22 October 2009
MORE REFUGEES - FEWER SKILLED MIGRANTS
Were Australia a compassionate nation, it would be taking in more asylum seekers and fewer skilled migrants, according to Australia’s only environment group dedicated to lower population, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
SPA National President, Ms Sandra Kanck, says Australia could double the number of refugees it accepts, providing that at least as many, if not more (which is SPA’s preference), were cut from the skilled migration program.
Australia's humanitarian program is currently 13,500 annually, while skilled immigration for 2008-9 is 115,000. Total net overseas migration, however, for the year ended 31 March 2009, was 278,200 persons. As well as skilled migration, this includes family reunion, New Zealanders and those on temporary visas.
“We have no moral obligation to the people coming here under the skilled migration program – they are not fleeing from war-torn states," says Ms Kanck. "They are taking places we could make available to real refugees.
“With 22 million refugees in the world at the moment, Australia cannot take them all, but we can accept more than we currently do – provided we reduce the skilled migration intake," she says.
Ms Kanck says that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s rebuffing of asylum seekers and attacks on so-called people smugglers are a diversionary tactic.
"Mr Rudd is responsible for one of the highest immigration rates in decades so his line on the current influx of asylum seekers is simply a smoke screen to avoid public discussion on the bigger issue of the immigration blow-out.
“Refugees have to wait in long queues for places to become available, while at the same time Mr Rudd has an open door policy to people who want to come here for purely economic reasons.
"Surely Australia can supply its own skills and not poach from other countries," says Ms Kanck. “If we got rid of the baby bonus we could put that money into training/retraining our current population and thus decrease our reliance on the skilled migration program."
Ms Kanck added that a multi-pronged approach was what was required in dealing with refugees. Diplomatic efforts could often diminish conflict that cause people to flee.
"For instance, what is Australia doing to ensure that the Sri Lankan Government is treating the Tamils fairly and humanely?" she asks.