Renascent Nativism

A new and multinational wave of boat people coming to Australia, and the mere hint of the same for New Zealand, have both nations reacting swiftly. Australia's recent "surge of boat people" has it quickly expanding detention facilities for the illegal immigrants, report Mark Metherell and Lindy Edwards in the Sydney Morning Herald." All the evidence available from where boat people come from-including the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and China-suggested they have been misled about their chances of settling in Australia. Organizers of their trips had told them they would be admitted to Australia and get work because of the Olympic Games, and there would be an amnesty on illegal immigrants because of the centenary of the [commonwealth's establishment in 1901] and the possible change to a republic."

Meanwhile, Australia is also "targeting violent criminal gangs operating immigration rackets out of Bangkok in an attempt to stem the growing number of foreigners arriving illegally at Australian airports," writes Craig Skehan, also in the Sydney Morning Herald. Skehan reports that there are criminal syndicates that specialize "in fake documentation for mainly Middle Eastern and African nationals. Australian federal police are investigating overlaps between immigration fraud, drug running, and prostitution rings .... Insiders say that official corruption in Thailand is hampering their efforts."

In New Zealand, reports of a boatload of Chinese immigrants that was heading south prompted a "hastily rammed through ... law to deal with them," Colin James writes in the centrist newsmagazine Far Eastern Economic Review of Hong Kong. With a heritage of the xenophobic "yellow peril" scare of the century's early years, "many ordinary New Zealanders harbor suspicions about Asian migrants," James writes. The boatload of Chinese never arrived.