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Refugees welcome in the ACT

By Kim Fischer - 14 September 2015 50

stock-syria-refugees-camp

The Federal Government’s decision to accept 12,000 additional refugees from Syria this year – albeit after some pressure from its own backbench and the Labor party – is the right one. But our overall refugee policy still needs work.

How many refugees we should permanently settle in Australia every year? Over the last few decades, we have accepted an average of 0.5 refugees per 1000 Australia citizens, per year. To put this in perspective, this proportionately amounts to 180 refugees settling in Canberra every year – hardly unmanageable.

As a wealthy country, I think Australia should set a formal resettlement target of 1 refugee in Australia per 1000 citizens each year. This would allow our refugee intake to increase naturally and gradually over time.

Given the Territory Government’s recent declaration of the ACT as a Refugee Welcome Zone, we can do better right here in Canberra. By publically adopting a ‘1 per 1000’ target for refugee resettlement, the ACT Government would be taking the lead nationally. Our local refugee support services have noted “there is a lot of capacity in our community” to accept additional refugees – 350 refugees per year would be very achievable.

We should also fight harder against the use of offshore detention. The key obligations of Australia under the Refugee Convention are to house refugees in safe, clean, and reasonably comfortable accommodation, and never to send them back to the country from which they fled (either directly or indirectly) while a fear of persecution remains.

Offshore processing has consistently failed the first of these tests with many stories of mental illness, abuse, hunger strikes, and rioting documented. Indeed as Waleed Aly noted, the purpose of offshore processing is solely to be as unpleasant as possible.

In a legal sense, offshore processing serves no purpose at all. All unauthorised maritime arrivals are now treated equally under migration law whether they are ever brought to the mainland or not, and Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention remain the same. During 2001 – 2007, the last time regional processing was operating, more than 60% of refugees were eventually resettled in Australia anyway.

The use of offshore, prison-like detention facilities to house some of the world’s most desperate people is unworthy of Australians’ generosity and unjustified based on their actions. These facilities should be closed immediately.

As an alternative, Julian Burnside’s proposal to use Tasmania as an asylum-seeker processing centre provides many real benefits. Essentially a whole-of-State expansion of community detention arrangements, it would allow the struggling Tasmanian economy to benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars in additional construction, education, and social support programs operating in the country. Refugees would be obliged to stay in Tasmania (or other regional areas designated by the government) unless dispensation were granted, but otherwise they would be free to participate in the community.

Any ‘Tasmanian option’ would be money far better spent than the $1.2 billion we currently spend annually on processing refugees in Nauru and PNG. The evidence is clear that community detention is both cheaper and far better health-wise for refugees and asylum-seekers. Community detention arrangements should be the norm, with detention to a building or cell only done where people commit a crime or breach their visa conditions of release.

Refugees are a net benefit to Australia in the long run. However, studies estimate a 12 year lag before their contribution is a net positive. After 20 years the productivity benefit of both refugee and non-refugee migrants is virtually the same. Because of this long lag time, most experts recommend evaluating migration programs by the second generation test – that is, by how successful and productive the children of migrants are in Australia.

Would you like the ACT Government to introduce a ‘1 per 1000’ target for refugee resettlement?

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(Photo: Syrian refugees at a camp for internally displaced persons in Atmeh, Syria, adjacent to the Turkish border, via iStock.)

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50 Responses to
Refugees welcome in the ACT
watto23 1:15 pm 16 Sep 15

Grimm said :

watto23 said :

Grimm said :

watto23 said :

Now for the lemmings who believe everything politicians tell them, or base an entire decision on something they heard from a friend about a refugee on the dole or taking an Australians job for less money…….

Don’t think it has much to do with people thinking they just want the dole. I think it has a lot more to do with people becoming tired of some refugees turning up, refusing to integrate and demanding Australia changes its culture to suit them.

What like the catholics and christians who demand our culture suits the views and opinions regardless of what the rest of us want?

I’ve heard far less of immigrants wanting to change our culture and its mostly based on the odd extremist, or conservative with alterior motives, making bold brash statements in the media rather than actual fact.

While I am about the least interested in religion guy you’d ever meet, yes, like catholics and christians. Whether you or I like it or not, they fit best into Australian culture and don’t demand radical changes to suit their beliefs.

