Indonesia asks Australia to increase refugee intake

by Mark Benson on July 13, 2012

in Australia Immigration

Destination Australia!

The Indonesian government has today issued a plea to their Australian counterparts to increase the number of refugees the country is willing to take. This comes at a time when relations between the two countries are becoming strained because of Australia’s difficulty in putting together a long-term and acceptable refugee intake policy. The situation is likely to get very much worse before it gets better and the Indonesian government is demanding further help from overseas counterparts.

What is the problem in Indonesia?

The problem within Indonesia is that many of the refugees who have been forced to remain in the country were initially looking to move to Australia. There are in excess of 5,000 refugees who have officially signed up within Indonesia but the authorities believe there could be an additional 10,000 living there without the relevant paperwork. This is a problem which has been getting very much worse over the years and official estimates suggest there may be around 100,000 people in Malaysia waiting for the green light to go to Australia – via Indonesia.

Religion

While the Indonesian government is unwilling to admit there are religious issues at stake there is no doubt that Shi’ite Muslims from Afghanistan and Iran are causing friction within the predominantly Sunni country of Indonesia. There is well documented friction between these factions back in Iran, Iraq, etc and this is now transferring into other countries around the world.

Cultural differences

The Indonesian authorities have also highlighted issues regarding culture and the friction which this is causing between the local community and the refugee community. Indeed there have been suggestions of drugs and various other crimes being committed by the refugees and this is not going down well with the local population. There is also growing concern that the sovereignty of Indonesia may well be at risk in the medium to longer term unless the issue is resolved as soon as possible.

What can Australia do?

Australia recognises refugee status as much as any other nation around the world although it is the way in which these refugee applications are to be processed which seems to be causing most problems. The government tried to push through various pieces of legislation but these were either blocked in the High Court of the Australian Senate. There seems to be in a cross-party agreement to rectify the issue as soon as possible but so far nothing has been placed upon the statute books.

Is it Australia’s problem?

There are many in Australia questioning exactly why they should need to increase their refugee intake purely and simply to relieve pressures in other countries such as Indonesia. While this would seem to be a fair argument from any point of view, the fact is that the vast majority of refugees making their way to Indonesia are doing so with the intention of going to Australia. The Indonesian government is being swamped by the ever-growing intake and finances are being stretched not to mention cultural and religious friction.

Alternatively the Indonesian authorities, and indeed other authorities in the region, are concerned that Australia was giving the impression it was looking to take on more refugees only for the proposed changes and laws to be held up. When you consider that Indonesian government also estimates that around 100,000 people are waiting to leave Malaysia for Australia, via Indonesia, this situation is now becoming critical.

Increased cost of immigration

Even though the Australian authorities have admitted it is not acceptable to see refugees attempting to land in Australia using boats which are not seaworthy there is an underlying cost to an increase in immigration numbers. However, what price do you put on the life of a refugee as we see more and more boats capsizing and literally hundreds of refugees dying on route to the country?

This is starting to become a major problem for the Australian authorities and they are very much stuck in the middle. On one hand we have Australian taxpayers who are wondering when the ongoing investment in the immigration system will halt, after billions of dollars have already been invested, while on the other side we have close overseas partners placing more pressure on the government. Each refugee boat which sinks places more and more pressure upon the authorities and it is now getting to a situation where it cannot go on for much longer.

Future meeting

The Indonesian government has requested a meeting between Australia, Indonesia and Malaysian officials in October or November this year. The idea is that they can map out the future of the immigration and refugee system in the region and no doubt more pressure will be placed upon Australia to play a more active role in the situation. If the authorities are unable to agree a deal going forward then quite literally where do we go from here?

On one hand the Australian government is looking to control the refugee situation while on the other the merest chance of entry into Australia has seen tens of thousands of people flocking from all areas of the world. Is there a solution?

Immigration

The immigration system in Australia is starting to creak and despite the investment of billions upon billions of dollars there are real problems under the surface. The Australian government seems determined to do the “right thing” although every attempt to control the situation seems to lead to further controversy, friction and various laws and regulations being blocked. Quite literally the government of Australia cannot do right for doing wrong!

Conclusion

The comments from the Indonesian authorities have further highlighted the ever-growing problem of immigration and in particular refugees in Australia. This is a situation which has been ongoing for some time now and one which the authorities have tried time and time again to rectify. However, the situation is now reaching boiling point and the previously strong relationship with the Indonesian government is under threat.

While increasing the number refugees accepted into Australia would help the situation in the short term it would also likely need to a massive increase in the number of refugees coming from all areas of the world. However, if the authorities continue to resist demands to increase the refugee intake then there will be further problems for Indonesia as the number of refugees looking to Australia is still growing. Is there really a simple solution?

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