It seems like every day I come across at least one article about the refugee crisis. This is understandable, as the major displacement of people from Syria has had an effect worldwide. The issue has become almost too complicated to comprehend and it has forced many countries to come up with their own plans on how to deal with the great influx of immigrants looking for asylum. Australia has recently spoken out about their plan of action for those refugees who have been sent to their processing centers, Manus Island and Nauru.
The law that has been proposed by prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, would put a lifetime ban on asylum seekers sent to either offshore center from ever entering Australia. Both Manus Island and Nauru have been highlighted in the news recently due to their supposedly inhumane treatment of the people held there. In August, it was announced that Manus Island would be closed. The UN has said that the treatment of asylum seekers at both of these offshore centers is “cruel, inhuman and degrading, violating international law” (Cole, NY Times, Aug. 2016). Yet, with the option of settling safely in Australia off the table, many are questioning where the 900 men on Manus Island and 1,200 men, women, and children in Nauru will relocate.
This law would affect all who had arrived at these centers after July 19, 2013. This date was chosen as the cut off because the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, had said on that day, “as of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia” (Innis, NY Times, Oct. 31). Those under 18 would be exempt, but it is still an issue, as many family members have already settled in Australia. This means that families that have already been separated for months and years will never be able to reunite, as inhabitants of these two centers will never be allowed to set foot in the country. Refugees who settle in another country and gain citizenship there will not be allowed to visit Australia, even just as a tourist.
Madeline Gleeson, a lawyer at the Kaldor Center for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales, has spoken out about the law, saying, “Refugees go on to be world leaders, chief executives of major companies, doctors, scientists, lawyers. Those people can never come here. Not as a tourist, not to attend a medical conference (Innis, NY Times, Oct. 31). This would just be another addition to Australia’s already harsh policy toward refugees. They have already been known to tow boats carrying refugees away from Australia’s shores back out to international waters in order to, as the prime minister says, send a strong message that “the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler” (Innis, NY Times, Oct. 31). Fortunately, this legislation has been met with more backlash than approval, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Can Australia come up with a better “fix” than a lifetime ban. Hopefully.