The Australian immigration row is back in full swing after a brief lapse due to unique circumstances.
18 April 2012
Australian immigration row resumes
The ongoing Australian immigration row has resumed with the arrival of 55 asylum seekers after a brief lapse due to 10 Chinese asylum seekers threw the issue into a different light.
Last week the arrival of 10 Chinese members of the oppressed Falun Gong spiritual movement brought the Australian immigration row to a lurching halt after it was revealed the asylum seekers intended to pursue their claim for asylum in New Zealand instead of Australia.
The Chinese group did not want to apply for asylum in Australia due the country's policy of mandatory detention. The group's boat was brought to Australia after running into difficulties and several members of the group were granted an Australia visa before recommencing their journey to New Zealand.
However, after extensive talks with Australian officials, the group was persuaded of the dangers of the journey and eventually applied for asylum in Australia.
The group's almost unique situation came as a shock for many involved in the immigration row as it was the first case of potential refugees being reluctant to claim asylum in Australia.
Yet the arrival of a fresh boat of 55 asylum seekers close to the Australian mainland has sparked fresh insults from both sides of the political spectrum.
The ongoing debate concerns the inability of the Australian government to reach a compromise on how best to tackle the issue and while the stalemate continues, record numbers of asylum seekers continue to arrive.
The latest arrival brings the total number to over 400 asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters within the past week.
"The question remains for [Opposition Leader Tony Abbott]: how many more boats have to arrive, how many more lives risked, before he stops the negativity, puts the national interest ahead of political interest, and allow the government of the day to implement its policies?" said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
"Australians realise that we need a genuine deterrent in place to prevent these types of dangerous boat journeys, but Tony Abbott continues to stand in the way of offshore processing."
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare concurred with Mr Bowen:
"If Mr Abbott is serious about stopping the boats he must stop saying no and pass our legislation to allow asylum seekers to be processed offshore in Malaysia and Nauru."
The Australian government favours a policy of processing asylum seekers in third party countries yet the proposal was halted in the High Court last year and the opposition has refused to discuss changing legislation to allow the law to pass.
The opposition meanwhile blames the government for the arrivals and claims the previous Coalition government, headed by John Howard, had effective policies which prevented boat arrivals altogether. Opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison labelled the boat arrivals as Prime Minister Julia Gillard's 'biggest policy failure'.
"Labor's only response to their failure is to blame the opposition, rather than be accountable for their own decisions," said Mr Morrison.
"Blaming the opposition is not a policy, just another lame excuse from a government that has given up.
"The Labor government has offered people smugglers a more attractive business model at every opportunity with more boats and more people the result."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their applications with the Australian Embassy.