Australia’s strict immigration policy, enacted under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has come under fire from the UN for allegedly breaking international law by returning asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, where they may be persecuted or harmed. The WSJ:
Amid reports Australia’s navy was preparing to hand over more than 150 ethnic Tamils intercepted at sea to the Sri Lankan navy in a secret mid-ocean operation, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government was doing nothing to endanger the lives of asylum seekers with his uncompromising stance on unauthorized immigration. […]The U.N.’s refugee agency said it had “profound concern” about the interception at sea of individuals who may be seeking Canberra’s protection, although it said there wasn’t yet any confirmation of alleged events, including that the Australian navy had done only rudimentary assessment of asylum seekers’ bona fides using teleconferenced questions.“When boats presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers are intercepted, UNHCR’s position is that requests for international protection should be considered within the territory of the intercepting state, consistent with fundamental refugee protection principles,” the agency said in a statement.
Tony Abbott won over the electorate with his pledge to make immigration laws more stringent, promising to instate “rules preventing even asylum seekers assessed as genuine refugees from ever settling in Australia.” And the policy is admittedly successful:
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the government’s border laws were working to end the flow of boats to his country, mainly carrying people from South Asia, Iran and the Middle East, with no successful arrivals in the last six months.Under the previous Labor government, more than 12,000 asylum seekers arrived in the same six-month period a year earlier, a relatively small number by international standards but deeply worrying to many Australians.
There’s nothing pleasant about a country enforcing border control; it means turning back desperate people, often to places where they will continue to suffer. However, countries do have the sovereign right and responsibility to regulate their borders. Given the ongoing humanitarian crisis on our own borders, that’s a lesson that the Obama Administration should take to heart as well.