Australia Immigration

In contrast to Europe’s openness Australia is known to have a very strict immigration policy. However, the policy has not always been this strict. The first people classified as modern asylum seekers to reach Australia’s shores were three young friends and two brothers from Vietnam in 1976; they tore a map from a school Atlas to navigate the seas. A larger group of Vietnamese followed, and they ended up being known as “the boat people” because that is simply how they arrived. For the next five years 2,054 more people would follow. Most Australians wanted to see these migrants stay, and they were therefore given refugee status.

People who arrived by boat today that are seeking asylum are not welcomed nearly as much. According to Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, Australia’s “’position is very clear, and that is we are not going to accept people who have sought to come to our country illegally by boat. They will not settle permanently in our country.'”[i] Instead Australia send them off to either Nauru, or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for “offshore processing” and most of the time the people are never resettled. This policy was developed in August 2001 by the Howard government. On September 28, 2001, it implemented by Philip Ruddock who was Australian Immigration Minister at the time. The policy of sending people to Manus Island and Nauru, has helped to slow the flow of migrants, and cut the number of refugees drowning at sea. The UN also sees this policy as a breach of their rights. Today, there are a large number of people who have committed no crime, and “are warehoused in appalling conditions in arbitrary and indefinite detention.”[ii] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with dozens of countries, and the United Nations, have criticized the illegal detention.

Australia has recently made an agreement with Cambodia, in hopes to lower the number of people being held on Nauru and Manus Island. The refugee relocation agreement between Australia and Cambodia is the first of its kind. Since it is involving a traditional resettlement country, as well as a developing country that has limited capacity to meet their needs. The agreement states that Cambodia will offer a permanent settlement to the people who were seeking asylum in Australia, and instead were forced to be relocated to Nauru.

There was a United Nations convention in 1951 which determined who was classified as a refugee, Australia is one of the many countries that signed it. The convention not only defined a “refugee” but also set out rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities that the nations have who grant asylum. Through looking at the conditions of some of the center on Nauru and Papua New Guinee’s Manus Island, Australia may be in violation of parts of the agreement. People who are deemed asylum seekers, are granted individual rights, and on the islands, not all human rights are being upheld. This could become an issue, if other counties begin to see that Australia hasn’t upheld the agreement they might start to follow some of the same policies. If this is the path that Australia wishes to take, then they should consider removing themselves from the agreement.

[i] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/australia-immigration/480189/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/

 

 

Rodrigo Duterte: Gambling with Foreign Policy in the Philippines

In all democratic societies, there comes a time when the people become frustrated with the way things are and thirst for change. They grow angry and impatient, and they want someone to lead them who advocates for a government focused on the drastic change they desire. The election of Donald Trump in the US is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The people want change, and they are willing to support drastic measures by their government to get it.

The same phenomenon occurred when Duterte was elected as President of the Philippines. His campaign was centered around his bloody “war on drugs.” Drugs were, and still are, a huge problem in the Philippines, and the Philippine people desperately wanted their next president to be someone who pushed for that kind of extreme campaign against issues like this. But, over the past decade, the Philippines has experienced growth that earned them a place as one of the most dynamic performers in Asia, and at times, Asia’s fastest growing economy. So why would they elect Rodrigo Duterte, an advocate for change?

The answer lies in the fact that despite their economic success the growth didn’t spread evenly throughout the country, leaving marginalized regions and social classes deeply dissatisfied. So although Duterte’s policies are extreme, the people are willing to sacrifice some lives if it means the betterment of their own.

Since Duterte became president, there has been a sharp increase in drug-related killings in the Philippines, with over 3,500 deaths in the last few months alone. Many were killed by police and many through vigilante justice. The US has stated its concern with this sudden increase, and the UN has called Duterte’s actions a crime under international law, leading Duterte to threaten to withdraw the Philippines from the UN.

