Australia’s Message to Asylum Seekers: Go Away

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Aman Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, second from left, and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, left, talk to the media after announcing a policy on asylum seekers in Brisbane on July 19, 2013

On April 26, 1976, a leaky fishing boat chugged into Darwin Harbour carrying five asylum seekers from South Vietnam. Their original destination had been Guam, but they changed course after a chance encounter with an Aussie seafarer in Borneo who told them Australia was a “big country” with “friendly people.” After presenting themselves to authorities in Darwin, the crew was granted asylum and resettled in accordance with Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention.

Over the next quarter of a century, public opinion toward “boat people” ebbed and flowed as hundreds of half-starved Indo-Chinese annually turned up on Australia’s sunburned shores. But when a new and much larger wave of asylum seekers, predominantly from the Middle East, began arriving in 1999, attitudes hardened. Out of a fear the country would be “swamped,” draconian deterrents were put in place. These included indefinite detention in dusty outback camps and offshore processing in third-world backwaters that are breeding grounds for malaria and mental illness.

(MORE: Living in Limbo: The Asylum Problem)

Last week, newly reinstated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the most hard-line measure of all: Australia would no longer accept any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Instead, under a deal struck by Rudd, they will be sent to Papua New Guinea (PNG), an impoverished Pacific nation with a serious and much more unmanageable refugee problem of its own in the form of thousands of West Papuans who have fled conflict in the Indonesian-administered half of the island of New Guinea.

Having been landed in PNG, any Australia-bound asylum seekers will be processed and housed at Canberra’s cost. If they successfully obtain refugee status, they’ll be permanently settled in PNG, which, in return for its part of the deal, will get more aid and Australian expertise in areas like law and order, education and health. When viewed in the context of the countdown to the forthcoming federal election in which border security has proved to be a corrosive issue, Rudd’s deal is a masterful political stroke, because it decisively pre-empts opposition leader Tony Abbott’s populist promise to “stop the boats.”

It must be said that Australia recently upped its annual humanitarian intake to 27,000 — considered generous by world standards. Despite that, the voters of this rich, multicultural nation, itself founded upon exile and immigration, remain eager to reward whichever candidate outdoes the other in the harshness of their solutions for asylum seekers. Why should that be? After all, the 16,000 boat people who arrived in Australia this year are an insignificant figure compared with the 61,000 irregular boat arrivals Italy received in 2011, the 500,000 “illegal aliens” that cross into the U.S. every year or the million Syrians currently claiming — and receiving — asylum in Lebanon.

“There are a whole host of interlacing factors that have led us to believe this problem is unique to Australia,” says Professor Sharon Pickering of Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry. “Being a geographically isolated island nation and the idea we are being invaded certainly feeds it. As does the fact that we have no strong human-rights discourse. We fill that void with law-and-order politics that frames the debate around illegal refugees and a helpless sovereign state.”

(MORE: Australia’s Costly Asylum-Seeker Policy Contributes to Nation’s Deficit Woes)

According to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Australian politicians are squarely to blame for pandering to the lowest common electoral denominator. “There has been a real lack of moral leadership over this issue for a considerable amount of time,” she says. “Both major parties have simply pandered to our fear of immigration and refugees to push increasingly harsher policies.”

Outback and offshore detention have also made it easier for governments to dehumanize refugees and remove their faces and voices from the debate. “The average Australian has close to no contact with people seeking asylum in the way they do with people at the center of other mainstream issues like disability,” says Paul Power, CEO at the Refugee Council of Australia. “It makes it easy to pull the wool over voters’ eyes about who boat people are, the cost of resettling them, overcrowding in cities, lack of infrastructure, etcetera.”

It’s easy to encounter misconceptions in conversation with ordinary Australians. “I can’t overestimate how far policy and opinion on asylum seekers has moved away from evidence in this country,” says Professor Pickering. A common theme is that taxpayers have already “spent billions trying to help refugees.” True, Canberra may have spent as much as $2.75 billion on immigration in the past year. But less than a quarter of that figure went to maritime surveillance and response. The vast majority has been spent on the detention and deportation of boat people. The Greens’ Hanson-Young argues that it costs over $500 a day to detain an asylum seeker in PNG compared with $35 a day it would cost if they were allowed to live in an Australian community while their claim is assessed: “Our tagline on this is that doing things in a humanitarian way onshore, through direct settlement, is 90% cheaper and 100% fairer.”

