ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE THREATENED 13
AsylumSeekers are not a Threat they are Threatened
AsylumSeekers are not a Threat they are Threatened
Asylumis a protection offered by a country to immigrants from othercountries for refuge and safety. In the context of this paper,Australia is considered a host for asylum seekers by accepting peopleemigrating from their homelands, where they feel unsafe (Harvey,2000). Therefore, asylum seekers in Australia are people who seekrefuge in the country from other countries. Over the years, asylumseekers have been defined differently by different laws. WhileAustralian laws and opinion define them as a threat, internationallaw defines asylum seekers as threatened. This paper explores thestatus of asylum in Australia with a view of holding a position thatasylum seekers are indeed threatened.
Asylumseekers construed as a threat
Asthe world faces a refugee crisis of an estimated 40 million people,Australia has taken a significant role in the crisis in a bid toprovide safety to asylum seekers. According to the Refugee Council ofAustralia (n.d), Australia has an estimated 182,000 people who areasylum seekers and receives over 10,000 refugees seeking asylum inthe country each year. This has led to a legal and political debateover the laws of the country in terms of branding asylum seekers as athreat (Castles, 2003). As much as the country is deterring thereception of criminals and smugglers, Australia is under anobligation to validate those seeking genuine asylum.
Overthe years, the government of Australia has accepted asylum seekers aspart of its mandate to fulfil the international obligations to offerrefuge to immigrants fleeing unsafe conditions. The opinion of manypeople also favours the Australian definition of asylum as a threat.This is because the Australian laws have presented asylum seekers asa threat to national cohesion and security. The concerns of Australiaare valid due to the responsibility the country has to protect thewelfare of the citizens. The concern around asylum seekers being athreat is validated by the cases of violence among asylum seekers(Humphrey, 2003). As evidence of this, many news reports haveindicated the use of threats of violence by asylum seekers to advancetheir interests.
Asevidence of the Australian laws treating asylum seekers as a threat,the Department Of Immigration and Boarder Protection adopted a policyto place asylum seekers in a confined safe refuge on ChristmasIsland. In May 2004, the Labor Party decided to close Nauru Centre,and then placed all the asylum seekers in onshore processing, movingthem to Christmas Island. The main inspiration for the Labor Party’sdecision and the motives of the law are to keep Australians safe, asopposed to holding asylum seekers in a state of freedom. The LaborParty is currently implementing stricter laws that will subjectunaccompanied children to the offshore processing procedures(Children Out of Immigration Detention, 2012). This indicates thetreatment that Australia is subjecting asylum seekers to in viewingthem as a threat.
Asylumseekers are accused of threatening the safety of Australians, whichleads to their consideration and treatment as a threat. This paints apicture of threat to the Australian authorities, leading to laws toprotect the country against these elements. Early in 2014, an asylumseeker threatened to blow up a plane transporting asylum seekers to arefugee centre on Christmas Island (Taylor, 2014). According toTaylor (2014), the situation led to the intervention of the police asthe Department of Immigration was transporting the immigrants to theisland. A Lebanese national was detained and taken to court to facecharges of threatening to destroy, to kill, and endangering lives.
Oneof the main reasons for this treatment of asylum seekers as a threatis terrorism. Over the years, terrorists have taken advantage offriendly international laws and friendly nations to set up terroristactivities that result to mass attacks (Fekete 2001). In the currentworld, and the concern regarding terrorism and acts of conspiredviolence, Australian authorities have adopted strict asylum laws.According to Fekete(2001), terrorism is one of the main concerns of many governments informulating strict immigration laws. These laws view people fromcountries with political instability with a high level of caution,due to the consideration that such people may represent a threat.
Despitethese laws, many countries have been victims of terrorism that haveoriginated from the granting of asylum to deserving immigrants. Thisis because the intentions of the asylum seekers are not wellestablished due to the disguising of these reasons in applicationsfor asylum (Beard& Noll, 2009).For instance, the United States has faced several instances ofterrorism that originated from immigrants. The attempted terroristattacks in Western countries were carried out by immigrants fromother countries who found a home as American citizens (Fekete,2001).Such asylum seekers change their intentions due to the influence ofextremism. Apparently, the threat posed by asylum seekers inAustralia who resort to violence has become one of the reasons whythe country treats them as a threat.
