On the 19th of July 2013, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced that from that day on, anyone who arrived to Australia by boat, without documents and in search for asylum, will not be able to stay on Australian territory as a refugee.
For a country who’s national anthem ironically sings: “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”, Australia is bound to suffer grave consequences in its international affairs. Amnesty International commented by saying that we should “Mark this day as the day in which Australia decided to close its doors on the most vulnerable people in the world, closed the door and threw away the keys”.
As an alternative, Australia has decided to give to the immigrants who arrive on boats, the key to the doors of neighboring Papua New Guinea. Anyone who will be intercepted in Australian waters will be sent to Papua New Guinea, where they will be able to request asylum. If their request is approved, they will be refugees in Papua, a country that is internationally classified as a third-world country, where locals barely have adequate access to education and sanitation, and there is a very high criminal rate.
The Australian government has stated that they will give economic aid to Papua, to compensate for the expenses of the immigrants that will be sent to their territory, but will this be enough considering that the government in Papua can’t even aid its own people that suffer in extreme conditions of poverty?
This event has marked a perilous precedent in international law, considering that this is the first time that a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees (both countries have ratified) had completely closed its doors to potential refugees.
Chiara Romano Bosch.