Why Is Australia So Anti-Immigrant?

A riot at one of Australia’s immigration detention facilities has sparked renewed interest into the country’s controversial immigration policies Incoming migrants are prevented from entering the country, and are instead sent to detention centers located in the South Pacific, where they can be held indefinitely

As a whole, Australia has been marred by accusations of racism and xenophobia towards both legal and undocumented immigrants So, Why is Australia So Anti-Immigrant? Well, Australia has a long and dark history of preventing non-white people from living in the country The first European colonizers referred to the native Australian Aboriginal population as “savages,” and brought violence and disease, nearly causing their extinction After the British took Aboriginal land on the basis of it being “Terra Nullius” or “nobody’s land,” the native population was refused full citizenship until 1967 Since that time, the Australian government has attempted to balance the scales by helping Aboriginal citizens with social welfare programs

But today, research shows that nearly half of white Australians believe Aboriginals have unfair advantages, with roughly 20% of respondents saying that they would not sit next to an Aboriginal on a bus In the 1800s, Australia experienced a Gold Rush, bringing waves of immigrants, predominantly from Europe, North America, and China But anti-Asian legislation was implemented until around 1901 when the different British colonies came together to form a unified Australia This federation specifically began enacting policies that made it easier for white Europeans to emigrate, and harder for those from non-English speaking countries The laws were known as “White Australia Policy,” and started with the Immigration Restriction Act 1901

The Act worked by having immigrants write out fifty words in a language that was chosen by the immigration officer In practice, the officers would choose a language they knew the testee would not likely know, and if they failed the test, they would be considered “prohibited” Similar policies worked to mostly prevent non-white immigration, and were only dismantled starting in 1949 It took until 1973 for race to no longer be considered a factor for immigration status in Australia However, today the government’s views towards immigrants is still needlessly aggressive

The current practice of detaining undocumented migrants has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for the poor conditions in offshore detention facilities These centers have even been used for the indefinite, mandatory detention of children, despite legislation designed to stop the practice Moreover, the Australian government began a program in 2013 aimed at preventing asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, called Operation Sovereign Borders Those who are caught attempting to arrive by boat are often turned back by Australian Defense Forces, and others are sent to detention centers Legal experts have said that this program violates the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other similar treaties

A controversial ad for the program states “No way You Will Not Make Australia Home,” in reference to undocumented immigrants and people smugglers Despite the fact that Australians of European origin were themselves once immigrants, anti-multiculturalism is still vibrant and widespread As we mentioned, Aboriginal folks in Australia were once viciously persecuted and still face racism to this day For an overview of the country’s Indigenous people, watch our video

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