The Impact of Refugees on Australia
The Impact of Refugees on Australia
A refugee is defined as any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country (). Refugees can obtain permanent entry to Australia through the Humanitarian Program. The Humanitarian Program has two components: offshore resettlement that is being offered to people in humanitarian need abroad; and onshore protection for those people already in Australia who arrived on temporary visas or in an unauthorized manner, and who claim Australia’s protection ().
The Australian Government has an obligation, under international law, to provide support and to make sure that a refugee is not sent back to his/her country of origin without consent. Australia’s involvement in refugee resettlement is an important contribution to global efforts to find solutions for victims of persecution and war. Australia’s Humanitarian Program offers resettlement to refugees and others overseas who are in need of humanitarian resettlement and for whom other durable solutions cannot be found. Resettlement provides a lawful and orderly means by which people in need of protection and durable solutions can seek to come to Australia. Australia’s resettlement program is one of the principal ways in which it contributes to the system of international protection. Australia resettles refugees and others who are overseas through the offshore component of the Humanitarian program. The offshore component of the Humanitarian program (or resettlement program) assists people who are subject to persecution or substantial discrimination amounting to gross violation of human rights in their home countries and have fled their mistreatment. The program is designed to ensure that places available go to those in greatest relative resettlement. As an active contributor to the system of international protection, Australia has consistently promoted the strategic use of resettlement to respond to long standing refugee situations. Over the past six decades, Australia has given new opportunities to more than 675,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants. These people have made valuable contributions on Australian life and society by bringing new ideas and new skills (). The Australian Government is commited to increasing the settlement of entrants under both Humanitarian and Migration Programs in regional locations, to decrease pressure on major metropolitan cities, contribute to the long-term development aims of Australia’s regional towns and cities, and help to address labor shortages in these areas. Regional Australia may provide the best settlement opportunities for some humanitarian entrants, particularly those who have come from rural backgrounds or who have skills suited to employment opportunities available in those areas. The Australian Government is seeking to establish new regional humanitarian settlement locations, where appropriate services and opportunities exist or can be developed, in close consultation with state, territory and local governments, service providers and key local stakeholders. According to Mr. Chief executive officer of Refugee Council of Australia, any process of resettling refuges from protracted conflicts brought challenges, particularly in the short-term as former refugees adjusted to life in a new and different land. The experience across the country shows that Australia is well-equipped at supporting refuges through the adjustment phase (). The Department of Immigration provides funding for the refugee resettlement program. The refugee families are given assistance and the government provides aids to help the refugee families to set up. The local volunteers on the other hand are responsible for helping the refugee families assimilate ad adjust to the communities.(). Some Australian communities have some concerns regarding accepting refugees in their towns. The town of Tamworth is wrestling with a decision by its council to reject the settlement of five refugee families from Sudan under a federal government funded scheme. Six of the nine councilors who originally opposed the refugee scheme said they had reservations it would be adequately supported (). Some of the concerns of the local community are housing and employment, housing and crime. According to a refugee, “the people of Tamworth think that we are lawbreakers and we are criminal, job stealers” (
). Refugees experience great social isolation, slow rate of English acquisition and late entry into the workforce. The refugees are seen as posing economic problem to the people of a community. Refugees are seen as a threat to the economic well-being of the citizens in that they are seeking to steal the jobs that properly belong to Australian citizens. This theft of jobs is also often presented as having the effect of depressing the pay of Australian workers because the refugee workers are prepared to work for far lower wages than are currently being paid to Australian workers. The residents of Tamworth are also concerned about the security in the community. Refugees often commit crimes, they also pose a threat to the fabric of society, and that they are a drain on the resources of the local social services. However, some communities welcome and support the newly arrived refugees. Several business owners and residents in Toowoomba support the refugee program. Some businesses offer job opportunities to refugees (). Some refugees carry diseases and viruses when they enter Australia. In order to prevent the spread of diseases carried by refugees, Prime Minister said that Australia should deny entry to refugees and migrants who carry the HIV virus. Official figures showed the number of people with AIDS-causing virus moving to Victoria State had quadrupled in the past two years and that some of these people were migrants. According to Howard, he would consider changing the law to prevent people infected with the virus settling in Australia (). Refugee movements can threaten the core values as well as the basic means of survival of the host community. Small groups of technologically backward indigenous people are typically vulnerable to in-migration from economically more advanced groups, especially if migration takes place within the country and the migrants are supported or resettled by the state in a particular area. Refugees threaten the identity, the economy, the social cohesion, and, in the end, the very collective existence of the community in the receiving area.
The Australian system demonstrates a strong state interest in controlling immigration. Security concerns about the number of arrivals have led the government to choose to use the existing programme in an effort to confirm its control of the situation as a whole. It is, however, questionable whether the departure from an orderly arrival programme has been positive for either state or individual security – even if it may give the individuals concerned more autonomy in actively seeking asylum rather than quite passively remaining in line. This positive spin, however, cannot outweigh the clear dangers associated with the use of smugglers and hazardous crossings in overcrowded boats. Rather than obvious security concerns influencing refugee protection policy in the Australian case, it seems that the perception of an insecure border, demonstrated by the arrival of boats, has driven policy changes over the years. This concern can certainly explain the changes in policies; the bigger question for Australia is whether that is a genuine security concern, or some kind of phantom that could be better managed in other ways. The refugees that apply for Australian protection undergo a selection process that is base on immigration officials’ perception of their ability to assimilate to the Australian society. Many people are applying for protection. The number of applicants for humanitarian visas are bigger than the country’s quota making a selection process based on the perceived assimilability of an applicant possible. Many refugees that are granted protection are not the ones in need but rather they are the ones who have potentials to assimilate to the Australian society and have the capability to resettle in Australia. The refugees are selected by assessing their ability and potential to integrate into the Australian society. The migration and refugee policy of Australia is influenced by social cohesion. Most refugees in Australia have difficulties assimilating to the society because of cultural difference. There are also Australian citizens who have reservations about accepting refugees in their communities. Major cultural and values differences are seen as the main causes of tension between refugees and citizens. Some refugees are being discriminated against. Some refugees are considered as job stealers and that they are burden to the community. Some people view them as uneducated people who entered the country to have a better life. Some refugees are discriminated against. Some Australians believe that these refugees can be a threat to the security of the communities where they resettle. Some of the concerns of the local communities regarding accepting refugees are housing, employment and crime.