Refugee intake starts in the region: making a difference in regional burden sharing

  1. Sara Davies

    ARC Future Fellow at Queensland University of Technology

Regional crises in countries such as Sri Lanka should be our focus. EPA/Sri Lanka Army Media Unit

One of the debates that has escaped scrutiny since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers last month is what our annual refugee intake should actually look like.

I acknowledge this is potentially controversial in terms of racial profiling and minimising the tragedy of the numbers displaced from some conflicts - such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo - for ones that are closer to our regional interests but less critical in terms of humanitarian emergency - such as the Sri Lankan civil war of 2008.

But for an interim period, as we develop long-term approaches towards burden sharing and protection…

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Refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia: the good, the bad and the unexpected

  1. Gerhard Hoffstaedter

    Senior Research fellow (DECRA) in Anthropology at The University of Queensland

The majority of refugees in Malaysia are from Myanmar. EPA/Ahmad Yusni

Many so-called “irregular migrants” who end up on boats bound for Australia have come through Malaysia at some stage of their odyssey to claim asylum and protection.

Protection is vital for people fleeing persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Malaysia offers some protection for those seeking asylum.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese boat people started to arrive in Malaysia. Soon they were arriving in large numbers and Malaysia became the temporary home to more than 250,000 of them. But Malaysia was only willing to act as an offshore processing entity as it deemed the influx…

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What does the Australian public really think about asylum seekers?

  1. Andrew Markus

    Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation at Monash University

The Australian public trusts the Coalition more than the government on asylum seekers. AAP/Rebecca Le May

We live in a culture in which the media frequently and prominently uses opinion polls, with findings presented as factual and unambiguous. In reality, interpretation is beset with difficulty, as illustrated by recent surveys on asylum.

The June parliamentary debate, following record boat arrivals and loss of life at sea, led to surveys conducted for the major dailies. Reporting a Nielsen poll on 2 July, The Age headlined “Most blame government for boat people deadlock”. Almost a week later, Newspoll for the Australian produced a different result: “All sides damned”.

The failure to consider inconsistent findings, or to explain the…

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Resettling refugees: the evidence supports increasing our intake

  1. Sandy Gifford

    Prof of Anthropology and Refugee Studies at Swinburne University of Technology

Refugees to Australia make a meaningful contribution to society. It’s time to take more. AAP/Julian Smith

Increasing our humanitarian settlement intake would help untangle the policy knot around irregular migration to Australia.

Over the past decade, humanitarian visas have been capped at about 13,500 per year. This quota includes off shore refugees and those granted visas under the Special Humanitarian Program (onshore convention refugees and their families regardless of mode of arrival, family members of resettled refugees and other persons living in situations of extreme discrimination). The quota cap within the humanitarian stream is problematic not least because of the increasing difficulties experienced by refugee settlers in…

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What role does Australia play in accepting the world’s refugees?

  1. Stephen Castles

    Research Chair in sociology at University of Sydney

Somalia is among the top three refugee producing nations. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated some 7.1 million refugees were in “a protracted situation” in 2011. The term is used for refugee populations in exile for five or more years. These are people forced to leave their homes by violence and persecution, and then “warehoused” (in the phrase of the US Committee on Refugees) on subsistence rations in isolated camps or communities. Such refugees lack opportunities for work and education, and have no prospect of return home to countries still torn by conflict.

Resettlement to a “third country” is the only hope, but the chances are slim. In 2011, a total of 79,800 refugees…

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Who are Australia’s ‘boat people’, and why don’t they get on planes?

  1. Helen Ware

    Professor, International Agency Leadership at University of New England

There are 400,000 refugees in Jordan. EPA/Jamal Nasrallah

Around the world, refugees from civil war are likely to flee first to the neighbouring countries across their land borders.

Many stay there, usually wasting their lives in camps, becoming ever more depressed, especially for their children who fled with them or were born in the camps, as years pass and the likelihood of returning home fades away.

Besieged as some Australians feel themselves to be by “boat people”, most refugees by far are hosted in poor countries. Currently there are half a million refugees in Kenya, mostly from South Sudan and Somalia, and 1.7 million in Pakistan, most of them Afghani.