Duterte’s foreign policy has been highly volatile in the past months as he cozies up to China and Russia and pushes away the Philippines’ allies, namely the US. His vicious criticism of the US might be beginning to pay off; earlier in October, Duterte visited Beijing, where he declared his intention to abandon a long-standing alliance with the US in favor of warming up to China. Philippine security officials said that China had lowered the number of ships at Scarborough Shoal, allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in this disputed part of the South China Sea. This could potentially be an important concession from China, one that could help greatly to reduce tensions. Yet, what China gives it can also easily take away. China has previously fallen short on promises to its supplicant states.

As Duterte pivots toward China, relations with the US are at an all time low. The foul-mouthed Philippine president has threatened relations with the US in ways ranging from calling President Obama a “son of a whore,” to canceling a US weapons deal to flat out announcing that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” and “maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Duterte’s foreign policy as of late is definitely a gamble whose outcome cannot be foreseen. It begs questions concerning the future of foreign policy in the Philippines, the future of the country’s relationship with the United States and whether it was a bad idea to take the US’s support for granted. If the Philippines becomes friendly with and gains support from China and Russia rather than leaning on the US, will there really be no price to pay? Will the Philippines end up under China’s thumb, with no US to help them? President Obama took Duterte’s insults with grace, but would President-elect Trump do the same? One can only wait and see how this gamble in the Philippines will end.

Burning Through Burma: Tumultuous Religious Discrimination and Violence in Myanmar

The southeast Asian country of Myanmar, known to the US State
Department as Burma, recently underwent a transition to a democratic government. The country was a British colony until it declared independence in 1948 and became a democratic nation. Fourteen years later, the military took power in a coup and continues to hold great power in the country, despite 2010 elections that established a new democracy. Myanmar’s government has gone through many political changes in the past century, but one issue in the country remains prevalent: the persecution of minority religious groups, primarily Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar is dominated by Buddhism. Roughly ninety percent of the country observes the religion, while six percent and four percent observe Christianity and Islam, respectively. This dominance results in a primarily Buddhist government that refuses to recognize the Rohingya as Burmese citizens. Last year, the nationalist anti-Muslim group Ma Ba Tha urged the passing of laws that would burden religious minorities and make conversion to Buddhism unnecessarily difficult. There is undeniable prejudice within the government, from the former Buddhist president (under whom many acts of discrimination went unaccounted for) to groups like Ma Ba Tha that hold influence over government officials.

The issue of discrimination persists in the form of severe human rights violations committed against Rohingya Muslims. Buddhists are often perceived as peaceful individuals who live simply, spending their time calmly meditating and abstaining from violent confrontation. However, there have been multiple killings of Muslims in recent years at the hands of Buddhists, particularly in the northern state of Rakhine. For example, following the rape of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men, a large mob retaliated by killing two hundred Muslims. Certainly, such a crime as rape should not go unpunished, but it should be left to authorities to delegate punishments. According to an expert, large-scale atrocities such as these, coupled with a lack of intervention, are the first signs of genocide. The persecution of religious minorities, including both Muslims and Christians, has persisted throughout Myanmar’s history, and its people are not in any hurry to ease up.

Despite the hardships they have endured, religious minorities may have some cause for hope in the form of Aung San Suu Kyi. The newly-elected State Counsellor is popular among Muslims and Buddhists in the country and has a vision of equality and stability, but will face obstacles before she can realize her goals. Suu Kyi has already taken action, calling a meeting to discuss what can be done to stop discrimination, but violence persists while those suffering receive limited aid. The movement of aid agencies, in addition to that of international journalists and officials, has been heavily restricted within Myanmar by the government. Further, law enforcement officials have been blamed for ignoring instances of prejudice and for instigating acts of violence themselves. Suu Kyi is faced with a dilemma, as she wants to help Muslims yet does not want to alienate Buddhist followers who could potentially be anti-Muslim. If she wishes to ensure better conditions for Muslims without directly confronting prejudiced Buddhists, she should ensure that a substantial amount of aid reaches those in need who cannot hope to receive assistance from the government.

The persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has become an issue of which concerns an increasing number of countries and NGOs. The time for assistance is long overdue, but any religious minority in Myanmar needs as much help as it can receive. Tolerance is a quality lacking in too many countries, and the issue of persecution can only be fixed if the new government cracks down on discrimination or opens up the country’s borders to allow for the free flow of aid, if it is not willing to give the aid itself. Myanmar does have an overwhelming Buddhist majority, but this does not mean that there can never be peace in the country. With a new government in place, Myanmar has the opportunity to steer itself in a new direction and diminish the religious prejudice that is so prevalent within its borders.

Aborting the One-Child Policy: China’s Conflicting Attempts to Play God

China has felt a strange rollercoaster of emotions toward children. Anger and confusion arose among many households following the government’s 1979 enactment of the one-child policy. Couples (except for minorities and some rural citizens) were limited to a single child—what Westerners would qualify as hostile to our cherished individual, “unalienable” rights. The Chinese, who tend to favor communitarianism over individual rights more than people from the West, eventually got used to the decades-long one-child ride. That is, until the Communist Party government “bent the track” and loosened the restriction to two children for every couple in 2015. Reactions from the couples that feel the effects of this modified policy are diverse and problematic: there are those who welcome the re-engineering and those who feel indifferent and tend toward what has become the social norm of a single child.

So why scrap the one-child policy if it seemed many people were accustomed to it? Well, the primary factor is money (forget how couples feel about these reproduction commandments). The intent of the one-child policy originated in economic concerns, as it seemed a check on population was necessary to ensure continued industrial development. The enforcement of the policy over time, however, revealed a host of dangerous demographic trends with economic repercussions: for example, a gender imbalance leaning toward more males due to the Chinese patriarchal preference, and a disproportionately large number of elderly people who demand unfeasible financial support from the undersized working age population.

Demographers predict that this shift in the policy will have only a minimal effect, as it has become standard in China to have a small family—plus it’s more affordable. Government officials in the city of Yichang recently tried galvanizing its citizens to actualize the new policy in response to couples’ reluctant attitudes. The letter they published had to be taken down, as it probably lacked approval from the National Health and Family Planning Commission and was widely viewed as a condemnation of Beijing’s heaven-sent regulations of the past.

And here lies a critical issue in China’s implementation of the one- and two-child policies, beyond the perhaps adverse economic and demographic consequences: lack of organization and unity among provinces. The various provinces of China hold the responsibility of enforcing the family planning policies, but no individual province wants to take the first plunge, which is to create clear programs in their healthcare sectors. Family planning officials across the nation, as they receive different training province-to-province, might not apply equal degrees of rigidity to the two-child policy. One investigation of this disparity chanced on a strict official who claimed a mother would not be allowed to have a child and bear the accompanying fine juxtaposed with another official who seemed to not care how many children a mother wanted to have. As a result of the confusion surrounding how to implement the policy, some wonder if the coercive abortions so prevalent in the enforcement of the one-child policy will carry over and affect violators of the two-child limit. Even God might have difficulty controlling such a diverse country.

The abortions were sometimes voluntary, though, as many Chinese couples preferred “spending” their only allowed child on a baby boy. But when the two-child policy was enacted, it became clear that Chinese families would have a less difficult choice to make—yet their obsession with the gender of unborn children did not fade away. Relatives and strangers alike have been reported infringing on the privacy of pregnant mothers, asking them if they could find out the gender of their second child before birth.

Some might argue that these policies, in spite of the violation of women’s rights and the strange social dynamics that have evolved as a result of child selectivity, are worth it for the collective good of China in principle. Even if this were universally accepted, many experts have pulled together data into reports that invalidate claims of the campaigns’ successes for the Chinese population as a whole.

The Chinese government either needs to stop playing God or unify its doctrine. After all, the people can only worship for so long.