I don’t see catholics, christians, bhuddists, hindus, sikhs etc essentially taking over entire enclaves of major cities and making them essentially no go zones for anybody but their people. I don’t see any of the aforementioned religions expecting to run these areas under their own backward, barbaric laws and ignore the laws of this country.

You can play PC and pretend all you like, but even a blind man can see that some cultures are just not compatible together. The difference is quite clear when you look at Vietnamese refugees in the 80s and early 90s in particular. What did they turn up and demand? They were grateful to be here and happy to escape and leave behind a way of life that caused them to seek refugee status in the first place.

I’m definitely not playing PC at all. In fact I’m all against some of the PC rubbish that goes on in society. What I am annoyed about is the assumptions regarding Islam and how its somehow a different religion to others. The fact it has extremists right now is accepted. However extrapolating that to all muslims and islam is very far fetched. There are places where muslims practise some very bad things and no one who wants to accept more refugees believes those practices should continue anywhere.

Common one I’ve heard based on ignorance is Muslims practice female genital mutilation. Yet its a far bigger issue in Christian African countries than in Muslim countries.

The argument that Christians were here first or our society was based on that are not valid arguments. Aboriginals were here first and they are not always respected either. I’ve never heard a rational non extreme muslim say they want to do any of the things you say they want to do. Most just want the right to practice their religion within Australian laws.

When the Vietnamese came to Australia my parents and grandparents refused to go to Cabramatta in Sydney, because it was in their opinion unsafe and full of asian gangs. Yet they go now, there are not any muslims there. Yet I have no issues walking through Lakemba or any muslim area. I don’t believe all the propoganda and rubbish published by Christian lobby groups. I’ve been to islamic countries, invited into homes and provided meals for nothing in return. I go to a Christian or Catholic house for dinner and apparently I offend them for not praying with them, they want to know why I don’t believe in god or other stuff they believe in, I have christian values thrust down my throat by political groups and lobby groups, because they want us to all live their way. I’m sorry the most offensive and intrusive religion in Australia are the Catholics and many other Christians as well.

Also what really is integrating into Australian society? It seems like its the PC way of saying any religion but islam is accepted, because you don’t want to be called a bigot.

The hatred is all based on a few bad people, but 99.999% of muslims are far friendlier and nicer people than those who think they are here to change their livestyle. In fact the irony of it all is if the christian lobby groups accept muslims, they may actually block SSM, instead of it inevitably happening.

Grimm 12:17 pm 16 Sep 15

watto23 said :

Grimm said :

watto23 said :

Now for the lemmings who believe everything politicians tell them, or base an entire decision on something they heard from a friend about a refugee on the dole or taking an Australians job for less money…….

Don’t think it has much to do with people thinking they just want the dole. I think it has a lot more to do with people becoming tired of some refugees turning up, refusing to integrate and demanding Australia changes its culture to suit them.

What like the catholics and christians who demand our culture suits the views and opinions regardless of what the rest of us want?

I’ve heard far less of immigrants wanting to change our culture and its mostly based on the odd extremist, or conservative with alterior motives, making bold brash statements in the media rather than actual fact.

While I am about the least interested in religion guy you’d ever meet, yes, like catholics and christians. Whether you or I like it or not, they fit best into Australian culture and don’t demand radical changes to suit their beliefs.

I don’t see catholics, christians, bhuddists, hindus, sikhs etc essentially taking over entire enclaves of major cities and making them essentially no go zones for anybody but their people. I don’t see any of the aforementioned religions expecting to run these areas under their own backward, barbaric laws and ignore the laws of this country.

You can play PC and pretend all you like, but even a blind man can see that some cultures are just not compatible together. The difference is quite clear when you look at Vietnamese refugees in the 80s and early 90s in particular. What did they turn up and demand? They were grateful to be here and happy to escape and leave behind a way of life that caused them to seek refugee status in the first place.

No_Nose 10:04 am 16 Sep 15

HenryBG said :

As I have pointed out, and as you have failed to even respond to, half a billion dollars wasted resettling 0.02% of the world’s refugees would be far better spent on providing services and facilities to refugees – this money could instead pay for 10 first-world hospitals which would provide comprehensive healthcare to *all* the refugees currently living in Turkey, for example.

