SYDNEY, Australia – The nation once renowned for the world’s most secure borders and toughest stance on illegal aliens is today a country of open borders, overflowing detention centers and surging illegal arrivals.
To add insult to injury, late last month an illegal alien was arrested in connection to the sexual assault of an Australian university student.
Australian Jimmy Kelly, with a lifelong interest in border protection, cautioned that it “takes years” for the full extent of border security failure to manifest.
“Just a few years ago we were the envy of the world with this stuff. Everyone knew not to mess with Australia. To come through the right channels or be detained and sent home. We were tough and patriotic. So, almost no one tried for almost seven years,” he said.
“Then the Australian left took over the government and now, it’s open slather, and we have no control over our borders and little idea who is here. Who knows what or who we’ve let in?”
Immigration has become political dynamite in Australian politics. The story of how the nation went from an uncompromising belief in the fundamental need to protect its borders to the collapse of border security carries important lessons for Americans.
So, just how did it happen?
2001 and the Tampa affair
In 2001, the conservative federal government was faced with a surge in the number of people attempting to reach Australia illegally by boat. In the two years previous, the nation had received a new wave of approximately 9500 unauthorized boat arrivals seeking asylum, predominately from the Middle East. This number was more than triple the number of arrivals between 1976 and 1994.
Then came the Tampa affair.
A Norwegian freighter, the Tampa rescued 433 illegals aliens from their sinking vessel, which was en route to Australia. The Tampa asked for permission to enter Australian waters but was denied, with the Australian government threatening to prosecute the ship’s captain as a “people smuggler.”
When it defied the instructions and entered Australian waters, then-Prime Minister John Howard ordered the boat be boarded and halted by Australian Special Forces. The illegals never made it to Australia. But the incident sparked a major diplomatic clash between Australia and center-left Norway, which reported Australia to the United Nations for human rights violations.
The Howard government set about implementing measures that would discourage further boat arrivals. In addition to the existing policy of mandatory detention of all non-citizens without a valid visa, it passed further legislation that bolstered a policy of offshore processing that came to be known as the “Pacific Solution.”
Response to ‘Pacific Solution’
In his advocacy of the Pacific Solution, Howard uttered the most famous words of his administration: “We will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come.”
His words earned him the respect of the Australian electorate, appreciative of the strength and non-nonsense approach of their prime minister. A month later, in the national election, he was returned handsomely.
His words, however, drew the heavy ire of the Australian left as well as censure and condemnation from organizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, Oxfam and refugee-rights groups. The organizations, as well as human-rights NGOs, began a strong campaign against the hardline approach of the Australian government.
Effect of the ‘Pacific Solution’
Following the implementation of the Pacific Solution, after 5,516 illegal arrivals in 2001, there was just one recorded illegal arrival in 2002.
Over the next five years, detention centers began to close all over Australia, and people-smuggling between Indonesia and Australia became almost non-existent. All of the offshore detention centers were near empty.
Then came the election of a center-left government
In the campaign for the election of 2007, the Australian Labor Party, the political equivalent of the Democrats in the U.S., and its leader Kevin Rudd, committed to ending the “Pacific Solution,” altering immigration detention policy and reversing the Howard-era approach on humanitarian and moral grounds.
Immediately upon winning the election and forming a new government, the Rudd Labor Party held true to its commitment and significantly watered down existing border security measures on Feb. 8, 2008, hailing a victory for “the compassionate.”
The move won widespread applause from a range of voices, including the media-academia complex. At the time, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, welcomed the end of the policy.
It said the policy put people in long periods of isolation, mental hardship and uncertainty.
“This is the end of a long and fairly painful chapter in Australian asylum policy and practice,” UNHCR’s Richard Towle said.
With the change in government and policy, illegal arrivals by boats increased immediately in 2009-2010.
With the people-smuggling racket back in business, the rise became astronomic. In the six years since the left-leaning government took power, more than 33,000 people have arrived or attempted to arrive in Australia; the overwhelming majority since September 2010.
The number of asylum-seekers and boats to reach Australian waters in 2012 surpassed the total arrivals during the 12-years of the previous government.
The economic cost, too, has been enormous. In the last two-and-a-half years, the Labor government has exceeded its allocated budget for asylum seekers by $5 billion and climbing.
As of February, the Department of Immigration has revised this year’s “asylum budget” from $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion.
Today there are indications Australia has enough illegal immigrants to fill a city.
Within six weeks of opening, detention centers are reaching capacity. So full are the centers that, in an effort to handle the overflow, illegals have been placed in university dormitories. In one instance, an Australian university student alleged she had been sexually assaulted by an illegal immigrant. As a result, there is a proposal to implement “behavioral and reporting protocols for illegal immigrants.”
To alleviate the pressure on detention center facilities at capacity, the Australian government has begun releasing illegals into the community amid fears that dangerous or criminal elements may be among them.
In 2011, it was also revealed that Australian taxpayers will pay $54,000 per “asylum seeker” accepted and $90,000 per “asylum seeker” turned away.
But perhaps the most stunning revelation is the lavish government provision afforded to illegal arrivals. In addition to free doctor visits, dental care, pharmaceuticals, education and payments of up to $433.25 every two weeks for asylum seekers unable to work, they are provided with a 60-item welcome pack. The pack includes washing machines, microwave ovens, DVDs and plasma TVs to go in their rent-free homes. Special consideration is given to providing computers, Internet access, mobile phones, bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, iPods, games consoles and sewing machines.
The government recently resolved to reinstate the Pacific Solution.