Oneof the concerns as to why Australia considers asylum seekers a threatis the unknown specific interests they have in the country. Whilethey are fleeing from countries of origin as they are unsafe, thesame countries are filled with people who are still living ascitizens of those countries (Dauvergne, 2004). Binder and Tosic(2005) note that this situation leads to a questioning of the rolethat some asylum seekers play in making their countries safe, orunsafe. In some instances, the asylum seekers present anunsatisfactory reason as to why they should be given asylum inAustralia. Despite having an international obligation to give suchpeople refuge, Australia risks accommodating some people who may nothave valid reasons for refuge.
Accordingto Kyambi (2004), it is challenging for countries to identify everyasylum seeker and determine their intentions. This is due to thecomplexity some seekers present by withholding information as a wayof convincing the host country to provide them with refuge (Beard &Noll, 2009). Beard and Noll (2009) argue that such asylum seekersare, therefore, considered a threat since their intentions may not befor their own safety, but to disrupt the social and politicalcohesion. In order, however, to establish their identity and motivesfoe fleeing their country, the Australian authorities haveimplemented laws that tend to treat asylum seekers with caution, asif they are a threat.
Asylumseekers are threatened
Internationallaw indicates the threats that asylum seekers are facing due todifferences in the laws of the countries that offer asylum. It is thepolicies that are adopted by different countries that are perceivedto violate international convention and law (Humphrey, 2003).Countries such as Australia adopt a range of policies that define theopinion that asylum seekers are threatened. The treatment andscreening of asylum seekers in Australia have been made morestringent to mitigate instances of threat from the immigrants. Thesepolicies and treatment by the Australian authorities, laws andpolicies, however, present threats to asylum seekers underinternational convention and law.
Inthe Australian situation, asylum seekers are crying foul on a regularbasis, which sparks off legal and political debate over their status.Therefore, asylum seekers feel mistreated and forced to undergo anumber of requirements for them to be taken in as refugees(Dauvergne, 2008). This is due to the stringent requirements of theAustralian government in regard to their safety. In most cases, theasylum seekers are forced to stay in detention centres where theirfreedom is curtailed. Despite being safe, this treatment of asylumseekers becomes a deterrent measure for more refugees to seek asylumin the country.
TheAustralian government has been forced to respond to the increasingnumbers and constant entry of refugees and asylum seekers into thecountry. The asylum seekers face further threats from the variousasylum policies that the Australian government has put in place torespond to the influx of immigrants into the country. According toHumphrey (2003), some of the response policies violate the basichuman rights provisions of equal opportunities for all. This isbecause the government subjects such asylum seekers to detention withno valid reason (Stevens, 2002). Such response measures, such as theonshore processing of refugees, do not take into consideration theproblems that such seekers have faced.
Asylumseekers are threatened with torture and cases of human rights abuse,especially in the detention camps. According to Whiteand Marsella (2007),this poor treatment of the asylum seekers in detention camps scaresmost people in unsafe countries to seek asylum in safe countries(Dauvergne, 2004). According to Stewart (2012), most asylums face alot of mental and psychological problems in addition to the chaosthey have faced in their countries of origin. Stevens (2002) arguesthat asylum seekers in Australia face pressure that leads them toreact to seek basic rights and freedoms while in the detention camps.For instance, there are cases where asylum seekers have used violenceto question their unfair treatment based on the feelings of abusethat they have experienced. This indicates a country where the basicprotection of asylum seekers is threatened by those who shouldprotect them.
Asylumseekers are threatened, as the country has diverted from itsresponsibility under international law and conventions. Australia hasnot protected asylum seekers, instead, the country has adopted lawsthat violate international provisions. For instance, the MigrationAct of 1958 requires unsuccessfully processed asylum seekers to bedeported from the country (Human Rights Law Centre, 2011). Accordingto the Human Rights Law Centre (2011), any asylum seeker who does notattain the level of claiming refugee status, or has no legal basisfor staying in the country, is required to be expelled from Australiawithin the possible practical timeframe. This indicates the threatthat asylum seekers face in the process of seeking protection andrefuge in Australia.
Thepublic opinion of Australians in regards to asylum seekers alsothreatens the reception and treatment of refuge seekers. According toAustralians, asylum seekers are illegal immigrants and people whocome to the country through queue jumping. Accoring to Humphrey(2003) this opinion held by the society gives the impression thatseeking asylum is a way of entering the country by taking advantageof the situation. As argued by Kunal (2003), Australians furtherthink that the government is soft on asylum seekers, therebydemanding tougher action. Many Australians blame the soft nature ofthe government for the existence of people-smugglers who use boats(Millbank,2009).
