The management of irregular immigration
Australia recognizes the right to asylum and is a signatory to the Convention on the Status of Refugees. However, current government policy reveals a significant gap between the country’s human rights obligations and the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. In fact, Canberra has adopted one of the most restrictive detention systems for immigrants in the world, compulsorily extended to anyone entering the country without a valid visa and of indefinite duration. To this practice is added that of the rejection, almost always towards the Indonesian coasts, of the boats transporting refugees seeking protection from Australia. This has caused strong protests from human rights associations, but has generally found consensus among the Australian electorate.
Currently more than 3000 people (one fifth of them are children) are being held in immigration detention facilities located on the islands of Nauru, Manus and Christmas. The case of the latter island is particularly significant as, with its only 135 square kilometers of extension, it is the strip of land under Australian jurisdiction closest to Indonesia and therefore the first destination of hope for migrants, especially from Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Pakistan. Christmas Island, compared to its approximately 2000 residents, has managed to host more than 3000 immigrants in its five centers in the periods of greatest influx, far exceeding the reception capacity of the structures.
Appealing to reasons of security and border protection, the current administration is firmly committed to preventing the landing of migrant boats on the Australian coasts, also making pacts with surrounding countries. In 2013 Tony Abbott signed an agreement with the premier of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, to establish that asylum seekers are no longer accepted on Australian territory. The bilateral agreement – which is expected to be reviewed annually – provides that the Papuan government automatically accepts any immigrant landed on Christmas Island; for its part, Canberra undertakes to bear the costs of this forced reception, which will guarantee immigrants refugee status, but not political asylum.
Currently there are more than 35,500 refugees in Australia and hundreds have drowned in recent years in a vain attempt to reach the Australian coast.
The business of foreign students in Australia
In the 2014-15 academic year, Australian universities opened their doors to more than 328,659 foreign students (a quarter of the total) and by 2020 the government is forecasting an annual growth rate of 5% in enrollments. Attracting students from abroad – about a quarter of the entire university population – offers Australia significant economic benefits and is a real factory for export as well as a significant source of internal growth. International training activities generate more than $ 15 billion in annual income and fuel at least 100,000 jobs. International student fees, much higher than the amount needed to cover study costs, they represent about 16% of the total turnover of higher education and the entire turnover related to them contributes to the national GDP for 1%. However, international training is not just a business opportunity for Australia. Campus offshore, twinning and international research collaborations are part of the Australian program of aid to developing countries and, through the formation of human capital, aim at improving governance, building stable civic institutions and achieving sustainable development. By actually supporting a cultural diplomacy activity, Australia has developed a strategy to guarantee good relations, continuous investments and intense commercial exchanges with its most important partners. Given Australia’s most recent political-strategic orientations, it is therefore no coincidence that more than half of international students come from Asia.
Australia and East Timor: the controversy over the Timor Sea
In 1974, a year before Indonesia invaded the eastern part of Timor, gas fields were discovered in the sea strip between the island and Australia for the attribution of which a controversy is still ongoing. They are called Alba and Troubadour (the area in which they are located has the name of Timor Gap); it is estimated that they contain 145 billion cubic meters of gas: a unique resource for East Timor, an additional export opportunity and further protection of its sovereignty for Australia. The dispute between the two countries concerns the methods of determining territorial waters: Timor supports the principle of borders drawn on the basis of the line of points equidistant from the coasts, Australia asserts the right on its continental shelf. In an effort to resolve the Timor Gap dispute, between 2003 and 2007 three different treaties were stipulated, to be considered together. The Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (Cmats), in particular, opened a dialogue until 2015. According to the Cmats, the two states had imposed a halt to the discussion on maritime borders and had agreed to divide the tax receipts owed by oil companies on any hydrocarbons produced. The fate of the Cmats, however, was immediately questioned by the accusations brought by East Timor to Australia, which allegedly carried out espionage activities in order to take advantage of the negotiating table. In September 2015, East Timor finally decided to open an arbitration procedure at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. For Australia 2006, please check computergees.com.
The dual use of uranium
The uranium trade is an activity that transcends the issues of a country’s trade and energy security policy to become a national security issue. In fact, uranium can be destined for a dual use in nuclear power plants: one civil and peaceful (production of electricity), the other military (manufacture of atomic warheads). Australia is a member of the Nuclear Supply Countries Group (NGS) and traditionally refuses to supply countries that have not signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). The major buyers of Australian fissile material are currently the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and Canada but, following a treaty signed in 2006, since 2008 Canberra has also started exporting uranium to China. As for India, a non-member state of the NNPT and possessor of nuclear warheads, during the Howard administration, Australia was willing to discuss a sale of uranium, which however did not materialize. The country has thus returned, with successive Labor governments, to a more prudent position. With the return to power of the liberals, a general agreement with New Delhi seems to have emerged on the horizon: the sale will be possible as long as certain safety clauses are respected. The country has thus returned, with successive Labor governments, to a more prudent position. With the return to power of the liberals, a general agreement with New Delhi seems to have emerged on the horizon: the sale will be possible as long as certain safety clauses are respected. The country has thus returned, with successive Labor governments, to a more prudent position. With the return to power of the liberals, a general agreement with New Delhi seems to have emerged on the horizon: the sale will be possible as long as certain safety clauses are respected.