One Young World 2015 Summit Consultion – Oceania Online Focus Group

by oneyoungworldoceania

Recently an online focus group was held for Oceania-based One Young World Ambassadors, as part of the consultation for One Young World 2015. Our group looked at the Human Rights theme, and the question we had to consider was – “How do we create better conditions for people taking risks to migrate?” Below is a summary of what was discussed. Thanks again to everyone who contributed, your opinions were really valued and you giving up your time to participate was really appreciated.


Question – How do we create better conditions for people taking risks to migrate?

This group agreed to focus on three main types of migrants within this question – economic migrants, asylum seekers, and climate change refugees. We also agreed that it was important to consider the question from the perspective of countries of origin as well as of receiving countries.

Asylum seekers

The group discussed asylum seekers, particularly in the context of asylum seeker arrivals by boat to Australia. In this context the question of how to create better conditions for people taking risks to migrate can be problematic, because the bigger issue is the inhumane policies of receiving countries. We talked about how discussing safety measures for asylum seekers who are returned to their country of origin (or are prevented from seeking asylum in the first place) risks focusing the debate on the wrong issue. Furthermore, if asylum seekers are at risk of persecution then it might be very unrealistic to think that governments returning asylum seekers to their country of origin would be able to protect them once they had been sent back.

However, with those caveats in mind, we agreed that there is also value in being pragmatic and ensuring that if governments prevent asylum seekers migrating then they have a responsibility to ensure their safety and wellbeing. We also agreed that governments have an obligation to be transparent in their asylum seeker decision making processes and policies. People have a right to know how these decisions are being made and this is something that is currently lacking.

“We want governments to do more to protect asylum seekers, but if they decide to deport people they must be able to ensure their protection once they return. That should be a basic minimum.”

There is a myth about diversity being something to be feared. There are misperceptions about the risks caused my foreign migrants, and this can often be unhelpful or dangerous. It is particularly inconsistent to go to such lengths to exclude migrants in places where mass migration has historically formed the basis of our nation (e.g. Oceania and North America).

Agreed that:

  • Governments should be doing more to protect asylum seekers and refugees
  • Governments have an obligation to ensure the safety and protection of asylum seekers who are prevented from migrating
  • Citizens have a right to know about how asylum seeker decisions are made and governments should be more transparent about this area of their migration policies.

Possible questions for the One Young World 2015 delegation:

  • Do you agree that citizens have a right to transparent decision-making when it comes to government policies on asylum seekers and refugee status determination?
  • Do you think that governments are currently doing enough to protect people migrating as a result of fear of persecution in their home countries?

Climate change refugees

We then discussed migrants who are forced to leave their homes as a result of climate change, and how this category of migrants fits with the traditional definition of a refugee under the Refugee Convention. Currently, governments interpret the convention as excluding climate change refugees. Rewriting the convention would be difficult because the current convention has weight due its near-unanimous ratification, and this probably wouldn’t happen if a new convention was drafted. So what is the solution? Something needs to be done because this is an issue that is only going to get bigger and bigger, and it is one that will be hugely relevant for the Oceania region. We agreed that current efforts to prevent climate change and protect people forced to migrate because of climate change don’t go far enough.

“How do we get governments to acknowledge a responsibility to protect climate change refugees when some won’t even recognise that climate change exists?”

Agreed that:

  • Governments do not currently provide enough support for people forced to migrate as a result of climate change.

Possible questions for the One Young World 2015 delegation:

  • Do you agree that governments have a responsibility to protect people who are forced to migrate as a result of climate change, in the same way that they have a responsibility to protect other types of refugees?

Economic migrants

Discussed the differences between asylum seekers, climate change refugees and people who take risks to move because of economic, social and cultural reasons. Although there are a lot of economic migrants in our region, there was a general consensus that there weren’t as many ‘at risk’ migrants in this category. In terms of people taking significant risks to migrate (and thinking about the issue through a human rights lens), this issue doesn’t seem as prevalent for our region as it might be in other parts of the world, due to our geographical isolation. Focusing too much on this category of migrants when discussing human rights issues might sometimes do more harm than good, because it risks perpetuating the myth that people taking significant risks to migrate to/within the Oceania region are just doing so for economic reasons, rather than out of fear of persecution.

Agreed that:

  • In the Oceania region, the main groups of people taking risks to migrate and asylum seekers and refugees, rather than people migrating for economic, social and cultural reasons.

Possible questions for the One Young World 2015 delegation:

  • Do you agree that the diversity that migration brings should be embraced as a strength, not a risk, and that governments should be more accepting of a diverse range of migrants?