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.