By SCOTT LIMBRICK
Asylum seeker policy has been widely debated during this election, with some frustrated that it is receiving so much attention, some concerned about the integrity of Australia’s border protection and others concerned about a ‘race to the bottom’ on our treatment of refugees.
With so many announcements trickling out across the campaign it can be hard to keep track.
So where do the parties sit on asylum seekers?
Upon entering government in 2007 Labor dismantled the Howard government’s Pacific Solution.
This policy, in place from 2001, excised thousands of islands from Australia’s migration zone (territory that, when landed upon, could be used to claim asylum), had boats intercepted, and introduced offshore processing.
Since 2007 there has been an increase in the number of irregular boat arrivals, leading to debate over whether this was a result of Labor’s decision to remove the Pacific Solution or due to factors such as increasing conflict in asylum seekers’ countries of origin.
In any case, the government has introduced a number of policies to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. Its current core policy is referred to as the ‘Papua New Guinea solution’.
Under Labor’s policy:
– All asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat will be sent to PNG for processing and settlement
– These asylum seekers will never be settled in Australia
– According to the government there is no cap on the number of refugees who could be resettled in PNG
– The agreement with the PNG government applies for twelve months and is subject to annual review
– Humanitarian intake set at 20,000 asylum seekers per year, with 12,000 places reserved for refugees in overseas camps
– Complications remain with the agreement between the Australian and PNG governments, with uncertainty as to how many asylum seekers PNG is able to resettle
The Coalition has questioned whether Labor’s policy can be implemented while announcing a number of their own policies.
However, some elements, such as offshore processing and mandatory detention, are shared.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called continued boat arrivals a “national emergency”, a claim that has shaped the Coalition’s current set of policies.
The Coalition’s policy involves:
– Operation Sovereign Borders is a central component of the Coalition’s policy, involving a military-led response where a three-star general, reporting directly to the Immigration Minister, would lead a Joint Agency Taskforce with responsibility for border protection
– This would support the implementation of a suite of other policies, including directing the Navy to turn back boats where it is safe to do so
– Temporary protection visas would be reintroduced, meaning that no asylum seeker would be permanently resettled in Australia and would need to return to their home country when safe to do so
– This change would apply to the more than 30,000 asylum seekers already in Australia, meaning that they could never claim permanent residency
– Humanitarian intake set at 13,750, with most places quarantined for refugees in overseas camps
– One caseworker would be assigned to make decisions on whether to grant asylum, and asylum seekers would be denied the right to appeal these decisions through the courts
The Greens strongly oppose both Labor and Coalition policies on asylum seekers, with Greens Leader Christine Milne accusing both major parties of “attacking the vulnerable”.
Greens policy focuses on raising the humanitarian intake, ending offshore processing, and improving resettlement services.
The Greens’ policy includes:
– Increase humanitarian intake to 30,000 and urgently resettle 10,000 from within the region
– Abolish offshore processing, with Australia to assess all claims
– No children in detention
– Provide boost to the United Nations in Indonesia and Malaysia to speed up processing and resettlement
– Provide an additional $70 million in annual emergency funding for safe assessment centres in Indonesia
– Move asylum seekers into community detention after 30 days
– Restore Australia’s migration zone
Scott recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Arts after completing high school in Singapore. He has written for Meanjin, Voiceworks, and The Punch, volunteered with the Oaktree Foundation and interned at Change.org. Scott has worked in a chocolate shop and a call centre, annoys his housemates with his mediocre cooking skills (tacos only), and his finest moment was playing a Jimi Hendrix solo behind his head. He can be found on Twitter here.
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