The Australian government has consistently failed in its refugee policy. Politicians have ignored any care for human rights in favour of populist policies and catchy slogans, aiming to improve public opinion.
Initially, the slogan was all about ‘stopping the boats.’ Without any knowledge of Australia’s policies, this seems like a reasonable approach. Many refugees were dying at sea due to overcrowded boats often capsizing in the ocean. However, there was no adequate alternative. Australia stopped the boats, but that didn’t stop the problem.
This was followed by offshore processing, a differing approach that still failed to solve the problem. Offshore processing involved transferring refugees who arrive in Australia by boat to processing centres in another country such as Nauru. However, this led to consistent cases of human rights violations due to the horrific conditions, resulting in some refugees such as Omid Masoumali no longer finding a reason to live in his pursuit for a safe life.
Both policies of stopping the boats and offshore processing achieve little in solving the refugee crisis but were influential to the government and the media. The policies assisted in selling a skewed representation of refugees to the Australia public. They were perceived as individuals relentlessly trying to gain access in Australia to take citizens jobs, education and money. In doing so, the very definition of a refugee was lost in translation, and the hope of Australia increasing its refugee intake was lost.
In the last week, the Australian government have been debating whether to repeal the Medevac legislation which was passed earlier this year. The law allowed for the transfer of refugees from detention centres to Australia if there is a medical emergency. The law was repealed.
Personally, this decision makes no sense, and I will try to maintain my emotions. A law which only allows refugees to enter Australia to receive medical assistance is no longer available. I’m dumbfounded.
What made this decision even more frightening was the lack of reason. Senator Jacqui Lambie held the critical vote and failed to provide adequate reasoning for her choice. The detrimental representation of refugees by politicians continued, with One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson stating that refugees were “not of good character. They’re rapists. The people are thugs” and that they “don’t belong here in Australia.” Hanson has fallen into the carefully formed trap of the media’s representation of refugees over the last decade. Refugees are not rapists. They are not thugs. They want to be able to live free of persecution, where they don’t have to fear for their life.
The only positive news to come out of this week’s events is the possibility of the remaining refugees in detention centres to be sent to New Zealand sometime next year. This will mean the end of Australia’s offshore processing and the end of Australia’s refugee policy. Right?
Well, many have referred to the recent events as the end of Australia’s involvement with refugees. This couldn’t be more wrong. This is only the beginning. The refugee crisis is continuing to increase globally, and Australia must be an ambassador for change, creating the structures and services domestically to assist in solving the issue. We are in danger of completely forgetting about the issue and moving on, just because we aren’t directly involved anymore.
I would like to challenge the Australia government to use the summer break as a time to reflect on Australia’s refugee policy. To acknowledge the damage caused and the failed policies which have tormented the lives of many. To consider the broader crisis and the over 70 million individuals who will go to sleep tonight, fearing if they will make it through tomorrow. But most importantly, to remember that although refugees don’t have a choice, you do.
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