What’s happening in Australia?

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The Australia Situation

Australia is a incredibly diverse multicultural society. In fact, since World War II over 7 million people have migrated here, with 775,000 of those being refugees and other humanitarian entrants from all over the world, and the results of the 2016 national Census only confirm this –  we’re a fast changing, ever-expanding, culturally diverse nation. According to this census:

  • Over 28% percent of Australians were born overseas and of this amount, 20% had arrived since 2012
  • Over 15% had one parent born overseas and over 25% had parents who were both born overseas
  • Over 13 % of Australians live in homes where two or more languages are spoken

Australia is a flourishing multicultural society that thrives on diversity, community, and the wonderful opportunities that both of these bring both apart and together.

Australia in the Global Picture

As of December 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people. This means that one in every 113 people on Earth has now been driven from their home by persecution, conflict and violence or human rights violations. You could also think of it as each minute, 24 people around the world flee their home because of violence or persecution. And if the world’s displaced people were their own nation, it would be larger than the United Kingdom. As at 2016, Australia had agree to receive less than 2% of applications for refugees and people seeking asylum. This ranks us 49th in the world in terms of humanitarian response. In comparison to Australia, France, US, Germany, Turkey, UK, Sweden and Canada approved between three and six times as many applications for asylum.

Why Do Refugees and People Seeking Asylum Come to Australia?

There are many reasons why refugees and people seeking asylum come to Australia, although it’s not because they want to leave their homes. They overcome war, survive indiscriminate bombings, flee persecution, and risk their lives to start afresh in Australia. They come to here seeking hope, freedom, safety and above all, a new life for them and their families. 

For many, Australia is the first safe-haven they reach, geographically. Australia voluntarily signed the Refugee Convention, agreeing to protect the rights of those seeking asylum. As a signature, we are bound to the terms of these conventions and the optional protocols. However, many countries have not signed this treaty and are not bound. For this reason, particularly for people fleeing Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Australia will be the first country they reach which can offer meaningful protection. In fact, Australia is the only country in the entire Asia-Pacfiic region which has the legal framework and technical and financial capacity to offer refugees protection.

They are desperate people fleeing for their lives and are doing exactly what we would do if we were in the same situation. 

Resource: ASRC Fact Sheet

After they’ve already crossed through a number of countries and arrived in Malaysia or Indonesia, why do they then risk crossing the sea as well?

There are tens of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in countries in our region like Malaysia and Indonesia. None of these countries is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. This means that asylum seekers are not guaranteed protection and are especially vulnerable here. Many asylum seekers in these countries may wait for many years before they are processed and resettled. In the meantime, they may have very limited access to accommodation, health services, education, work and income. In some of our regional neighbours, asylum seekers have been beaten, brutally caned and even locked up in jail.

But why do they come by boat? It’s because of a lack of other means. If you fled from danger and found you and your family faced more danger and deprivation, wouldn’t you try to find somewhere safer where your fears could end and your life begin? Asylum seekers who try to get to Australia or other countries by boat know they are taking an enormous risk, but they are desperate to find safety and freedom.

Asylum Seekers are fleeing from horrible situations. They are not in the same category as people who decide to migrate to Australia for a better life. They simply cannot fit into an “orderly migration” program.

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