Term Paper: Moral Panic Over Asylum Seekers

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Moral Panic Over Asylum Seekers

In every country around the world, there always come a time when asylum seekers and refugees flock inside the country. This so happens because of various reasons such as:

there are numerous and uncontrollable problems from the origin country and people would want to free themselves from these problems people found out that the country they would want to move on can offer a better life for them... this may be because industrialization and modernization is imminent in those countries; social benefits such as medical benefits and financial assistance are abundant in the "target" country; and lastly, rules for migration in the "target" country is lenient and that any refugee or asylum seeker could then easily get their permit to stay in those countries

In Australia alone, asylum seekers also came in great numbers every year. In fact, the government of Australia have already identified and categorized the types of asylum seekers in the country. The categorization is as follows (Canberra: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 2001):

Authorized asylum seekers - these are those refugees or immigrants or asylum seekers who arrived in an authorized manner such as by having a visitor's visa, a student visa, a work permit etc. more so, these are the types of asylum seekers who are "generally allowed to remain in the community while their applications are processed"

Unauthorized asylum seekers - there are the refugees or asylum seekers who came in by private planes or boats and enter the Australia's boundaries without the proper authorization. This type of asylum seekers, when caught by the country's police officials, will be "confined in detention centers until they are granted a visa to remain in Australia, or they leave the country, voluntarily or otherwise."

Since the year 2001, Australia's government admitted that the country is having a major crisis concerning the asylum seekers. Such crisis involves continuously rising numbers of unauthorized asylum seekers and social disturbance because of the claims that most Australians are already bothered by multiculturalism in the country.

Immigration and/or Asylum Seekers in Australia

It should be noted that immigrants are very welcome in Australia because of the fact that this country relies heavily on immigration and tourism to achieve population and economic growth. In fact, there has been a series of information dissemination regarding the beauty of Australia to attract more investments and more migrants. These endeavors were a success for a time.

More than six million people have come to Australia as migrants since 1945. Australia has a well-developed and strictly controlled immigration system, which includes a universal visa system for all non-citizens coming to Australia. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) (5) is responsible for the administration of Australia's official migration program, including the humanitarian and refugee intake" (Australian National Audit Office, 2001).

Australia is also one of the signatories the Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which prove that Australia welcomes and has properly resettlement areas for asylum seekers. Since these agreements were signed, "Australia has resettled large numbers of refugees and other persons of humanitarian concern from overseas camps." However, unlike other countries such as the U.S., Australia's record of asylum refugees was not that large thereby enabling the Australian government to have a direct and tight control over all aspect of immigration programs - such as social policies - concerning the asylum seekers (Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967).

But this social control dramatically changed when the year 2000 came. The number of asylum seekers who are unauthorized, or those who uses boats and some private planes to enter Australian land increased that the country felt that it could not control the society anymore.

The arrival of increasing numbers of asylum seekers on Australia's shores presented a real challenge to this "culture of control" (McMaster, 2002)"

The pandemonium started. The government of Australia started to deny most unauthorized asylum seekers. There was even a time wherein a boat containing 400 asylum seekers were prevented to dock off in the Australian territory forcing the neighboring countries like the New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to accept the said asylum seekers out of pity.

Australia refused entry to the Norwegian freighter Tampa, a vessel carrying 433 asylum seekers rescued from a sinking Indonesian ferry. Though the Tampa was only one of a number of arrivals in 2001, Prime Minister John Howard chose this vessel to flag a major change in Australian policy, vowing that the asylum seekers on the Tampa "would never set foot on Australian soil." On August 29 the Tampa entered Australian waters, and was prevented from reaching land by Navy vessels. After a six-day standoff, New Zealand, and, under some pressure, Nauru, and eventually Papua New Guinea agreed to accept the asylum seekers for processing" (Picketing, 2001).

Such action triggered more chaos. Those who were prevented from stepping into the Australian soil did some actions that were totally out of control. Some tried to 'attack' the emotions and get some pity of the watchers by throwing their own children into the sea and would not save them unless they are allowed entry. But the country remained firm to its decision.

The harsh actions of the asylum seekers were even used as the tool to reinforce that government's statement of total control over the unauthorized asylum seekers. The country disclosed that these types of asylum seekers are the cause of deviance behavior in the country.

Asylum seekers were publicly declared to be undeserving, with value systems deeply foreign to those of Australian society. In particular, the asylum seekers were represented as hostile or foreign to Western attitudes towards family and children" (Picketing, 2001)

The Reaction of the People

The firm statement of the Australian government triggered some issues and questions from the people. Is it morally upright to prevent such asylum seekers a place to live in? Is it true that the Australian society - along with its true-blue Australian white residents are negatively affected by unauthorized asylum seekers? Is there any basis to have this moral panic over asylum seekers?

The Australian government is claiming that the deviant behaviors of the unauthorized asylum seekers are enough grounds for them not to be allowed entry in the Australian soil. However, when looking closely to the real definition of deviance, it is worth noting that "deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms." One familiar type of deviance is crime, or the violation of norms a society formally enacts into criminal law. Deviance encompasses a wide range of other acts of nonconformity, from variations in hairstyles to murder (http://www.geocities.com/tdeddins/deviance.htm,2004). Clearly, by this definition alone, the reaction of the asylum seekers when they were prevented to dock in Australian land is not a sign of deviance. They were just asking for a little mercy. They were 'forced' to do such harsh actions because of the 'strong need and desire' to land in Australia.

It may not be a norm in Australia to leave your family behind or to instigate some actions that may harm the children - much worst one's own child. But then again, the actions done by the asylum seekers are triggered by their strong need to be allowed entry. More so, there were a number of reports claiming that this action is not verified and no one could even testify that the asylum seekers really threw their children overboard.

It should also be taken into consideration that that there is an ongoing debate within the social scientists' arena on whether the social control of crime is influenced by extralegal factors. Much of this scholarship focuses on the importance of race and social class as determinants of treatment by various social control agents. The major theoretical impetus for these inquiries is the conflict perspective and its emphasis on how dominant groups use state apparatuses including the criminal law to control subordinate groups who threaten their interests. This "racial threat" thesis has spawned an overabundance of studies that investigate whether the relative size of the population is predictive of various aspects of social control, including police use of deadly force, police force size, arrest rates incarceration rates and executions. Others have used the racial threat thesis to explain informal mechanisms of social control such as lynching, hate crimes, interracial killings, and welfare and other state-based social control efforts not involving the criminal justice system (Jewkes and Letherby, 2002).

The government fears that it might not continue having the overall social control when asylum seekers - authorized or not - will persist. Some fears that the difference in race and cultural background of the asylum seekers vs. The original residents of Australia may start to create havoc thereby will result to a number of crimes. But this is not enough ground to start labeling and attached crimes and deviant behaviors to the asylum seekers alone. This fear should not be used as the only reason not to maintain the old humanitarian rule of helping out and providing proper… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Moral Panic Over Asylum Seekers.  (2007, March 14).  Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/moral-panic-asylum-seekers-every/7052

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