While our government is condemned as being heartless and lacking compassion for asylum seekers, it must be considered in a national and global context.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. People leave their countries and seek asylum for many reasons—political persecution, ethnic persecution and gender-based violence. Overpopulation isn't one of them! (Originally published 30 July 2013, 11:23:16 +1000)
When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1951, there were approximately 1.5 million refugees internationally. At the end of 2012 there were 15.4 million refugees.
According to the latest figures there were 28.8 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) around the world, and global number has steadily increased from a total of around 17 million in 1997.
The annual UNHCR global trends in displacement report highlights that last year 7.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution, with a total of 45.2 million people around the world in situations of displacement, meaning that more people are refugees or internally displaced than at any point since 1994.
On an average day in 2012, 23,000 people were forced to flee their homes around the world, which is more than total number of people claiming asylum in Australia for the entire year.
Global population has swollen from just over 2.5 billion in 1951, to now 7 billion - and growing. There are no new frontiers to settle in.
Growth in numbers of refugees since Vietnam
The Vietnam War ended in 1975 but their troubles did not, and over two million people in Indo-China became refugees in the 1970s.
Over the next five years from 1976 there were 2059 Vietnamese boat arrivals with the last arriving in August 1981. From 1989 boats arrived at the rate of about 300 people per annum for the next 9 years—mostly from Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China.
The number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in all countries, including Australia, began to rise again in 2006. This was due to the state of emergency that was declared in Sri Lanka in 2005 and the US troop surge in Iraq in 2007. Afghanistan remained the main country of origin of asylum-seekers (36,600 claims versus 36,200 in 2011). Syria was the second largest, the conflict there reflected in a jump from 15th place in 2011 and a 191 per cent increase in asylum claims to 24,800.
Atrocious conditions in Somalia and Sudan have generated huge refugee flows, but number of East African "irregular entrants" known to be in Indonesia is tiny by comparison with South Asians and Middle East people. The scope and range of refugee sources is widening.
The majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australia irregularly by boat in recent years have been from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka.
Forced displacement has become a defining characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa, obliging people to abandon their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, often at the price of serious threats to their welfare and rights. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, known as the Kampala Convention, breaks new ground in articulating the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the responsibilities of states, regional organizations, and other actors to uphold them.
With almost ten million people internally displaced across twenty-one sub-Saharan African states, the continent is home to one third of the world’s IDPs.
Australia's population growth
Australia's population in 1951 was nearing 8.5 million, and in 1975, Australia's population was less than 13.5 million people. Australia's current population growth of 1.8% is higher than that of the Philippines, Malaysia or India.
Due to the tight regulation on asylum seekers, Australia receives relatively less refugees compared to other countries. As the world’s sixth largest country, in 2009, Australia only accepted 0.6% of asylum seekers in the world.
This must be inconsideration to our environmental resources, and high domestic population growth.
Australia is a small nation on a large landscape. The allusion of having large frontiers, of boundless plains to share, and capable of inhabiting millions more people is attractive, but unrealistic.
The cost of supporting more than 40,000 asylum seekers expected to be in Australia next financial year is set to average more than $70,000 each person.
This is at a time our cities already are struggling with infrastructure short-falls. Lobby groups claim that the government needs to fund $500 billion debt for infrastructure needed due to population growth.
Papua New Guinea solution
The move to settle asylum seekers in PNG is likely to see a significant part of the cost of the asylum seeker problem carried in the foreign aid budget. Australia has agreed to a significant increase in direct assistance to PNG as well as carrying the cost of resettling asylum seekers there.
Mr Rudd said the policy was likely to be expensive in its early stages but would ultimately reduce the budget cost of asylum seekers over time as he anticipated it would lead to a drop in arrivals.
The capacity of the Manus Island detention centre will increase from 600 people to 3000 people. Mr Rudd signalled further facilities will be established in PNG, saying there would be
“no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to Papua New Guinea”.
2.3 percent population growth is a comfortable sounding figure but what this really means is that Papua New Guineans produce over two hundred and seventy thousand babies every year. It’s the equivalent of the entire population of the Chimbu Province.
Papua New Guinea faces many challenges in resettling refugees given many of its people already struggle to find jobs and housing.
The Asian Development Bank estimates only 5 per cent of PNG's population is engaged in formal sector employment. Approximately 85 per cent of the population live in rural areas, where they live a subsistence lifestyle or participate in the informal economy.
The causes of displacement
When all a nation's agricultural land and natural resources are used up, and there are more people than there are jobs, water, food and resources, there are only three choices:
a) live in life-threatening poverty,
b) leave for greener pastures,
c) force others to leave. This last is 'persecution'.
Refugees aren't just fleeing intolerance in a vacuum. They are fleeing overpopulation, plus the greed of corporations and developed nations' predation for dwindling natural wealth.
The refugee convention is hopelessly out of date now, based as it is on 1950's world outlook following World War when there were thousands of genuine refugees after that appalling war. We are living through only the beginning of what will degenerate into a world debacle of people 'gatecrashing' countries where life may hold a better future.
Skilled visas accounted for 68 per cent of the 2007-08 migration program, and family reunion 31 per cent. We should be taking more proven genuine refugees, not making them into a political football with random arrivals! Our population growth is a political decision, not inevitable!
Stable Population Australia say:
“Rather than aiming to resettle ever-increasing numbers of people, our policy aim should be to relieve the pressures that force migration in the first place, and help people live in peace and harmony in their homeland.”
Kevin Rudd recently observed that the world has changed since the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention was created.
Growing poverty in Australia – a political inconvenience
While Australia is viewed as a choice destination for asylum seekers, our cities are under considerable stress from being under resourced. According to ACOSS ,(Australian Council of Social Services ) Last year 2,265,000 Australians (12.8% of all people) are living below the poverty line after taking account of their housing costs.
Community groups decry the state of housing affordability and availability across the country. In Victoria, over 36,000 people are on the public housing waiting list. A report from Australians for Affordable Housing shows that Victoria has some of the least affordable housing in the country and highlights yet again the crippling impact that high housing costs are having on our community.
For the year ending December 2012, net overseas migration was 235,900. (not including the temporary migrants).
Family Planning initiatives
Last year the Government of the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and other partners, pledged $2.6 billion to make family planning available to 120 million women in developing countries by 2020.
Human displacement caused by conflicts from competition for dwindling resources can be avoided through sensible, global family planning. Overpopulation denies people the living standards they need, and the ability to live in harmony with others.