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Australia: the reception program for refugees in question

Faced with pressure from the United Nations and the street, Canberra announced the evacuation of minor migrants and their families from the island of Nauru, where one of Australia’s detention centers is located. The country has a very strict migration policy which some, in Europe or the United States, would like to emulate – despite different realities.

Thousands of people marched on Saturday October 21 in the streets of Sydney and Melbourne to denounce the conditions of detention of the last center “ offshore ” – the only one who accepts children – and what happens there: depression, attempted mutilation, suicide… An alarming situation denounced by Médecins sans Frontières: ” How can the Australian government describe overseas detention as a humanitarian policy? What is humanitarian about abandoning people in an open-air prison in Nauru? “. The organization was recently expelled from the island by the authorities.

The idea of ​​outsourcing the management of migration flows is not new. On July 27, 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron announced his desire to create “ hotspots at the borders of African countries, and in particular in Libya, to examine asylum applications there before migrants reach the European continent. The project has since been shelved.

Until very recently, Australia had two such detention centres. One located on the island of Manus (in Papua New Guinea) and the other located on the island of the island state of Nauru. These two establishments were born in 2001, while Australia was looking for a way to deter immigration by sea – we will call it the ” Pacific Solution “.

In exchange for large sums of money, Australia’s two neighbors agree to take in asylum seekers intercepted en route to the so-called lucky country. In the last decade, it is mainly Indian and Chinese populations. Closed for a time, these centers reopened in 2012. Center Manus will close again in October 2017, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that it violated fundamental human rights.

Strict and selective immigration

This policy makes it possible to ensure that the migrants collected in the centers ” offshore will never set foot on Australian soil. They are either retained in the host country or sent back to their country of origin. ” Once people have received help, then they are expected to return to their home country said Peter Dutton, current Home Secretary. Aid that has long been disputed.

Kieran Gair, Australian journalist for the Sky News news channel, assures that the ” immigration program is generous in terms of the number of people welcomed each year, skilled immigrants or refugees, when compared to other countries of similar size “. For the 2018-2019 period, the country has set a threshold of 190,000 migrants (68.9% of places for so-called qualified people, and 30.8% for families) – knowing that it counts today 25,140,000 inhabitants.

Figures to be put into perspective with the care of refugees strictly speaking (that is to say, according to the people persecuted because of their religion, their nationality, their political opinions, etc.). According to the 2017 Report of the United Nations Agency for Refugees, of the 3.5 million refugees welcomed or settled (to a third country, different from that of origin or that of reception) in 2017 in the world , only 23,111 were by Australia. This ranks Australia 20th in the rankings, but 45th if you factor gross domestic product into the equation. Australia stands out above all for the proportion of refugees it redirects to a third country.

Populist excesses

Like Europe, the migration issue leaves no one indifferent and is a hot topic of debate in Australia – even if it means witnessing a radicalization of discourse, even a liberation of hateful speech. Alan Tudge, Minister of Cities and Population recommends, for example, that immigrants no longer live in metropolises to avoid traffic jams. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks of ” african gangs ” which are ” difficult to integrate “. Worse still, Senator Fraser Anning uses the phrase ” final solution in a debate around immigration and a popular vote.

Kieran Gair acknowledges that there is ” issues of racism and xenophobia that color the debate “. However, Australians are not obsessed by immigration and generally see it as ” a good thing that contributes to the economy and nation building “.

However, in August 2017, the Washington Post published the transcripts obtained from a telephone conversation between Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull, the former Australian Prime Minister. ” you are worse than me ” had then slipped the American President to his counterpart.

Banner photo: Demonstration of July 9, 2011 organized by the collective Refugee Action in Melbourne (© Takver)

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