(MORE: The High Electoral Stakes Behind Australia’s PM Switch)

Another common misconception is that asylum seekers who arrive by boat are queue jumpers — people who choose not to apply through “proper channels.” But of course such channels hardly exist. “The idea that there is some neat little queue in places like Afghanistan where people can line up and get a number to seek asylum is a myth,” says Dr. Deborah Zion of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. “In Australia, we don’t seem to understand that in the rest of the world most people don’t live with the degree of safety and security we do.”

One group of Aussies who do understand that are the 2,000 Vietnamese who arrived by sea as part of the nation’s first wave of boat people. One of the dozens of unseaworthy vessels that brought the Vietnamese to the country is now berthed in front of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Painstakingly restored, the little blue boat Tu Do (Freedom) is currently a monument to a perilous 6,000-km maritime journey and the role its passengers played in creating a new, more globalized Australia. It bobs at its moorings, plucky, brave and beautiful — and a world away from Rudd’s brutish new policy and the election it was created to steal.

67 comments
ClovenAngel
ClovenAngel

Europe is a mess due to all the Asylum seekers(mostly young males) - I have a great more respect for the administration in Australia than I do for our simpering politicians.


and here is a thought, maybe not a politically correct one but oh well: where is the pride for country and spirit in these young men? should they not fight for their own countrymen and families, for their culture and way of life? instead of fleeing to be looked after by western countries should they not be striving to make their homeland a better place?


One last point, muslims do not integrate ... with anyone! and worse their way of life is completely incompatible with the west or east.

bec1031
bec1031

If they were really asylum seekers then why travel half way around the world to Australia? Is there no safe country's between where they are from and Aus? They are economic migrants disguised as asylum seekers.

marktaberao
marktaberao

Why can't white Australia just say that they want their leaders and its bosses to stay white and blatantly promote this truth to the whole world so potential immigrants can finally work out that Australia is scared of being a Muslim state, or previously had the fear it was going to be taken over by Chinese. Why not be honest- no need to be fake about it. The promotion- should go " Your welcome if you come from Baltic Sea or the English channel, but we may have to process you if your anywhere east of the Mediterranean as only people with Roman blood are accepted". I really do question you Roman blooded Australian people what is so scary about Persians- heck both of you have blond/green eyes like the Arians and some of you even have Mongolian ancestry. I don't know who are more hairy scary, the Romans, Persian, Mongolians or English Empire. As a Filipino you all F&*$*n uncivilized, with all historically biting more than you could chew. You Romans & Persians took over half the world and you screwed it up, and left these mongoloid English, Spanish & Portuguese to leave their even more weird looking offspring to conquer different continents. To me the offspring that was abandoned in Australia during its colonial times became confused not having a dad... and still confused till this day to whether they are English or Scottish with Roman or Persian heritage or a mix of all including Mongolian and Arian. Some still think they have no relation to Africans. See how confusing this AFL ball kicking country is? BTW they play a game called AFL football cause the oval shaped ball always bounces in confusing pandemonium which somehow identifies  with Australian mentality and their heuristics in trying to work out who they truly are ... This rational way of thinking can be seen in Australian politics. For eg. it is a secret-in-joke for old white bureaucratic men to make misogynistic jokes about Penny Wong(senior Asian politician) as she is good at intense debate. Such Australian men don't know what to make of an Asian lesbian lady exerting dominance, rationally & righteously... in their best defense these old white men make cat prrrs and secret sexual innuendo, when in fact it simply says ' hey you short haired Asian lady of perplexing in-congruence please play colonial master, whip my ass because I never met my daddy & cause the Queen said am a bad boy'. To the people of world please join hand in hand and tell these confused Australian men we are all one and the same, so I as an Asian man am not forced to watch this confusing AFL mentality that separates us into tribes and enclaves, which constantly spits on those who are underdogs or new to the Australian game of pandemonium.