Worldwide, UNHCR figures for 2011 show 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan…

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Uncomfortable truths: busting the top three asylum seeker myths

  1. Melissa Phillips

    Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne

There is no such thing as a “typical” refugee. EPA/Jamal Nasrallah

Over the past few weeks as the asylum debate has heated up, rumours and myths have been circulating with well-rehearsed mantras being repeated about the good, the bad and the downright ugly of asylum politics.

Here’s a few of the most pernicious untruths, and how they are shattered in the face of evidence-based research. We’d love to hear if you have any others.

Myth one: there is an ‘orderly’ resettlement process

The notion that Australia’s offshore refugee program is a perfect system, where more deserving refugees wait patiently in some kind of queue, is something that gets trucked out by people on both sides of the political divide. Most recently by…

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There’s no evidence that asylum seeker deterrence policy works

  1. Sharon Pickering

    Professor of Criminology at Monash University

Interception at sea causes unnecessary confusion for Navy and Customs personnel. AAP/ADF

Since 2001, the Border Crossing Observatory estimates 840 people have died between Australia and Indonesia, including the equivalent of eight kindergarten classes of children.

Policies of deterrence have become the “common sense” approach when it comes to what should be done about asylum seekers – both in terms of stopping the boats and in terms of saving lives.

The problem is that both these assumptions are largely unjustifiable based on the evidence.

Deterrence has not decreased deaths

Deterring irregular border crossings does not necessarily decrease border related deaths. Evidence suggests in some contexts deterrence can simply displace…

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There’s more to regional collaboration than the Malaysia Arrangement

  1. Savitri Taylor

    Associate Professor, Law School at La Trobe University

The Malaysia Arrangement signed by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen (right) and Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Hishamuddin Huseiin (left) was a step backwards for refugee policy. EPA/Ahmad Yusni

For many years now Australia has engaged in border control collaboration with other countries in the region.

We have out-posted our own immigration, customs, police and other officials in source countries such as Sri Lanka and transit countries such as Indonesia to assist in interception of potential irregular movers. We have poured millions of dollars into building the border control capacity of countries in the region.

Since its inception in 2002, Australia has also been co-chair with Indonesia of the Bali Process on People Smuggling…

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How immigration policy harms asylum seekers' mental health

  1. Belinda Liddell

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UNSW Australia

Our interception policies badly affect the mental health of asylum seekers. DIAC

This article was co-authored by Angela Nickerson.

In the current political impasse concerning the off-shore processing of asylum seekers, all parties converge on one key priority: preventing asylum seekers from undertaking perilous boat journeys to Australia.

Australia implements a range of interception immigration policies designed to manage the flow of regular and irregular migrants (including asylum seekers), and to deter individuals without proper authorisation from arriving in this country. But beyond discussion of mortality, there is inadequate consideration of the effects these strategies have on asylum seekers' mental health.

Mandatory detention…

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Asylum seekers in Indonesia: why do they get on boats?

  1. Savitri Taylor

    Associate Professor, Law School at La Trobe University

Refugees in Indonesia face a life of uncertainty and pain. EPA/Hotil Simanjuntak

Indonesia is the last country of departure of most of the asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat. At the end of 2007, a team of researchers and I commenced a research project looking at the circumstances of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia. The fieldwork was conducted in the period October 2008 to November 2009.

The risk of return

The most important protection refugees need is protection from what is known as refoulement (i.e. return to a place of danger). This is a protection which state parties to the Refugee Convention, such as Australia, are legally bound to provide. Although Indonesia is not a party to the Refugee Convention, we…

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Preventing deaths at sea: asking the experts on asylum seekers

  1. Sharon Pickering

    Professor of Criminology at Monash University

We can avoid needless tragedies if we address the evidence. AAP Image/Supplied by the WA Coroner Court

When asylum seekers die at sea it is time to reflect, but it is also time to evaluate evidence to come up with workable, sustainable and just solutions.

It is time for academics to inform this debate, advancing and evaluating the research. Angus Houston and his Expert Panel are making their assessments and crafting their advice to the Prime Minister. Academics need to do the same.

There is now a clear opportunity for research to influence the future of asylum and border control in Australia. Whether it is embraced is a matter ultimately for federal Parliamentarians and beyond the control of researchers. But this is no time to be put…

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