Australia has been swift in responding to humanitarian needs of the people in times of crisis. This is evident when cyclone wrecked havoc in Samoa and Niue in 2004. There were indeed rapid and coordinated responses.
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This was made possible with the urgency with which AusAID and relevant NGOs relayed the information on community needs. In a matter of time medical supplies and other necessities were made available. EMA and AusAID undertook to work together with other relevant national authorities.
Under this partnership, water containers and tablets used for purifying water were sent to the affected people. Other development partners like France and Newzealand also joined this campaign. Australia has also contributed to peace building efforts in Sri Lanka that has had civil wars for almost a quarter of a century.
Australia oversees the post conflict rehabilitation processes to refugees through International Organization for Migration. However, Australia for quite sometime has been thought to be a violator of refugees basic human rights, observes Dharmanan (1).
The country has been in the limelight for hindering multiculturalism and for its hard line stance on individuals seeking asylum. UNICEF’s assertion that the living condition of immigrant children in Europe is slightly deplorable compared to that in Australia has helped spark the latest controversy into this issue.
Statistics show that almost 2 million children aged below 17 years living in immigrant families comprise 33% of Australian population. These children’s living standards were similar to those children brought up in Australia.
This is also the same for the kind of education they receive. Despite the fact that the Australian government has scored relatively well in other spheres, their immigration policy has remained the most wanting (Ziffer, para. 3).
A proper ventilation of Australian humanitarian record reveals that she is not an international leader as she is purported to be in immigration perspective. This is evidenced at times of wars when the numbers of refugees swell, their response has not been so promising.
In the year 2007-08 a rickety 7.3 % of refugees were included in the humanitarian program (Australian Bureau of Statistics, pp. 1). Further research indicates that in the last quarter of the 20th century, Australian humanitarian intake was so negligible in comparison to the country’s overall allowance.
Australian government has only softened its immigration policies on skilled immigrant hence the surge in number of those falling under the category of skilled migration program.
The statistics on living standards of immigrant children was prompted by the fact that the parents of these children were skilled migrant workers who had good education with beautiful pay packages hence ease in settling. It is notable that a reasonable percentage of these migrant workers were British citizens.
Some major challenges that refugees in Australia face are racial and cultural discrimination. Alternatively they argue that these refugees can return to their home countries when normalcy returns or as well be integrated in third world countries (ACIL consulting, pp. 1).
This essay seeks to interrogate the kind of political response is needed given Australia’s poor record for dealing with humanitarian rights of refugees. Issues related to this allegation will be highlighted and their relevance to political institutions and democracy identified. A lot of credence will be given to coherence and soundness of argument based on evidence of wide research.
In order to curtail the escalating humanitarian crisis, the Australian government came up with Humanitarian action policy of 1995 (AusAID, pp. 1). The policy basically touches on protection of human life, his or her health, and the physical well being. It recognizes the relationship between the humanitarian activities and the aid policies.
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The policy underscores the importance of development programs integrating risks created by disasters and conflict with a view to reducing levels of poverty thereby creating sustainable development. By the virtue of the fact that humanitarian assistance goes hand in hand with security, the policy has integrated aspects of strategies of reducing poverty.
The policy seeks to ensure that humanitarian response is coordinated. Poverty is further fuelled when there is inadequate insecurity and exposure to hazards. The action plan has to be integrated with other aspects so that poverty and conflict can be checked.
The policy seeks the input of the government and concerned communities. The action policy will embody unpredictable events and the HIV/AIDS. It is for a fact that poverty and poor governance exposes people to disasters as seen with countries whose development records are low.
This is also true for countries that depend practically on primary production. The poor become the worst hit when disasters occur because they lack resources and government good will with which to address these issues. Countries with low or medium development become most hit with disasters.
Disasters impact on economies and peoples livelihoods by damaging their belongings and their means of production. Individuals who have been affected take too long to recover from these devastating effects.
Political, social, and economic reasons that fuel violent conflicts are so prevalent in developing or less developed countries with no democratic space and poor record of accountability. Such conflicts are witnessed in terms of civil wars as opposed to cross border wars.
Such civil wars are quite often prompted by inequitable distribution of resources, unemployment, and divisive policies. Countries that host these refugees have to learn to endure the extra burden exerted on their scarce resources. The Australian government has since endorsed good humanitarian donorship.
The government in delivering humanitarian assistance tries to be neutral by ensuring that humanitarian workers do take sides in a conflict. Humanitarian donorship implementation plan ensures the government remains accountable in undertaking her humanitarian duties.
The policy goals are embedded on principle of burden sharing. Protection of life and alleviation of suffering remains the government top priority. The government also endeavors to maintain human dignity while assisting refugees in recovering from conflicts.
The government emphasizes the need for enhancing effective response, prevention and preparedness for disasters. Their primary focus in geographical perspective is the Asia pacific region.
This does not deter them from responding to emergencies that do not fall in the Asia pacific region. In this respect, their response would be guided by the magnitude of the disaster at hand and their ability to effectively contribute in such circumstances.