Quite simply:
1. There are many, many things that are probably ‘better’ to do than resettling, but none of them can practically be done. Mainly because there is no will to do it, or because physically, diplomatically and practically they can’t.
2. The idea of Australia building ten hospitals in foreign countries is great. But it will not happen. Ever.

So we should do what we can… It’s better than sitting back and saying ..’Well we can’t fix everything so therefore will will do nothing’

And I have always said that resettling refugees is only part of the solution, not the whole solution. But is is, and should be, a part.

HenryBG 8:53 am 16 Sep 15

No_Nose said :

HenryBG said :

Maybe they are rational people who can see that half a billion dollars being spent on 12,000 refugees could build 10 hospitals that would benefit a significant proportion of the 60,000,000 refugees we aren’t resettling.

I can quite easily see the racist xenophobes supporting the Australian government building 10 hospitals in a foreign country. Yep, that is a completely realistic scenario.

I don’t know any racist xenophobes and I understand even less why their opinions would be relevant.

As I have pointed out, and as you have failed to even respond to, half a billion dollars wasted resettling 0.02% of the world’s refugees would be far better spent on providing services and facilities to refugees – this money could instead pay for 10 first-world hospitals which would provide comprehensive healthcare to *all* the refugees currently living in Turkey, for example.

No_Nose 6:56 am 16 Sep 15

HenryBG said :

Maybe they are rational people who can see that half a billion dollars being spent on 12,000 refugees could build 10 hospitals that would benefit a significant proportion of the 60,000,000 refugees we aren’t resettling.

I can quite easily see the racist xenophobes supporting the Australian government building 10 hospitals in a foreign country. Yep, that is a completely realistic scenario.

HenryBG said :

Or maybe I can put it this way – how many refugees is Japan resettling?

So your answer is to petulantly whine: “But Mum…Japan isn’t doing anything…so I should’t have to either”. Very mature.

HenryBG 11:07 pm 15 Sep 15

watto23 said :

What like the catholics and christians who demand our culture suits the views and opinions regardless of what the rest of us want?

I’ve heard far less of immigrants wanting to change our culture and its mostly based on the odd extremist, or conservative with alterior motives, making bold brash statements in the media rather than actual fact.

I think your ears must be blocked: whose cultural demands have resulted in government buildings having to be furnished with a *prayer* room, in this secular democracy of ours?
Is it the Christians?
Are you aware that in the UK, many *public* schools (in that secular democracy of theirs) have been forced to provide canteen menus that exclude pork?

HenryBG 11:01 pm 15 Sep 15

A clear majority disagree with the thrust of this article.

Maybe they are rational people who can see that half a billion dollars being spent on 12,000 refugees could build 10 hospitals that would benefit a significant proportion of the 60,000,000 refugees we aren’t resettling.

The fans of resettling refugees are driven by emotion and irrationality.

Or maybe I can put it this way – how many refugees is Japan resettling?

watto23 10:15 am 15 Sep 15

gazket said :

I find it strange that Syria is so dangerous it’s illegal for us to go there but then lets bring 12,000 Syrians here.

I’m sure the fooled protesters that lined Northbourne Ave with their candles the other week are will be each billeting a refugee .

The last lot of Labor boaties still don’t have jobs. They have 6/10 kids and get $4k a fortnight on the pension . why would they work.

So you are using what an Australian would do and comparing it to hardworking people who would be happy to work. Some of them are on visas not entitling them to work. Others can’t find work because our government is not very good at creating jobs, unless its a big mining project.

You have shown a distinct lack of thinking in your comment and all political bias repeating nonsense that isn’t true. Syrians have a minority run government and a terrorist organisation, fighting along with rebels trying to defend the country and you wonder why people are fleeing there due to danger, yet equate those fleeing as being dangerous? The British were the ones who handed power to the minority that ran Syria for years, the arab spring occured due to the poor treatment of the majority and ISIS pounced on the disunity, meanwhile the USA and now Australia have their fingers in the pie bombing the country for no real benefit, other than it most likely looks like they are being tough on terrorism. There are plenty of liberal voters who have some compassion, they are not all right wing extremists who feel their christianity is under threat from islam, and thus paint them as evil.

watto23 10:09 am 15 Sep 15

Grimm said :

watto23 said :

Now for the lemmings who believe everything politicians tell them, or base an entire decision on something they heard from a friend about a refugee on the dole or taking an Australians job for less money…….

