced to almost zero; fewer than 100 arrived in 2005 and 2006.

Over these years the number of asylum-seekers worldwide fell, but by nowhere near the almost 100 per cent fall experienced in Australia. When the Howard government policies were changed by Labor, boat arrivals resumed: 2849 in 2009, 6879 in last year, the highest on record. This is the pattern of movement that the human rights advocates are reluctant to face.

Australia has no land borders, it is not easy to get to Australia on a small boat. As such, a negative message from Australia will deter arrivals more effectively than almost any other First World country.

Third, there are other consequences of a generous policy.

A view widely held among asylum advocates is that Australia does not shoulder its responsibilities, leaving care for asylum-seekers to impoverished countries. But Australian governments of various persuasions since the late 1970s have maintained a large humanitarian program: during the past 10 years, 130,000 have been admitted.

It seems to be a secret (for reasons difficult to fathom) that Australia resettles more refugees per capita than any other country: close to 10 per cent of the refugees resettled worldwide are taken by Australia.

In 2009, according to the UN, Australia admitted 11,080 refugees for resettlement; the US, with almost 15 times Australia's population, accepted 79,937. Canada, with a population 1 1/2 times that of Australia, resettled 12,457. No other country accepted a substantial number. For example, Britain resettled 955 refugees, Germany 2069 and The Netherlands 369.

Australia, in consultation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has established a process for assessing asylum-seekers. Under present arrangements, boat arrivals take places from those in the camps from which Australia draws its intake.

Advocates suggest that there is a simple solution: recruit a fixed number overseas and place boat arrivals in another category. But what is a reasonable intake for Australia?

The Greens and the Refugee Council of Australia advocate an increase from the present intake of 14,750 to an offshore intake of 20,000, to be phased in across five years. But how does the government budget for an unknown number of boat arrivals?

It may be that however we argue, there is no solution. Instead of solutions, it makes more sense to think in terms of balance, which will not satisfy all but is likelier to produce a larger measure of agreement than the one-dimensional solutions on offer.

There is an additional point to be considered. A policy that flies in the face of views held in many parts of the community will likely result in the re-emergence of movements similar to One Nation that campaign on issues of national identity and race and heighten opposition to cultural diversity.

An alarming finding of this year's Scanlon Foundation survey is that 44 per cent of respondents consider that racial prejudice in Australia has increased during the past five years.

There is heightened reporting of discrimination and decline of trust in fellow Australians. Trust in the federal government recorded a sharp fall, from a high of 48 per cent in 2009 to 31 per cent last year and to 30 per cent this year.

People - whether for or against asylum rights - are close to unanimous in the view that the government is incapable of dealing with asylum.

There has been erosion of individual connectedness and weakening of communal organisations, key indicators of threats to social cohesion. While not the only cause, the asylum debate has contributed to a heightening of division in Australian society.


Recent posts at CIS below

See here for the blog. The CIS main page is here.

1. Who Benefited from Job Growth In Texas? (Memorandum)

2. Perry’s Ambiguous Employment Record (Op-Ed)

3. Panel: Our Borders a Decade after 9/11 (Video and Transcript)

4. GOP Politics of In-State Tuition (Blog)

5. Obama Caves to Ghosts of DeLay, Abramoff on CNMI Migrant Rules (Blog)

6. When Texas Welcomes Illegal Aliens, It Becomes More than a 'State Issue' (Blog)

7. Job Growth in Texas – Responding to Criticism (Blog)

8. Students Weren't Innocent Victims at Raided U.S. Visa Mills (Blog)

9. Government Sometimes Does the Right Thing in Immigration Cases (Blog)

10. Hope, Dreams (of ?), and Policy 45003 (Blog)

11. Dubious Casino Investment Linked to Dubious Immigration Program (Blog)

12. Taking the Blinders off Social Security's H-1B Audit (Blog)

13. State Dept. Seeks to Roll Back Visa Security to 9/10 Standards; DHS Stays Quiet (Blog)

No comments:

Post a Comment