After last month's disaster which saw an estimated 90 people killed when two Australia-bound asylum seeking boats sank in Indonesian waters, the fall out from the situation has begun, with much of the country's news entirely focused on the Australian immigration situation, although an actual solution still looks beyond the reach of politicians.
Politicians desperately tried to find a suitable deterrent to put potential asylum seekers off but the bitter row that's driven political dispute since talks first broke down in January proved stronger than the need for a solution. So while the parliament broke for its six week winter break without a solution in place and boats continue to arrive, the ramifications of last month's tragedy are beginning to be felt.
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has criticised all four political parties for their inability to find a solution to the ongoing Australian immigration situation...read more.
The Australian Greens claim that Australia can reduce the number of asylum seekers boarding unsafe boats by resettling more asylum seekers in Indonesia...read more.
The Australian government has questioned the demand of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to release 54 people smugglers in Australian custody over claims they are underage...read more.
The dire economic situation in Greece has meant that more and more anxious Greeks are looking to move abroad...read more.
Independent MP slams parties over asylum row
Rob Oakeshott has expressed his
frustration at the political impasse
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has criticised all four political parties for their inability to find a solution to the ongoing Australian immigration situation.
The asylum seeker issue has plagued Australian politics in recent months but the issue came to a head last month when two Australia bound asylum seeking boats capsized in Indonesian waters, killing as many as 90 people. Politicians have remained in a deadlock over how to best address the issue: the government wants offshore processing in Malaysia, the Coalition in Nauru and the Australian Greens oppose offshore processing altogether.
A private members' bill proposed by Mr Oakeshott offered a compromise by allowing for offshore processing in both Malaysia and Nauru but despite making it through the House of Representatives, was quickly voted down in the Senate and parliament broke for its winter break without a solution.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has since appointed a special committee headed by former Air Chief Marshal Houston to find a solution to the issue which would both provide a suitable deterrent to people smugglers and prove tenable to all political parties.
However, Mr Oakeshott, who claimed to hold little hope for the bill's passage through the Senate, has criticised the committee's formation and urged Ms Gillard, Liberals leader Tony Abbott, his Coalition partner and leader of the National Party Warren Truss, and Greens leader Christine Milne to find a solution to the issue themselves.
"Those four people could resolve this through sensible debate," said Mr Oakeshott. "It is political party leadership that has failed and failed for some time."
Ms Gillard reportedly offered the independent MP a position on the committee but Mr Oakeshott declined, saying the House of Representatives passed the bill and she should instead appoint two Senate cross benchers to the committee.
"Last week clearly identified that the Senate is now the toy of the political parties, I tried to accommodate all views through a private member's bill, and it failed in the Senate for political purposes.
"The House of Representatives did its job; the people's house made a statement, and the Senate, the so-called house of review, failed."
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Greens push for asylum seeker settlement in Indonesia
Senator Hanson-Young says the
government can reduce boat
numbers by increasing the
The Australian Greens claim that Australia can reduce the number of asylum seekers boarding unsafe boats by resettling more asylum seekers in Indonesia.
The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters reached a record high last month and the worrying trend was also underlined by the capsizing of two boats in a week which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 90 people.
The disasters ignited a furious political debate over how best to address the issue but a solution could not be found and politicians broke for the six week winter break knowing that more boats would come.
The two major political parties, the ruling Labor Party and the opposing Coalition, both favour offshore processing but cannot agree on a destination. It looked as though the government had scored a decisive victory when a bill which would permit processing in Malaysia, the government's preferred destination, passed the House of Representatives before it was voted out in the Senate.
The Australian Greens, who helped strike the bill down in the Senate, are opposed to offshore processing of any kind and have urged the government to up the annual intake of refugees.
The Greens immigration spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, says that further disasters similar to last month's could be avoided if Australia was prepared to resettle approximately 2,500 asylum seekers in Indonesia as an increased intake has been shown to decrease boat arrivals before.
"18 months ago when Australia took more people from Indonesia, more people than they usually do, it made a dramatic difference to the numbers of people boarding boats," said Senator Hanson-Young.
"The numbers dropped."
The Greens Senator dismissed suggestions that asylum seekers were aware of the ongoing political debate over the issue.
"I did ask about that and I had a very frank response from one mother who said 'what would I know about Australian politics? I've spent years trying to find safety for my children. That's what I'm focussed on.'
"We have to understand the motivations of these people and the motivation is for safety and protection for their children, nothing more, nothing less."
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Australia resists Indonesian demands over underage people smugglers
Indonesian President Yudhoyono
has demanded underage crew
members of asylum seeking
boats be returned to Indonesia.
The Australian government has questioned the demand of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to release 54 people smugglers in Australian custody over claims they are underage.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with President Yudhoyono on Tuesday, 3 July, to discuss the ongoing asylum seeker situation which has plagued Australian politics since the capsizing of two boats last month which resulted in the deaths of 90 people.
Boat arrivals carrying asylum seekers reached record levels last month; a disappointing statistic for Australian politicians who have repeatedly stated their intention to prevent people boarding unreliable boats in dangerous waters.
As Indonesia is typically the main destination point for asylum seekers who attempt to make it to the Australian territory of Christmas Island, Ms Gillard and President Yudhoyono met to agree to better cooperation in tackling the issue.
While the two leaders agreed to confront the issue together, President Yudhoyono urged Ms Gillard to take 'all necessary steps' to release 54 underage Indonesians who were arrested as part of asylum seeking boat crews.
All people aboard asylum seeking boats are detained under Australian policy, with boat crews prosecuted where possible; if a crew member is deemed to be adolescent, they are typically taken back to Indonesia and released.
However, people smugglers are aware of this fact and routinely recruit children to shepherd asylum seekers but Australian authorities suspect that many crew members lie to authorities about their age in order to secure release.
Australia currently as 79 crew members in custody, just 10 of whom have been confirmed as underage and are set to be sent home and checks will be carried out on eight others, the other 51 could face prosecution.
Indonesian authorities contest this figure and claim Australia is charging minors, or detained adults who originally arrived in Australia as minors, incorrectly.
"For us, they are victims," said Andalusia Dewi, head of consular affairs at the Indonesian embassy. "They don't know what they are doing, they are being tricked by the real smugglers."
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Record Australia visa applications from fleeing Greeks
Leaders fear the fallout if
Greece leaves the Euro.
The dire economic situation in Greece has meant that more and more anxious Greeks are looking to move abroad.
In the same week that UK Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to close the country's borders to migrants fleeing debt ridden European countries, particularly Greece, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that Australia visa numbers granted to Greek citizens have more than doubled in the past year.
The situation in Greece has left Europe on a precipice, threatening to most of the continent into further economic uncertainty. With an unstable government and an unemployment rate of 22%, Greek citizens are looking to leave for greener pastures elsewhere.
While the UK economy's struggle through recession may justify Mr Cameron's threats to close the country's doors to Greek migrants, the Australian economy, fuelled by the resources boom, continues to go from strength to strength, making an attractive proposition to many Greeks.
Australia is also home to one of the largest Greek communities in the world and, with skills shortages predicted to be an inevitable result of a relatively low population and an thriving economy, Australia may be more willing to welcome eager Greek workers than the UK.
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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.
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