The Nauru Project - Case Study
Australia, dubbed “The Lucky Country”, since the release of the 1964 book by Donald Horne has been a home for approximately 23.13 million people with continuously growing cities, communities and suburbs. Australia also hosts 4 of the ‘best cities to live in’ according to both the Economist Intelligence Unit and Mercer “Quality of Living Index” report. So reflecting on the achievements that Australia has accumulated, why do we continue to shut people out of our country, sending them to detention centres that are notorious for sexual, physical and mental abuse. Should we not share our great cities with those who are seeking for a new life and home? The Nauru Project aims to change this, and this will be our first step.
According to the Government we shall not - because they decide to undermine the value of refugees by associating them with acts of terror, financial burdens and the ‘stealing of Australian jobs’. The Federal Government have recently stated (October 29th 2016) that they will soon implement legislation that denies any refugee that has resided within either Manus Island or Nauru post 2013 from ever settling in Australia. With the support of the One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson the decision has sparked much debate within the Australia public. Mr Turnbull commented on the new policy saying - “will send the strongest possible signal to the people smugglers”. In the act of doing this the Federal Government has denied 1,300 people access to Australia even after over an estimated 436 people have spent over 2 years in the detention centres. The new policy will block any refugee that has entered the camps since July 2013 which leaves an estimated 60% of refugees susceptible to the effects of the decision.
In the matter of the issue MP Andrew Giles has issued a message on twitter “What sort of government looks to punish vulnerable people who’ve sought our help?” #morallybankrupt #auspol. Further still Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has commented on the decision saying “It is extraordinary that three years on, this government has not found third world countries to resettle those people who are in limbo on Manus Island or Nauru.” On the 10th of August 2016 the Guardian Australia also published more than 2000 leaked incidents regarding behaviour towards refugees on the Nauru detention camp totalling more than 8000 pages relating the abuse of refugees within the detention centre. “More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015.” – Guardian Australia.
As a part of the Australian Migration Act in 2005 it was said that a child should only be detained “as a measure of last resort”, however as of January 2016 54 children are still detained in Nauru Regional Processing Centre. Overall the number of children within Australian Detention Centre’s has dropped from a staggering 1992 in July 2013 to 88 in January 2016 which does illustrate the efforts and measures that the Federal Government have taken to ensure the population of children in detention centres has decreased. However, the implications for those still retained in detention has been devastating. 85% of the parents and children that have been detained in Nauru have shown to be negatively impacted within terms of their mental and emotional health and development – which may be a consequence of the abuse suffered within the detention centres. Professor Louise Newman has said of Nauru – “I am prepared to say the sexual assault of women is a major problem on Nauru”. In addition, health experts frequently oppose the prolonged detention of peoples due to the implications on the mental health of the individual. As of January 2016 there has been 33 deaths in the offshore detention camps and an estimated 420 deaths of asylum seekers at sea. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. Every human has access to these rights in order to construct a universal society that gives every person basic rights to protect and aid them.
Many refugees face political and military persecution, environmental disasters, war and poverty in their home countries, forced to flee their homes. As a signatory nation of The 1951 Refugee Convention Australia is obligated to take in refugees and process their situation. Following Article 33 of the Refugee Convention, refugees cannot be sent to a place where they may be persecuted. This principle is known as non-refoulement.
Refugees are entitled to the same rights as citizens in regards to the freedom of the individual. Freedom of speech, religion, intellectual property, access to courts and legal assistance, accessing elementary education, labor rights and also social securities.
Last year (2015-2016) Australia received its highest yearly intake since WW II after a major displacement event. With an intake of 25,750 refugees during the year Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is leading the fight for refugees within Parliament.
The Implications of Receiving Refugees
People that are opposed to allowing refugees into the country like to exercise the arguments that refugees are bringing terrorism into Australia and that they are stealing ‘Australian’ jobs. Let’s address the first issue on terrorism, shall we.
