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Boat people as blanket categories April 19, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

The Australian government’s decision to embargo the processing of asylum-seeker applications from Afghans and Sri Lankans is widely attributed to electoral posturing. But it can also be read as a continuation of the control philosophy that has been the bedrock of Australia’s border policy for decades. The fact is that the number of refugees admitted in the last two to three years has been a tiny tithe of the total number of migrants (for example in the year 2007-08 roughly 6 per cent relative to the 206,135 “permanent migrants” [Graeme Hugo, “Refugee and Humanitarian Settlement in Australia: Recent Trends,” presentation to Symposium on Child Refugee Health and Wellbeing, National Wine Centre of Australia, Adelaide, 29 October 2009]

By emphasising the increase in the number of boats penetrating Australian waters, but avoiding any reference to the proportion of such boat people in comparison with (a) refugees officially admitted and (b) permanent migrants under the skilled and family reunion categories, the media has catered to the fear-mongering pressed by some politicians. In sum, therefore, one can surmise that the hoary Australian paranoia about ‘Asian hordes’ and foreign ‘contaminants’ permeates the hardline position in an insidious fashion.