freedomfighter
freedomfighter

What jargon! Genuine asylum seekers flee to the nearest,neighbouring safe country, not to a country thousands of kilometres away. As much as they would have heard great stories about Australia, I am sure they also would have heard stories about people dying to get here. And why are most boat people attiring on our shores men? Why are there so few women and children? So its ok to leave your women and children behind, whilst you flee on the first rickety boat (in the pretext of settling down first). If they arrive  in Indonesia first, how come the Muslim refugees are demanding to be brought to Australia, a non-Muslim country? Genuine refugees are happy to get out their countries, not demand which fashionable, rich,democratic country they want to go to. I am not saying only economic,political,environmental migrants should enter this country. But given the appalling evidence and history at how badly migrants from 3rd-world countries (especially African and Muslim countries) assimilate into their newfound Western country of resettlement (does nobody read the atrocities committed by them in other developed nations they have settled into?!), the government must take a tougher stance on asylum seekers who seem to arrive in very dodgy manners. Call me racist all you want, I don't care. But if you can't see that the reason Australia is a great country is because of their Judeo-Christian 'white' policies (however marred it was to begin with) and think that any Australian (white and non-white) is wrong to want to protect this country from inevitable problems of immigration from non-genuine asylum seekers, then you are STUPID

Nasebi
Nasebi

Given the bahaviour of muslims whenever they reach a sizeable minority in any country; encouraging them to stay home is best when possible. With Islam today; since violent repression and literalism took grip with the fall of the Ottoman and Persian Empires, muslims from poorer countries such as Afghanistan often bring religious fanatics with no wish to tone down for minimal assimilation and ultimately no place in any modern country. I am not saying all muslims from Afghanistan are like this, but there is always enough to oppress the whole and keep them unable to fit in and ultimately a detriment to their adopted country.

riaarfis
riaarfis

@TIME @TIMEWorld Full support PM all boats should be turend back or to PNG not AU !!! Only proper refugees should be allowed!!

T_P_Luxe
T_P_Luxe

@ASRC1 indeed! Punish smugglers not innocent civilians.

aussie
aussie

So far it's atleast 50,000.  That's an army large enough to fight for what they need in their own countries.

aussie
aussie

We should help them to help themselves sort out their problems in THEIR OWN country not here.  We only have to look at England and see all the problems people suffer from the oppressive and masogonistic muslim ways.  I am happy to have EVERY type of religion and race in the world....even the moon but NOT MUSLIM .  Australians who want us to accept 50,000 illegal immigrants who are NOT starving etc like other places are foolish.  These poeple do not wish to integrate...they wish to rule.  You only have to look at the poor people beheaded from muslims in asia etc to see that they don not accept other peoples ways but forcefully push for their way.   Perfect example the way they burnt down facilities.  Teach them to fix their problems in their own country.   We can't take on the world.  ANY OTHER RACE/RELIGION IN THE WORLD WOULD INTEGRATE EASIER.  Talk to the men, find out their philosophies on life etc it's bone chillingly oppressive.  Do you really want your children the next generation to have to war against that in your own country.

thelatelounge
thelatelounge

I think it seems as though there is no compassion from the far-left extremist advocates, especially the compassion they themselves advocate, when they want to facilitate the duping and conning of people through people smuggling and human trafficking, as well as the drowning and traumatisation of children tagged along by others. The smugglers want easy money and they would probably not have informed the asylum seekers in Indonesia who claim to be in transit to Australia, that they are going to end up in PNG after processing in an unseaworthy vessel. Asylum seekers are uninformed in transit. It's also the case that asylum seekers bypass Tamil Nadu & the democratic Islamic nations, Malaysia & Indonesia, their own cultural kin, among all people.

The reason that the documentation is being destroyed is because the UNHCR Handbook in regards to asylum seekers specifies in Part B that if there's lack of documentation, benefit of the doubt is a preferred option if the asylum claim seems credible. One part actually specifies it's "frequently necessary to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt" because claimants can't always prove their case. There is also the provision of legal advice by far-left extremist advocates and human rights lawyers as to how to state claims, so as to have them approved, despite it being disingenuous, as well as the overturning of court & tribunal decisions by far-left advocates and human rights lawyers. This inadvertently puts social cohesion and multiculturalism at risk, as it's the haphazard importation of foreign underclasses, instead of genuine refugee intake from UN camps, or legal migration programs.