Anotherthreat to asylum seekers in Australia is the enforcement of thePacific Solution Mark (II). This is a policy of offshore processingthat led to the moving of asylum seekers to Manus Island from NauruIsland for further asylum processing (Millbank,2009). Thethreat is not the movement of the refugees between these islands, butthe living conditions on the islands. Australia is accused of havingvery unsanitary living conditions in the camps on the islands whereit keeps asylum seekers in detention-like seclusion. This policypresents evidence of a threat to both the freedom and the existenceof asylum seekers.
Casesof environmental hazards reported by the World Health Organizationinclude malaria on the island of Manus, where there is a high risk ofinfection. In addition, asylum seekers are subjected to theseconditions without protection, which increases their vulnerability(Gale, 2004). To make the conditions worse, there are reports of poorwater supplies, with many water rations on the island. Theseconditions make the Pacific Solution Mark (II) policy a threat toasylum seekers. Despite being implemented to reduce smuggling andreduce boat accidents, the use of the policy has led to the inhumanetreatment of asylum seekers (Millbank,2009).
Furtherthreats to the existence and conditions of asylum seekers areincluded in the efforts that the Australian government has taken torespond to criticism. The government introduced the policy of givingbridging visas. These are visas given to asylum seekers on atemporary basis to allow them to live in Australian communities asthey await their appeals, or applications for protection (Gale,2004). The Australian government, however, places several conditionsand restrictions on immigrants to obtain a visa. In addition, theseasylum seekers are not provided with work, or income generatingactivities, which leads to poor living conditions due to low, or no,income (Dauvergne, 2008). Therefore, they cannot lead a free life, orenjoy many basic human rights and privileges, such as medical careand family life.
Theconditions of asylum seekers under Australian protection violates theresponsibilities of a country under the International Covenant onEconomic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR (United Nations HumanRights, n.d). In addition, the United Nations Convention of 1951obligates signatory countries to allow all asylum seekers into theircountry without conditions that may threaten their human rightsstatus. In the case, however, of genuine non-political persecutionsor criminal acts this right may not be invoked (Fekete, 2005).Therefore, the conditions set by Australia to deter smugglers can bejustified as within international law (Chapkis, 2003). Australia is,however, breaking this right since it provides inhumane conditionsfor genuine asylum seekers who enter the country with valid reasons,as provided by the United Nations Convention.
Whilethe Australian government claims to be taking measures to improve thesystem for asylum seekers, the policies adopted tend to threatenasylum seekers. The government has instead set up strict rules thatare aimed at scaring future asylum seekersaway from Australia as adestination of preference. According to Tuitt(2004),this explains why some of the poor living conditions in the camps anddetention islands are prevalent, and why these condtions have notattracted effective measures by the government to correct them. Thehypocrisy presented by the Australian government in, on the one hand,allowing asylum seekers to enter Australia while, on the other hand,implementing policies that make their stay inhuman, threatens theirexistence (Millbank, 2009).
Beforeasylum seekers receive the right to stay in Australia as refugees,they undergo inhumane treatment. Under previous regimes, before theimplementation of the Pacific Solution Mark (II) policy and theoffshore processing procedures and laws, asylum seekers who reachedmainland Australia were not sent to detention camps in the islands(Millbank,2009). Thecurrent procedures have, however, created inhuman conditions thatthreaten the existence of asylum seekers in the country, as well asthose seeking the country as a refuge (Tuitt,2004).This shows how the law is used to keep asylum seekers out ofAustralia by avoiding compliance with international convention andlaw.
Thethreat to the asylum seekers is becoming more diverse and stronger ascountries take measures, such as those taken by Australia. Inaddition, citizens of these countries continue to have negativeopinions of asylum seekers and their government`s soft rules thataccept the international responsibility of welcoming refugees.Moreover, the emergence of terrorism has taken centre stage, withmany countries adopting policies to keep strangers away, therebythreatening the existence and hosting of asylum seekers. It isnotable that the perception by many countries of asylum seekers as athreat fuels the policies and laws that indeed threaten asylumseekers. Due to these situations and laws, it is held that asylumseekers are not a threat instead, they are being threatened.
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