Boat people and border control

Noel Nadesan –Ex- Editor, Uthayam ,Australia

In Australia, the political debate is only about people arriving by boat. These are the people capturing headlines in daily newspapers and news breaks on television. But the Majority of asylum seekers arrive through international air ports in the country applying for political asylum while living among the community. Both of these groups of people are from countries where conflict is based on race, religion or some occupied territories by other countries.
Why are only one group of people making news head lines or making the Australian politicians heads go spinning?
To find a reason for this, we have to go back in Australian history
The discovery of Victorian gold in the 19th century attracted not only European but also Asians particularly Chinese people from Hong Kong. They were arriving by ships as immigrants at Sydney harbour which caused much racial tension in Australian colonies. This also led to formulate the white Australia policy for European only in Australian territories, this lasted for many years.
Since the white Australia policy was removed in the middle of 20 th century, Australia has become a more sophisticated multicultural country. Australia is home to many immigrants and refugees from four corners of the earth.
With all the sophistication and vibrant democracy, there is still a psychological undercurrent of fear towards new immigrants, which is played by some politician from time to time. In the Late nineties, Pauline Hanson harped on this fear and launched her one nation party which attracted many votes. Though both major political parties realised that her prominence will be an impediment to Australian economic progress and politically eliminated her influence in the Australian electorate.
Mr John Howard then took the issue of people arriving by sea and won the 2001 federal election, using the term ‘border protection’ as an election slogan The border protection policy only spoke about sea routes nothing else. His policy of processing asylum seekers at Nauru , and Manus Island of Papua New Guinea was used as a deterrent for boat people reaching Australian territory. This pacific solution was abolished by the labor government which was elected in 2007
The Present labour government, being a minority and under pressure from the coalition was looking for an escape route and appointed an expert panel , with their recommendation of increasing intake and offshore processing at Nauru.
The Increase intake may be right but the recommended number is too small. This will not help in the long term or even medium term because people want to come to Australia and are going to make the dangerous journey through sea because these people are desperate and escaping life threatening conflicts. The Only difference is the selection process happening away from Australian territory ,Australian laws are not applicable to this process And the decision cannot be challenged. And no more legal reviews.
So the Humanitarian problem will be dealt with through inhuman processing

About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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