The Australia immigration policy is partly known for mandatory immigration detention law that targets individuals seeking asylum and other unauthorized immigration and arrivals. The law introduced various issues related to border handling of foreigners that has generated a lot of public and international attention such as the Church, Psychologists, activists, and United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Mandatory immigration detention policy is seen as controversial since it promotes outsourcing of detention centers including the processes some of which occur offshore. In other words, the processes are carried out by the government, international organizations, and private security firms hence diversifying the actors introduces other interests other than that of the government. However, despite the negative views, the Australian government and supporters of the law sees that it protects and reasserts sovereignty and helps fight crime such as terrorism in the current global environment where criminal take advantage of international refugee policy to successfully accomplish their missions internationally.
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There are also the economic arguments by supporters that the law helps to safeguard the public economy and resources from demographic pressure imposed by unauthorized immigrants. Some sociologists believe that this law promotes racial-geographical exceptionalism and increases the nation’s insular possession conscience (Mountz, 2011; Lutterbeck, 2009).
This law was established and implemented during the Hawke and Keating Labor governments and it did not receive any significant public limelight during the two regimes (Neumann & Tavan, 2009; Andrew & Eden, 2011; Poynting & Mason, 2008). However, the current public concerns started to develop during the Howard Coalition government, which claimed that the law seemed to promote anti-migration sentiment in what politics experts, believe was part of the political tactics the new government used to dominate the social political environment. The interest of the Howard coalition government wanted reinforce the ideology of unique democracy that allowed the nation to determine the individuals the wanted to authorize to enter Australia and thus strengthen their sovereignty (Andrew & Eden, 2011; Poynting & Mason, 2008).
Studies show that asylum seekers were affected with this policy in the following ways. To start with, all non-citizens that arrived in Australia without valid visas had to be deported or arrested and detained until they obtain valid visas. There were no provisions in the law that determined the length of detention and conditions (Coffey et al., 2010). Secondly, upon identification of the detained asylum seeker or the refugees they could only be offered with temporary visas that had a maximum validity of five years after which the holder would reapply for another visa or relocate to their country of origin (Coffey et al., 2010). Thirdly, the holders of temporary visas had had restricted privileges and government services such as income support, employment support, education, and settlement support (Coffey et al., 2010). Lastly, most detainees of the previous campaigns especially those taken to Northern offshore detention centers did not automatically resettle in Australia after their detention (Nickerson et al., 2011).
The interests of sovereign identity that was under international pressure because of geographical location and differences in civic, social, and economic status of Australia and those of the surrounding volatile states such as Indonesia drove the implementation of the Australian mandatory immigration detention policy. Geographically, Australia is an island state that is inherently bordered thus its border cannot be physically intensified. The only way that the government could ensure effective management of unauthorized immigration is through increased naval patrols and offshore detention of suspected asylum seekers. According to the Australian government, the detention of asylum seekers using the mandatory detention policy is a way of walling and bordering their state. This law is not seen as strange in the international environment because similar laws used in the United States-Mexico border and South African-Borders among others (Reid-Henry, 2007).
In the early 1970s, Australia introduced the policy of cultural integrationism, which started the politics of multiculturalism especially in state control and decision-making process. These events are believed to have been instigated by ethnicity consent, which developed from the manner in which the government conducted state resourcing of various ethnic community needs. An issue in this policy is that its basic framework does not promote full practice of the minority cultures notably the Islam. This has been evident especially after the 9/11 attacks in the United States where the state has overwhelmingly intruded the cultural and religious activities of the minority i.e. the Australian Muslims (Silove et al., 2007). The functionality of this law has been enhanced in the mandatory immigration detention law where the players that have been authorized to exercise this law manipulate the demographic outlook of the state in order to maintain the minority status of certain cultures and religion. In this instance, the suggestion is that the state mandatory immigration detention policy was consciously enacted to facilitate cultural integration policy, which promotes their racial-geographical exceptionalism needs and insular possession conscience.
The social rights activists have strongly opposed the statutory activities of the church. For a long time the government and the church have cooperated in selecting the leadership that favors cultural integration and possess certain socio-cultural attributes such as fluency in English language, culture of promoting women rights, and favoring specific diplomatic policies such as forming alliance with the United States and other Western powers. This cooperation has also led to the establishment of ethnic and religious schools that teaches Australian culture (Reid-Henry, 2007). Cultural teaching is known to transform the nation to use their democratic right to exercise the culture in decision-making, which causes negative effect to the minority groups, immigrants, and promote anti-immigration sentiments such as the mandatory immigrant detention. The conditionality of the multicultural funding and mandatory detention of the asylum seekers in Australia have no convincing legal basis but are significantly seen to promote discrimination and suppression of growth of certain cultures especially the Muslims. It also represents an awful trend that undermines religious freedom and some globalized treaties that Australia supports and is a signatory.
