A possie in Aussie

February 25, 2009

Migrants and refugees, or is it a bear?

Filed under: Immigrant workers,refugee — Nayano @ 6:55 am
Tags: , ,

Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans, has announced a $4.4 million increase in funding to the UNHCR, and a small increase of 250 people to 13,750 in 2009-10. He also repeated his intention to examine proposals for formal processes to enable people who are threatened with death and torture but who do not qualify under the current legislated definition of refugee to apply for ‘complementary protection’. Senator Evans announced these measures in a meeting with Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who is currently visiting Australia.

At the same media conference Guterres commented that that “When things go wrong in a country, there are two potential targets. One is the government, the other is the foreigners.”

Governments look for scapegoats when things go wrong. Did you see the episode of the Simpsons ‘Much Apu About Nothing‘ when Mayor Quimby, when faced with a ‘bear crisis’ about which he is ineffectual, tells the citizens of Springfield that all their problems will be solved if the run immigrants out of town. (This episode seemed to be inspired by the disgraceful 1994 California Proposition 187 that sought to deny government services — such as elementary school education and medical aid — to people who had entered the country illegally. Proposition 1994 passed at the polls, but was overturned by the court. Go courts!)

Scapegoating immigrant workers for the economic downturn makes about as much sense as blaming them for the presence of a bear. Migrant workers pay taxes (and often receive much lower levels of government services in return), and boost the economy by their production and their spending. Indeed, they can in fact save jobs.

Andrew Bartlett comments:

“Standing up against veiled and not so veiled attacks on migration, migrants and refugees – rather than encouraging them – will be a big test of leadership for governments around the world.”

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