– by Sophia Joyce
It is a well known fact that the Australian government has been a long standing opponent against any person travelling to Australia to lodge a refugee claim. We have all been a part of this debate for years, but what comes with this are many problems and myths.
My aim in writing this article is to provide sufficient facts and knowledge to change some widespread and established opinions about Australia’s asylum seekers.
So here are five common misconceptions and truths about Australia’s boat people.
Asylum seekers are ‘illegal immigrants.’
Asylum seekers are not even immigrants. Immigrants leave their country by choice and are welcome to return home whenever they want. Asylum seekers are forced to leave their homes in fear of persecution and still cannot return due to that fear.
In fact asylum seekers arriving without a valid visa are still not illegal, they are permitted to enter without prior authorisation because they are protected by Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Those that do arrive should only be detained for identity, security and health checks while their legal status can be resolved. Not for punishment.
‘Boat people are not ‘genuine refugees.’
There is no such thing as genuine or non-genuine refugee, either you are a refugee or you’re not.
A refugee is defined as someone who has a legitimate fear of being persecuted in their country due to factors such as race, religion, nationality, or a member of a particular social or political group.
Many refugees that come to Australia are educated middle class people who have drawn authoritarian attention due to their political opinions or their profession.
Asylum seekers might be terrorists.
All boat arrivals are subjected to the highest security checks and the most scrutiny when entering Australia. This is because arriving without any legal documentation alerts authorities to their situation. Why would a terrorist put themselves under such observation when there are other ways to get past Australian borders?
The vast majority of asylum seekers who have reached Australia are found to be refugees. The Australian Parliamentary library have found around 70% to 97% have a right to legal protection in Australia to this date.
Also the UN Refugee Convention excludes all people who have committed war crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and any other serious crimes. Any person found guilty of these crimes will be denied refugee status. So it is really unlikely that a terrorist will be allowed to enter Australia.
Boat people are queue jumpers and should apply through proper channels.
There is no orderly queue, this is why people seeking asylum are detained in camps for such long periods of time.
Applying for refugee status by seeking asylum is considered a standard procedure, so this way of gaining protection is legally correct and it should not be portrayed as bad.
Gaining resettlement through ‘proper’ channels or seeking asylum is more like a lottery draw than a queue. There is currently 15.4 million refugees in the world but there is only around 85,000 resettlement places available annually. This means less than one per cent of the world’s refugees are resettled each year.
Refugees don’t assimilate or contribute to society.
Refugees have been coming to Australia for years, the biggest first wave of boat people came from Vietnam in the 1970’s. These refugees have proven to be successful migrants and have added to Australia’s society, such as Australia’s comedian Anh Do and scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.
Asylum seekers are survivors, they have used their courage, creativity and ingenuity to conquer Australia’s vast waters to find protection, the least we could do is assist them and see the benefits and qualities these people can bring to Australia.
Photo Credits: Feature image by ABC; Manus Island image by SBS; Detained child image by AP/Mark Baker
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