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Australia Plans To Welcome Thousands Of Latin American Refugees Since The US Has Failed Them

Australia is known for its tough immigration policies (hey, when President Donald Trump praises your tough antics you know you are not necessarily on the right side of history, right?). Even if a key element of the political discourse for decades has been border protection when it comes to illegal immigration, Australia has also been welcoming to people from all around the world in its refugee and humanitarian programs. The problem is that neighboring regions have faced terrible cases of genocide and suffering, and people in dire situations have tried to reach Australia by boat. 

So the fact that the nation is now taking Latin American refugees from crisis zones such as Venezuela and Central America is a welcome development on Australia’s geopolitical stance on migration. 

Australia is currently governed by a conservative party that has used fear of illegal migration as a political tool.

The Liberal Party, led by the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has long held a tough stance on illegal migration coming from South East Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia, and from Middle Eastern war-ravaged countries. The government has spent millions in advertising campaigns in Australia and overseas. The intake of legal migrants is high if we take into account that the country has less than 30 million people. However, the processes are increasingly complicated. 

Getting to Australia illegally is almost impossible for refugees: if they are caught they are sent to offshore detention centers.

Credit: APP

The only ways to migrate to Australia illegally are through boat or by overstaying a visa. The country is facing increasing international criticisms over its handling of undocumented migrants and refugees, as most of them are sent to the offshore detention centers of Naru and Manus island in the Pacific. These detention centers have been deemed as inhumane by human rights advocates. 

Most of the Latin American community in the country has migrated legally.

This has been done either by applying for a permanent residency from their home country or once they are in Australia as students or professional workers. There was a big wave of South American refugees in the 1970s, who were escaping totalitarian regimes in countries such as Chile and Argentina. In fact, the migrant group with the highest level of educational degrees is Mexicans, as most arrived in Australia to do a Masters degree or a PhD. 

Latin America is facing crises on many fronts, so Australia will be accepting refugees on a humanitarian basis.

As part of its humanitarian program, Australia will welcome refugees from conflict zones in Latin America in its 2020 intake. This was revealed by executive director of the New South Wales Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Survivors of Trauma and Torture (STARTTS), Jorge Aroche, who is Uruguayan-Australian and told SBS News: “I understand that we will have people from Latin America through the refugee program. We still don’t know where they are going to come from if they go to NSW or other parts of Australia”. The Australian refugee program places incomers in particular areas depending on the socioeconomic needs of each place. 

Australia takes in over 18,750 refugees a year and in 2020 this figure will include an increased number of Latin Americans.

Aroche painted a dire situation in the continent, not only in Venezuela but also in countries such as Brazil and Colombia, where right-wing governments are crushing dissent. He said: “There are situations that are very worrying, as is the case in Brazil where there is a president who has publicly talked about torture as something positive and that the process of persecution and state terror that took place in Brazil has to be celebrated. We have also seen worrisome things in Colombia for quite some time and in Venezuela, the situation has deteriorated and there have been a lot of human rights violations and possible cases of torture”. In recent years most refugees come from Central Africa, Myanmar, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. 

The hot spot: Central America.

Credit: APP

We have discussed widely on the humanitarian crisis faced by millions of Central Americans today, and that will also be a priority of the humanitarian program, as Aroche says: “”In Central America, there are a lot of human rights violations, both at the state level and in armed groups, often associated with drug trafficking or gangs, who exercise power through terror”. Once in Australia, refugees enter the public health system (yes, there is healthcare for all permanent residents and citizens) and those who are survivors of severe trauma after being tortured or experiencing a war situation receive psychological care. 

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