When the Australian humanitarian services are to be offered in areas that they do not traditionally operate in, the concerned department works in liaison with the foreign affairs ministry and trade to sort out the diplomatic issues involved in such operations.
Attorney general’s input ma also be sought when issues pertaining to international humanitarian law need to be corroborated. The Australian government provides material assistance to safeguard the victim’s life and health and alleviate suffering.
It also works with relevant UN agencies, international corporations, community based organizations to achieve coherent and strategic response. The government also advocates for access to affected groups so that they can receive humanitarian help.
The government also beefs up the security of humanitarian aid workers as well as the security of displaced persons or refugees. Finally it also engages in training initiatives.
Agencies for humanitarian aid advocate for respect for international law, refugee, and human rights law by developing an insight into how humanitarian law can be integrated into humanitarian practice. It undertakes to participate in international fora.
Alternatively, people who take part in humanitarian assignments are sponsored to study humanitarian law. Finally, the agency promotes international humanitarian law in all government policy settings.
To guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers, the government provides an impetus for creation of appropriate security and evacuation plans, giving their input in coordinating complex emergencies. The government also offers curriculum for training of humanitarian workers.
The government also seeks to bridge the gap between development and humanitarian programs to rest the case of insecurity and enhance transitional planning. This she intends to achieve by reintegration of AusAID activities into different parts of the country; coming up with guidelines of assessing their humanitarian activities.
By doing this they intend to analyze the specific needs of the vulnerable groups. Creation of a link between development and humanitarian programme helps the government to come up with strategies that will stem people’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in areas affected by the crises.
Finally, the linkage helps the government to enter into long term funding agreement with humanitarian agencies to enhance flexibility and response to emergency. This helps the government to plan even better.
The policy plan also put the government and the local communities in a position where they can come up with their own capacity to mitigate the effects of disasters.
This is done by appreciating the role the local communities and devolved government play in minimizing the effects of disasters; bolstering disaster management offices organizational capacity; empowering the local community to enable them combat the effects of disasters; ensuring both sexes are given opportunity in disaster management programs; integrating ways that communities use in mitigating the effects of disaster; careful evaluation I order to deduce if there are benefits when the government and its development partners engage in developmental and humanitarian efforts to alleviate disaster.
The policy action plan also seek to enhance stronger international, regional and local partnerships to aid in faster mobilization of resources by extending funds to NGO’s to enhance their capacity to handle disasters; supporting international red cross and red crescent; supporting United Nation’s agencies concerned with handling humanitarian crisis; strengthening the government tie with other development partners like the international corporation; and keeping in touch with the donor agencies.
The policy action plan underscores the need for fully involving both the gender to ensure that their expertise is fully utilized. This can be guaranteed by coming up with guidelines and best practices that would ensure that both men and women are given equal opportunities in mitigation of crisis necessitated by disasters.
This action plan nevertheless seeks to encourage the implementation of UN six point plan that tries to stem out sexual exploitation during disasters. The action plan intends to reduce the vulnerability of those affected by disaster to HIV/AIDS infection by ensuring that HIV/AIDS analysis becomes part and parcel of those issues that have to be considered in implementing humanitarian action.
Moreover, strategies should be developed to make HIV/AIDS prevention program a part of relief program. The Policy action plan also contemplates improving the input of military personnel and other actors in humanitarian situations by instituting consultation, sharing of information, assigning of tasks, and joint planning.
The humanitarian actors can also come up with a curriculum for training peacekeepers and other personnel whom their services are used in times of emergency. Before military officers are involved in these activities, conformity to international humanitarian law has to be interrogated.
Any military personnel involved must know that they are accountable to civilian authorities. Australia has also come up with a policy that seeks to integrate refugees into countries of first asylum.
Refugees settling in Australia for the first time can seek the services of Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council. This body was set up in 1997. They offer expert advice on refugee and humanitarian issues. Its membership is drawn from people who have extensively worked with refugees (Department of Immigration and multicultural affairs, pp. 1).
In fact quite a number are refugees themselves. They do not represent community organizations or states. They ensure that there is steady flow of information especially on issues touching on settlement policy from the central government to the community organizations (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural affairs 1).
They also advise minister on matters that relate to how adequate are the government services to refugees residing in Australia, how humanitarian entrants should be housed, how their settlement services should be planned, how these families should be supported and issues relating to their employment (Department of immigration and citizenship, pp. 1).
ACIL Consulting, Impact of Migrants on the Commonwealth Budget, 1999.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1999 Year Book Australia, Number 81, ABS, Canberra, 1999.
Australian Government AusAID, Humanitarian Action Policy. January 2005.
Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Refugee and Humanitarian Issues Australian Response. Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Australian Citizenship, Fact Sheet 66, 19 June 2000.
Dharmanan, Mala, “What looks like a welcome hides a wall of inhumanity” Prevention Action, 9th Dec 2009.
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 1998-99 Migration (Non-Humanitarian) Program Outcome, Media Release MPS 116/99, 12 August 1999.
Ziffer, Dan. Australia’s human rights record under attack. 2009. Web. <https://www.crikey.com.au/2009/03/27/australias-human-rights-record-under-attack/>