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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Why we seek safe havens

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In resource-management spheres, the first tool of choice is demand management. Applying this to Australia’s immigration rate, the first question would not be how to keep refugees out of Australia. It would be to examine the home situation, the conflict that caused them to abandon their homeland and take the perilous journey to other countries in search of a safe haven.

Hence we’d be talking to our rich friends about selling weapons to parts of the world in war. And we wouldn’t be talking to our poor neighbours about housing traumatised refugees on their islands for profit.

How about growing a heart there in the Liberal heartland?

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  1. Australia can do little to reduce the possibility of conflict in various parts of the world, nor to influence the weaponry used in conflict. A study by the World Bank found there was little in the rights and wrongs of home situation that correlated with continuing conflict. There are many disadvantaged minority groups through the third world but only a relative few engage in conflict and become displaced people. The study showed access by rebel groups to funds for weapons is a key part of continuing conflict. That income can come by control of valuable resources like mining and forestry and drugs. Another key source of funds, publicity and political support is from refugees in well off countries like Australia. Bougainville is a good example of a bitter and deadly conflict on our doorstep, but which did not generate a flow of refugees, and was little known internationally. It was a conflict that was easier to contain and reach some sort of, if not resolution, modus vivende, because it was not taken up internationally as a cause célèbre, fuelled by a refugee diaspora.

    Refugees who come here a are a tiny part of all displaced people. Those who come by boat or plane need to be well off to afford to pay fares, smugglers and a variety of bribes and other payments. Australia has Treaty obligations to them that for those who come by boat it meets by arranging processing in neighboring countries. Nauru and PNG are developing countries with there own limitations but they do provide a safe haven, The only reason that the trauma of those refugees is worse than that of millions of other displaced people is the understandable distress of coming so close to the possibility of getting to Australia and then having it denied – a distress that continues as long as there is a loud call to bring them here.

    Australia’s humanitarian immigration program should focus on those at greatest risk – primarily women and children – who do not already have a safe haven and those who are less likely to engage in support for further conflict in their places of origin, not those who will stimulate a further flow of similarly well off and politically astute refuge seekers. .


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