Don’t think it has much to do with people thinking they just want the dole. I think it has a lot more to do with people becoming tired of some refugees turning up, refusing to integrate and demanding Australia changes its culture to suit them.

What like the catholics and christians who demand our culture suits the views and opinions regardless of what the rest of us want? I’ve heard far less of immigrants wanting to change our culture and its mostly based on the odd extremist, or conservative with alterior motives, making bold brash statements in the media rather than actual fact.

No_Nose 10:06 am 15 Sep 15

gazket said :

I find it strange that Syria is so dangerous it’s illegal for us to go there but then lets bring 12,000 Syrians here..

I agree. If it is so dangerous we should be helping out more. 20000 resettlements would be a more reasonable figure.

london 10:05 am 15 Sep 15

It’s fine for do-gooders and those living well to shout for refugees to be brought to Australia but do they do anything finacially to help once they are here? People living below the poverty line and the homeless will be the people to suffer. Will the refugees be given a tent and sleeping bag? If not where are the homes coming from if we have so many homeless? Where are the jpbs? Why are thet given social security when our young people are to be denied. Let’s help place all young Australians in a safe home and give them a job before we give any more overseas people sanctuary. You only have to live in Canberra to see how people from overseas treat us with such disregard.

gazket 10:12 pm 14 Sep 15

I find it strange that Syria is so dangerous it’s illegal for us to go there but then lets bring 12,000 Syrians here.

I’m sure the fooled protesters that lined Northbourne Ave with their candles the other week are will be each billeting a refugee .

The last lot of Labor boaties still don’t have jobs. They have 6/10 kids and get $4k a fortnight on the pension . why would they work.

chewy14 2:18 pm 14 Sep 15

You were going so well until you started talking about removing offshore processing.

Yes, a target of 1 refugee per 1000 citizens sounds like an acheivable target and is a worthwhile goal.

But as long as the refugee convention exists in it’s current state (outdated and broken), we need to have offshore processing to ensure equity in our resettlement program and prevent people from taking the dangerous boat journey to get here.

As the current situation in Europe shows, if you remove offshore processing, the pull factors will result in hundreds (thousands) of deaths at sea.

Otherwise, instead of being able to assist those who are most in need of our help, we will be preferentially helping those with the money and means to pay people smugglers to get here. We wil alsol no doubt be condemning many of them to death at sea on that journey.

Offshore processing is by no means perfect but it is far better than the alternative.

Grimm 1:59 pm 14 Sep 15

watto23 said :

Now for the lemmings who believe everything politicians tell them, or base an entire decision on something they heard from a friend about a refugee on the dole or taking an Australians job for less money…….

Don’t think it has much to do with people thinking they just want the dole. I think it has a lot more to do with people becoming tired of some refugees turning up, refusing to integrate and demanding Australia changes its culture to suit them.

watto23 1:35 pm 14 Sep 15

Although the federal governments response looks somewhat generous, they are actually focussing on non-muslim minority groups as they have done in Burma. Its the only way they can get things past their far right xenophobes.

Some people seem to have no idea regarding refugees in general. In terms of Syria, many are well educated and hard working people. Actually I’d argue 99% of refugees are not even looking for a handout, they want to work, although its always assumed they just want to bludge on the dole….

I was in Jordan earlier this year and the locals all asked me what my government was doing and to tell more people to visit Jordan. They have to deal with a war on their borders, tourism numbers dropping which was there main industry and an influx of refugees. Imagine if they had a policy of not letting the million or so refugees in jordanian camps across the border!

Politicians will make out we can’t afford this and that, but the reality is its politics getting in the way. Australia could easily resettle many more refugees. I had a thought bubble with Tony Abbotts idea for a Asian food bowl in the north. Let refugees settle there and farm land. If we didn’t ignore the need for better rail infrastructure also, people wouldn’t be forced to live in expensive cities either, however any time useful infrastructure gets discussed that isn’t mine related, it becomes too expensive as the wealthy don’t want to pay for it.

Now for the lemmings who believe everything politicians tell them, or base an entire decision on something they heard from a friend about a refugee on the dole or taking an Australians job for less money…….

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