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME @TIMEWorld The revenue from 23 million people is not enough to keep taking and supporting migrants in those numbers.

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME @TIMEWorld To put this in context there are only 23 million people in the whole of Australia, some cities have close to that number.

JasonDStanfield
JasonDStanfield

I'll re-iterate what ajrnagy has said... its not about stopping asylum, its about stopping people dying at sea on rusty rickety old boats for profit.   full stop... dont worry about what the mainstream media says and what the rednecks say who watch said media.
Australia is a big place, with lots of room... but if you come here via a short cut and destroy all of your identification (which is what they are told to do by the smuglers) you have to expect a hard journey back to freedom or citizenship.
if you cant be separated from criminals you are lumped with them. 

do you think Australia should just throw open its borders?

if so... let america go first... after all they are the richest country on earth... but also the most hypocritical..

GusD
GusD

@ClovenAngel  Exactly. The huge problem with white guilt is the misguided bleating of, 'racist!' if you try to point of what you did - or anything equally as true that they find grates on their guilty nerves.


Why are we cutting back and being told our country has literally no money even for us and yet we apparently must pay millions and millions and millions on dollars for these few people who insist they deserve something that they actually do not. - at least not at the cost of my own people.


Grow up the rest of you whiteys - these people are NOT your problem. They choose to come here, paying handsomely and hiking all over the world - through likely far more suitable countries for them - just to come to Australia. Do they love us? No. Do they want to share our culture and values? No. Do they want Centrelink benefits? You bet your ass they do.

bpep.73
bpep.73

Australia is multicultural, we accept all who dont try to impose their barbarian religion on us. Your rant made no sense, nor is it based on any reality but that of your delusional mind.

GusD
GusD

@HRHLiblib @ASRC1 @TIME @pennells  You'll probably be very depressed to know that there are less Australians like you than you would have liked. As for me, I find the same fact uplifting.

MarilynJS
MarilynJS

@joannasfabfella @pennells @perthtones @TIME @TIMEWorld But the whole of Australia was started by English prisoners and their guards so spare us the racist rants from Britain, they are the worst whingers in Australia and the most racist.

GusD
GusD

@aussie  They don't want their own countries, they want government benefits and the total annihilation of the host population.

MarilynJS
MarilynJS

@aussie I think you mean the white people won't integrate with the owners of the land.

MarilynJS
MarilynJS

@spot60spot @TIME @TIMEWorld 20,000, you reckon a rich country like Australia can't manage 20,000 people when 6 million other people are managed very well indeed.

MarilynJS
MarilynJS

@JasonDStanfield It is exactly about stopping asylum because we refuse to allow them to fly here, and it is designed to make women and kids stay home while we kidnap and disappear husbands and fathers for years in prisons.

They do not destroy all their ID, many don't have any to destroy.  Try and look at things how they are in places like Afghanistan where births aren't registered instead of your fat little western view.

HelenaBeck
HelenaBeck

@bpep.73 I agree there is no country in the western world that has benefited from mass muslim middle eastern and African immigration in the last 25 years..  you cant name me one country were they have assimilated integrated and tried to fit in without causing complete and utter social break down wherever they go.. it doesn't matter what there host countries does for them will never be grateful it will never be enough.. they will still hate you and feel justified

bpep.73
bpep.73

We prefer to live in houses thankyou

bpep.73
bpep.73

No but im sure the people smugglers have

HelenaBeck
HelenaBeck

@MarilynJS @JasonDStanfield oh I suppose the flew to Indonesia without a passport or a visa?? and people in Afghanistan were the average wage is around 4 dollars a week wouldn't be able to afford it..

GusD
GusD

@RMcGreevy1301 Maybe because most of the country is harsh, arid, unlivable desert and there are already too many people in the liveable areas already? Will people not be happy until we are completely and utterly ruined in the name of political correctness?