Various human rights and legal activists argue that the outsourcing provision in the management of asylum seekers promote non-state interests such as unacceptable cultural and racial integrationism such as Islamophobia against the migrating Muslims. Various sociologist and psychologists have studied on the implications of this law on the victims (asylum seekers) and have found various negative effects (Coffey et al., 2010; Procter, 2006). It has been suggested that the presence of the non-state agencies in the process downplay the interests and identity of the Australian government, which has led to violation of state laws and demographic disparity. There is also the implication of the process hindering globalization and anxiety over the role of privatized future. They view it as lack of strength and relevance on the part of the government for allowing the inter-governmental agencies and multinational security firms to execute the policy and demonstrate its performance strength.
There is very little information about the adaptability of asylum seekers in Australia. For instance, the detainees have to attempt to adapt to the detention environment by dealing with that indeterminate confined environment and their own judgment or measures they take have been perceived to affect their psychological health but there exist very little information about this (Steel et al., 2011; Robjant et al., 2009). Resistance has promoted this inadequacy of information and limited understanding of migration challenges, refugee agencies, and resettlement. However, the existing psychological studies on the psychological well being of detainees have reported negative effect of detention process. The description of these reports point out that prolonged detention for protracted periods may cause mild to severe psychological effects. These affected also depends on other associated conditions such as deprivation of liberal rights, social isolation, and other personal difficulties associated with the nature of the detention camp (Herlihy & Turner, 2007). There are also psychological fears of refusal by the host government to renew stay among holders of the temporary visas who fled their nations to save their lives in hosting nations. Those that are given short validity periods would always have expiry worries and this may contribute to unbearable mental distress. Those who fled inhumanity would always be convinced of being at risk of being killed in case the host nation refuses to renew their visas. Additionally, lack of comprehensive information has also been promoted by inadequate of psychological mechanisms or methods in finding meaningful information. On the contrary, many psychologists argue that the mandatory detention centers present the same mentality as walling of the international borders (Martin & Mitchelson, 2009). Both are viewed to promote the image of sovereign jurisdictional powers, bounded and secured country (Reid-Henry, 2007). However, this mentality is closely associated with anti-immigration sentiments, and at times functional erosion and inefficacy of other immigration systems.
It is evident that regional and international migration has become an important issues of the United Nation especially the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and UN Human Rights Committee in management of refugees and asylum seekers or promoting human flourishing. The issues associated with asylum migration can be categorized into four groups namely forced migration, voluntary migration, sub-national and national migrations. The United Nations simple matrix for dealing with migrations and asylum distinguish the victims between forced and voluntary migration or internally displacement and international migrations. The greatest problem that UNHCR faces concerning asylum are those involving forced international migration. The existence of border policies in nations that asylum seekers like to migrate to such as Australia that uses mandatory immigration detention have always interfered with safe migration and flow of asylum seekers. The requirement of the Australian law to detain asylum seekers that do not have authorization documents is proving hard for both Australia and United Nations. For instance, this law requires asylum seekers to present authorization documents for migration or risk being detained at mandatory immigrant detention centers. The dilemma of forced migrations are always associated with running away from threats, dangers, and disasters, most of which occur abruptly. It is logic that one cannot obtain the required documentation before running from abrupt disaster hence detaining such individuals may not be logical. However, it is hard to determine the true origin of an individual seeking asylum without relevant migration authorization. It is also hard for such migrants to prove whether the cause of his movement (i.e. forced or voluntarily) in a situation that does not involve mass movement of people. Moreover, it is also hard to determine that the origin of the detained asylum seeker is safe for resettlement and there are doubts of releasing the detained asylum seeker in situation where there are no authorization or identification documents (Nickerson et al., 2011). The UN agencies dealing with migration need to inform nations receiving asylum seekers about the situation in their nation of origin. These agencies should help in the identification of asylum seekers in the immediately they are forced to move i.e. before they cross the international borders (Smith et al., 2010). In this process, the migrants should be given identification and authorization documents by the international migration body. This would help the recipient nation to easily identify the asylum seekers and avoid detaining them.
There is a perception among governments that the migrating individuals usually deny the fact of having strong desires to improve their living conditions and that of their families from the developed economic nations and thus denied entry in the country by implementing tougher immigration policies such as the mandatory immigration detention. This is because most governments of developed nations express dissatisfaction with certain population distribution patterns but do not have clear, consistent, and realistic legal mechanisms of changing the trends. The Australian mandatory immigration detention policy is being implicated to suppress the growth of certain minority groups most notably the Muslims. It is acceptable to implement immigration laws but the essence for enacting such laws should not aim at discriminating certain groups. It is also important that the manner in which the law has been drafted should not cause negative effect – mentally/psychologically, physically, and culturally – to the target individuals because it leads to violation of human rights, creates negative diplomatic image to the international community, and negatively affect globalization which is important to globalization and modern day commerce. Lastly, it would be important to thank the intervention of psychologists and social activists for campaigning against violation of human rights using this law and this has led to effective exercising of mandatory immigration detention law. The perception that discriminatory immigration control (racial-geographical exceptionalism and insular possession conscience) promotes the economy is not a correct socio-economical view.
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