Debate for No More Refugees in Australia?

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Asylum seekers, in particular “boat people” have proven to be a significant social issue, one that has prompted many intense debates in Australia over last twelve months. Australia has a long history of providing refuges a safe haven. However, in recent times, attitudes towards asylum seekers have become increasingly negative and at times hostile as asylum seekers are constantly portrayed as a threat to culture and society (Lynn & Lea 2003). This essay will provide a brief history of asylum seekers in Australia and examine the social structures that have contributed to the attitudes and treatment of asylum seekers in Australia today. The structures that will be explored are groups and the social institutions of mass media, government and law. A comparison of media reports, government rhetoric and facts around asylum seekers will be discussed and this paper will argue that the government, through media and policy (law) have heightened the threat of asylum seekers in Australia leading to negative attitudes and prejudice by the Australia public toward “boat people”. In addition, a range of sociological concepts and theories will be presented throughout the paper to support the argument.
Australia takes on many refugees annually, some of which come through the humanitarian program and others who arrive in Australia seeking asylum (Schweitzer et al 2005). The first asylum seekers arriving to Australia by boat was soon after the Vietnam War, with the first boat arriving in Darwin in 1976 (Phillips & Spinks 2013) . (Mann) reports that these asylum seekers were settled seamlessly into the community with the government providing generous access to accommodation and other settlement services. He suggested that due to Australia’s i...

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... the Australian public toward asylum seekers. The division of the “us” and “them” groups driven by the power of the Australian government through group think has led to that Australian public being persuaded that the best way to deal with the group is to exclude them from our community through detention. The division of the two groups is evidenced further through the media’s use of negative language and labelling of the asylum seekers to a point that creates hostility and prejudice against the group. Examples of how the government has used labelling and hegemony to influence the public opinion, has resulted in justification of the policy’s adopted to deal with the irregular maritime arrivals has been presented. It has been argued that through the rule of law this has created further separation of the groups, thus promoting resentment toward the asylum seekers.

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