Theoretical Malcolm and the 'consequences' of refugees: #LetThemStay

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“We are providing every incentive to the people on Nauru to go back to their country of origin… But if we don’t take a firm line here, we know what the consequences will be.” ~ Malcolm Turnbull, ABC 'Insiders', 7/2/2016

Malcolm Turnbull's assertion that showing any compassion will result in adverse consequences for the nation is unsupported by the evidence, writes Jay Holmstrom, dispelling some myths.

The latest controversy regarding Australia’s refugee crisis has been embodied by 267 men and women seeking refuge, 37 Australian born infants and one prime minister. Despite immense backlash from the Australian public, and four of six state and territory premiers offering to house the refugees, they will continue to be, as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said:

“.... [sent back] to a life of physical and emotional trauma.” 

During an interview to ABC Insiders earlier this month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the government’s stance on deporting the refugees back to Nauru, saying:

“If we don’t take a firm line, we know what the consequences will be.”

Prime Minister Turnbull theorised that the "consequences" of not deporting refugees will include an influx of maritime asylum seekers arriving via boat.

Turnbull’s claims reaffirm remarks made last year by Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, who said:

 “... children and their parents are being used as a form of deterrence.”

The 267 asylum seekers have already been housed on Nauru for an unstated period of time. The average length of time refugees are detained for has risen from approximately nine months in 2014, to 445 days as of 2016. In the United States, the average processing time is 30 days, Canada 25 and France only 10 [Geneva Based Global Detention Project].

In a paper written as the basis of discussion regarding Australia’s asylum seeker policies, it is speculated that 'decisions to be made on all [asylum seekers] might be three years' by the end of June next year.

The World Health Organisation has described a 'lack of privacy… of meaningful activity, isolation from social networks [and] insecurity about future prospects' as catalysts for negative mental health effects. This dangerous game the Government is playing with refugees may be coupled with mental illness, trauma, difficulty regulating emotions and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their detention.

Turnbull continuously emphasised maintaining the “security of the border” was paramount, yet the fallout of inhumane detention will likely put the nation at more risk in the future.

Dr Zachary Steel, Clinical Psychologist at the University of New South Wales, asserts that despite all the efforts Australia makes to detain asylum seekers, eventually 

“... 85% of people detained in detention centers will become Australian citizens.”

The physical and social problems permitted to fester in detention centers will, inevitably, follow asylum seekers into society as a result of the Government’s “firm line”.

A report by the UNHCR in 1997 found that when asylum seekers are effectively and humanely integrated into society

'... incidence of crime may rise no more than would be expected in a population group of the new size.'

Countries such as Australia have not permitted enough refugees to enter its borders for effective studies of what the “consequences” Turnbull describes may be. Unless Australia is willing to integrate a higher number of refugees into society, the Government possesses little evidence on the effects of providing asylum seekers refuge in the Australian context.

As a result, studies have been conducted in countries such as Uganda, where the ability to interact and work with refugees is remarkably higher.

In one such study, titled Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions, it is found that 83% of refugee business owners purchase goods and services from the host country. Choosing to benefit the host economy, as opposed to cheaper emerging economies such as India or China. In studying urban refugee business owners, it was found that almost half of their employed workforces consist of citizens from the host country. The remaining numbers consisted of employing and providing opportunities to disenfranchised refugees. A common misconception within Australia is that refugees are self-isolating and refuse to integrate. However, this study makes it evident that refugee business owners seek to create an inclusive and equal opportunity workplace.

A refugee business owner from the study stated: 

"The majority of the employees are Ugandans...We are hosted by Uganda so I think we should give [employment] priority to members of our local host."

Detaining asylum seekers offshore is costing Australian tax payers $1 billion a year; or as Daniel Webb, director of the Human Rights Law Centre, puts it:

“More than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for all of South East Asia." 

 A study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in conjunction with the UNHCR, has found that, for every dollar spent accommodating refugees, an additional 50 cents is injected into the economy. If the Australian government were to circulate the funds it spends on integrating refugees into society, rather than detaining them, the Australian economy would see up to $1.5 billion dollars flow into the nation’s slowing economy.

An overwhelming amount of Australians are attempting to prevent the deportation of the refugees back to Nauru, rallying in protests across the nation. The protests aim to prevent some of the psychological fallout from detention, secure the future of the nation’s economy and support the Aussie ethos of a “fair go”.

All Australian citizens have to rely upon in Turnbull’s decision are theories without evidence and hope in a government that has currently failed to meet 70% of its promises since 2013 [ABC Factcheck].

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Theoretical Malcolm and the 'consequences' of refugees: #LetThemStay

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