Fortnight post by Jordan Fay
Topic: That used to be legal.
There are estimated to be close to 50,000 people classified as illegal immigrants in Australia at any one time (Section: Myth 7). How do you imagine these people, how they entered the country and how they conduct their lives? (If they have any control over how they conduct themselves at all). Immigration in Australia – its complicated laws, numerous reforms and historical controversies – has always been a hot topic. It seems to have its own gravitational pull while having a state of classification more elusive and debated than that of Pluto. It’s bounced around the walls of Parliament House and the idiot box so much so that I’m starting to believe that it’s a subtlety-disguised form of renewable energy. How else can we explain the repetitious narrow-mindedness and excessive fear mongering that surrounds the so-called-debate of who can come to Australia and who can’t? Oh yeah, and who is the face of illegal immigration issues in Australia? Turns out it’s mostly people from the US and UK who are overstaying their visas (Section: Myth 7). Of course people still say:
“But what about… boat people/queue jumpers/those people who aren’t genuine refugees/those potential terrorists? Aren’t they illegal? Aren’t they the real problem?”
Is the White Australia Act still in place? While those who flee the state of war in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Sri Lanka somewhere in a dusty draw and in the mental library of a knowledgable human rights-activist there sits the Australian Migration Act of 1958 which states that people are legally allowed to seek asylum in Australia with or without visas. And those people that arrive by boat? Well in 2009 less than 2,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat, a number that pales against the 36,000 that arrived in Italy (Italy is 301,230 sq km while Australia is 7,686,830 sq km). And in 2010 Australia only received 2% overall of refugees thats fled to industrialised nations.
Despite all of this the inhumane system of indefinite detention is still classed as legal in Australia. And off-shore processing, reminiscent of the John Howard era, grows ever brighter for the Labor Party as Nauru has become reinstated as an island of exile for refugees (or as we call them in the industry: the people who weren’t there). Isn’t there a contradiction of rights here? I guess it’s hard to say really, I mean, we are talking about politics. Immigration laws in Australia are like a processed meat patty being flipped over and over from legal to illegal while becoming increasingly burnt and inedible (if at all edible in the first place).