mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Border Crossings
Australia's Immigration Policy Comes Under Fire from UN

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    “However, countries do have the sovereign right and responsibility to regulate their borders.” End of story. The U.N Refugee Agency should find another home for the refugees in question, if it can. The more pertinent question is why the U.S. is providing 22 percent of regular budget, more than 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget, and additional billions in assessed and voluntary contributions to an openly-hostile organization?

    • LarryD

      “why the U.S. is providing …”

      Because an influential faction of citizens has the delusion that the U.N. is the precusor to World Government and Utopia.

      Maybe if we accused them being accessories to the U.N. crimes; the rapes, thiefs, murders; they’d realize how much evil the U.N. commits.

    • gabrielsyme

      The U.N Refugee Agency should find another home for the refugees in question, if it can.

      If they are actual refugees, rather than economic migrants, Australia has no right to send them back to suffer violence and persecution. If, on the other hand, they are not genuine refugees with a legitimate fear of violence and oppression in Sri Lanka, they have no right to be harboured anywhere.

      It sounds as though Australia did evaluate whether they were truly
      refugees and determined they were not refugees but ordinary migrants. I
      cannot disagree with that assessment, but that does not mean Australia or other nations do not have obligations to true refugees.

      • Andrew Allison

        I think we may have lost sight of the issue here, namely a nation’s sovereign right to regulate its borders. There is, as you point out below, a moral obligation to aid refugees (as opposed to economic migrants), but it is clearly the right of the individual country, not the UN, to decide who enters it and under what circumstances. If the U.N. assumes responsibility for refugees, it also assumes responsibility for finding a country willing to accept and care for them.

        • gabrielsyme

          Well, a sovereign right does not mean that the exercise of that right is not restricted by one’s moral obligations. I am not sure that the UN does assume full responsibility for refugees; and even if it claims to, I cannot say that it is ever acceptable to outsource one’s moral responsibilities, much less to the United Nations.

  • Corlyss

    “There’s nothing pleasant about a country enforcing border control;”

    What planet is the author of this statement living on? Of course there is something unpleasant about it. Enforcing border control is inherently xenophobic and racist. Just as those mo*ro*ns at the UN. Everyone knows that when it comes to enforcing border control or allowing desperate people at the gates to enter because their need is so much greater, refugee rights trump the nation’s rights every time. Just ask the Obama administration.

    “countries do have the sovereign right and responsibility to regulate their borders.”

    Not any more, they don’t. Not since the UN set up a refugee czar. Not since immigration from undesirable failed states to rich successful nations, at a time when nationalism was identified as one of the great evils of the 20th century, was identified as a human right. Refusing these expensive drains on a nation’s assets is a “crime against humanity,” and what nation would allow itself to be identified as such a criminal?

  • gabrielsyme

    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.

    While this is so, it remains the moral and legal obligation of any nation intercepting those who face persecution or the credible threat of violence in their home countries to harbour and protect them. I cannot say if Sri Lankan Tamils are likely to fall into such a category- I imagine not, under present circumstances; but it is a very different thing for groups such as the Rohingya fleeing Burma, or for many Christians living in Pakistan or Afghanistan, or just about anyone from North Korea. A clear distinction must be made between economic migrants and those fleeing persecution. To the latter, compassion must be extended.

    • Boritz

      ” To the latter…”
      We’re going to categorize?
      We don’t do that very well. If you want to receive welfare all you need to do is demonstrate that you are poor. It doesn’t matter if you watch video games with all your time or if you actually look for a job. The administrators don’t really care why you’re poor. And the only characteristic they look for in potential immigrants is whether they will likely vote democrat. One voter is as good as another regardless of the situation in their homeland.

      • gabrielsyme

        Of course we categorise. Unless you really want open borders, in which case you don’t have to distinguish; but refusing asylum to those who often face death for such crimes as “apostasy” or on trumped-up charges of blasphemy is completely indefensible.

  • Bruce

    Accepting these people would lead to a dilution of existing culture and problems with assimilation. It is a very difficult issue.

  • Boritz

    ” While it is certainly draconian, countries do have a sovereign right to control their borders.” [emphasis added]

    This story seems to be literally about boatloads of people attempting to enter the country without going through a legal immigration checkpoint and not having filled out the requisite paperwork. &nbspAnd they meet with no success. &nbspAnd that is draconian…

  • Rick Johnson

    You need a bit of history to understand why most Australians think the UN refugee agency’s comments are a bit of a joke. In 2007, a new Labor government relaxed Australia’s border controls which brought about a big influx of illegal immigrants to Australia, primarily in small, often un-seaworthy, boats from Indonesia. Most of these illegal immigrants were from the Middle East or Africa, who had flown to Indonesia to enter Australia illegally. Under Labor’s misrule, hundreds of thousands of these people made their way to Australia. The Australian navy became a taxi service, ferrying these people from their boats, often very close to the Indonesian coast, to Australia’s processing center on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

    The worse aspect of Labor’s failure is that, based on Labor’s own estimate, over 1,200 people died at sea. The most deadliest peacetime policy of any Australian government ever.

    By 2014, Australians had had enough. They elected Tony Abbott to ‘Stop the boats’ and that is what he has done. There have been no boat arrivals in Australia for six months and no deaths at sea. This carnage has been stopped because Abbott and his Immigration Minister have been prepared to take tough measures such as the ones the UN is criticising. However, as most Australians are well aware, if Abbott weakens his stance, the boats will be back and so will the deaths. Australians are too compassionate to want that to happen.

    Australians generally welcome immigrants, but they want they want some say over who comes to Australia. On a population basis, Australia is up there with the US and Canada in the number of legal immigrants they welcome to their country. It’s the ones who try to come in through the back door that Australians have a problem with.

  • lukelea

    “However, countries do have the sovereign right and responsibility to regulate their borders.”

    And when immigration becomes excessive it is time to exercise that right. I’d like to see an across-the-board immigration moratorium (pause, time-out) here in the US, until we can assimilate and integrate the 40 million or so foreign-born who are already here, the vast majority of whom are from societies with no or very weak democratic traditions.

    In the meantime I think we need to do more research on the question of whether mass immigration is good for the development of the poor countries from which most immigrants come. I suspect that it is not.

    As for the 11 million illegals, I would gladly amnesty them in return for the above.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Australia gets by with less of the burden of exceptionalism than does the USA. We are not just another Australia.

  • Godless Conservative

    Good for them, tell the U.N to find another place for these “Migrants”. Maybe Japan, China, Mexico or even Saudi Arabia.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service