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Immigration policy idiocy

Alana Lentin in The Guardian has the solution to Australia’s asylum seeker difficulties – an open borders policy.  This policy avoids all border protection costs by abolishing border protection – anyone who wishes to reside in Australia could do so.

In the previous post I cited a link to Amnesty that summarises current information on asylum seekers and displaced persons. I condense what is a longish quote from that link:

In 2011, an estimated 4.3 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution. More than 800,000 people were displaced as refugees across international borders, the highest number in more than a decade. Another 3.5 million people were newly displaced within the borders of their countries, a 20 per cent increase from 2010

Of the world’s displaced, 25.9 million people were receiving protection or assistance from UNHCR at the end of 2011 (10.4 million refugees and 15.5 million Internally Displaced Peoples). This was 700,000 people more than in 2010.

…..According to governmental statistics, 22 countries admitted 79,800 refugees for resettlement during 2011(with or without UNHCR assistance). The United States of America received the highest number (51,500)

I am interested how a country with a public health system and a social security safety net might fare if it declared “open borders” in this international environment.  Has Ms. Lentin heard of “adverse selection”? Would criminals and those with pre-existing medical conditions be admitted?  Would those who were illiterate or members of terrorist groups be admitted ?  What would be the effect on wages and employment for the worst-off Australian workers, those with limited skills, if an avalanche of unskilled workers from other countries set up here? Even if there were efficiency gains (doubtful for adverse selection reasons) the functional distribution of income would alter disastrously in favour of fixed asset holders and the wealthy.

“Open borders” implies no selectivity. This is obviously going too far. The planned Australian intake of humanitarian migrants is around half the actual current intake of the US (as noted above it has the world’s largest intake) even though our population is less than 1/12th that of the US.

The suggested policy will never be adopted but  I wonder how people can arrive at such stupid positions.  Do you just present a view that sounds “humanitarian” without giving the consequences of adopting that view a moment’s thought?  Look at the numbers in the quote and understand that for much of Australia’s history population growth due to immigration has been around 1% of our population. The 2011/2012 intake at 185,000 was around 0.8% of population.  Even with these migration levels the strains on our infrastructure were massive – particularly in western Sydney. Look at the numbers in the Amnesty quote and imagine what might happen to all these problems if an intake resulting from an “open borders” policy occurred.

For years Australia struggled with a “family” oriented migration program that was unnecessarily costly for the country. It was maintained only because it kept incumbent governments in power.  Finally a more selective program, based to at least a weak degree on skills. was introduced. Now the proposal is to go back to the worst immigration policy imaginable.  Namely to abolish any weight to Australia’s national interest, abolish any idea of selectivity by allowing anyone who wished to come to Australia for any reason to do so.

This type of thoughtless proposal imperils the current migration program.  Such irresponsible chatter makes people fear migration even more than they already do.

Update: Has someone added some LSD to the Kool-Aid? Or is  it April 1 in some distant universe?  Here is a different and equally stupid approach to solving the asylum seeker problem. Australia should send its roving good-will ambassadors to the countries where all the asylum seekers are coming from (Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan I guess), sort out all their internal political problems and then the asylum seekers would simply stop coming.  No cruelty involved and much cheaper.  It is almost comical because the authors write with such seriousness.  I guess that with Barry Humphries ending his acting career he could do his Sir Les Patterson bit and head off to Sri Lanka and sort out these ornery Tamils and Sinhalese.  Just tell them to start behaving in a decent Christian way, to love one another and, with a broad Aussie chuckle to demonstrate his fundamental Aussi decency, they would just fall in line.  You could have an “open door” policy, along the line of Alana’s suggestion,  but no-one would want to come because they would all be living so happily together.

Like Alana, this lot seem to be university academics. It’s a concern.


3 comments to Immigration policy idiocy

  • Jim Rose

    I do not think that open borders will win many votes.

    open border is good for rallying the young troops of the far left around policies that shock the out-group.

    Alana Lentin or a fellow traveller should run for parliament on this idea. It is dead easy to get into upper houses in Australia. Even the DLP rose from its ashes to get into the Senate. lost count of how many minor parties across the states and territories.

    Rudd’s PNG policy aims to stop people entering by dangerous means: leaky boats.

    stopping leaky boats is a separate issue from the size of the refugee quota, which is generous in size.

    Every country has a limited amount of sympathy for foreigners. As Adam Smith argued well long ago, sympathy drops away with social distance.

  • Slim Pickens

    Good work, Harry. The issue du jour for sure. I’ve read lots of online discussions on the asylum seeker issue. Both sides of the debate raise serious questions which are not easily answered.

    There are actually two issues here that are conflated into one, often for political reasons, by both sides – the extent of our compassion and our capacity to sustain it. They really need to be considered seperately, which is the current legislative practice. Effective policy development will require acknowledgement of this reality and application to both with equal fervour.

  • Mel

    From Canada:

    “A secret government survey reveals the majority of successful Tamil refugees travel back to Sri Lanka, raising questions about the legitimacy of their refugee status.

    To become a refugee, a claimant must prove they are in danger of torture, there is a risk to their life or meet other criteria showing they will face persecution in their home country. Yet this did not stop over 70% of successful Tamil refugee claimants surveyed from returning to Sri Lanka for vacations, business or to sponsor family members.”

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