Since 1945 over 800,000 refugees have been admitted into Australia and only 1 of them has been linked to acts of terrorism (Man Haron Manis the lone wolf in the Lindt Café Siege was technically an asylum seeker even though he came on a plane with a business visa). Man Haron Manis was an Iranian born refugee that sought asylum in Australia – a warrant for his arrest in Iran was issued and as a result of this he chose to seek asylum in Australia in 1996. By claiming he was an Iranian spy he was granted asylum in Australia in 2001. So of the 70,000 refugees granted entry he was the only one to have been linked to acts of terrorism which places him in a percent of 0.0000143% in terms of the chances of refugees related to terrorism within Australia. Furthermore, under both the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and Migration Act 1958 the rights to refugee protection is denied to those who are suspected of “a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity or a serious non-political crime outside their country of refuge, or anyone guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.” which further illustrates the efforts that the Federal Government needs to take in order to allow refugees to stay.
We see many more cases of refugees contributing positively to society with examples of people such as Deng Thiak, Anh Do, Les Murray and John Hemmes all now national Australian icons.
Let’s now address the argument that refugees “Steal Australian jobs”. Firstly, Australia is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world, and how can we define what is typically ‘Australian’ – we can’t. Every Australian that is currently living has some link to at least an individual that is has not been born in Australia, making us a ‘nation of immigrants’. The unemployment rate in Australia is 5.6% as of September 2016 which leaves approximately 1.29 million people without jobs, in comparison the unemployment rates within the refugee population is a much higher 81% - so majority of refugees are left without jobs which denies the proposition that refugees ‘steal Aussie jobs’. Now a small percentage of Australian do share these views on refugees but many Australians will welcome refugees into workplaces and open new pathways and jobs for them in order for them to succeed in Australia.
Economically the ‘refugee crisis’ within Australia is taking a large part of the budget with an estimated $1.2 billions of taxpayer’s money diverted into facilitating the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, additionally the MYEFO confirms that more AU $100 million is set aside (2015-2019) for the resettlement of Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have been admitted into Australia. In saying this, by expanding the population it raises competition in about every industry, which in turn can benefit Australia. Competition creates a situation where one of two things can happen – you can win, or you can lose – hence creating an opportunity for better work.
Great innovations can be attributed to competition, as seen within technological, agricultural and financial industries. By forcing competition, it creates a situation where someone or something must outperform the other allowing both sides the opportunity to create or learn something new. So with an influx of population it can create more competition thus resulting in higher levels of population, productivity and participation. However, with the implementation of an increased competitive environment it can create a situation where people who can’t produce the necessary skills or products that the industry is demanding to falter, and rely solely on government social security benefits as a main source of income. ‘The Conversation’ in early 2016 spoke about the toll that refugees had on Australia financially and in the ‘Review’ section it states
“The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed as a percentage of the number who have a job plus those unemployed and looking for work.
That means the non-employment rate – i.e those who are unemployed plus those outside the labour force altogether – is 72% for men and 90% for women, giving an overall non-employment rate of close to 81%.
Employment increases over time. So the ABS survey also shows that in 2013 only 19% had a job, but over the 10 years covered by the survey, 36% had a job at some time.”
So with a growth rate of 17% over the 10 years it indeed does show that refugees are working which means that they are contributing to the Australian economy over time. It was also stated on ‘The Conversation’ that “The study found very high rates of engagement in English language classes and other types of study – meaning that while many of them may not have a job yet, most were working on language and other skills they would need to get one.” Which can account for the high employment rates within the refugee population.
Where Do Refugees Come From?
According to the Settlement Council of Australia between years 2013-2014 11,016 refugees were granted visas and entry into Australia. The refugees came from a variety of countries including: Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Bhutan, Iran, Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and other nations. Of the nations listed here Australian Troops are currently fighting in both the Middle East and Africa in aid of global conflicts especially contributing to the fight within nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq. During 2015 Australia made the decision to accept an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq – countries engulfed in war.
Organisations Aiding Refugees
Many NGO’s are aiding and assisting many refugees and asylum seekers that deserve a better life in Australia. Such organisations include
- The Salvation Army
- World Vision
If we can get behind these organisations and raise awareness and in cases donate to these causes, then we can all take a part in implementing positive change for displaced refugees all across our world.
Australia is a country that is built upon great values – courage, mate ship, loyalty and compassion. For us to extend these values instilled in each and every one of us is a true test of how we define ourselves as a population. We can’t see people as strangers from a different nation, with different religious beliefs, different opinions and views but rather as fellow human beings, deserved to be welcome into any country. The Australian Government and individuals in leadership positions need to begin making changes to implement positive strategies on how to deal with refugees instead of confining a great population of them to offshore detention centres. For it is not us that own the earth and its lands, but rather the world that owns us.