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The illegal immigration problem

March 24, 2011

Refugees, asylum seekers, boatpeople . . . really?

The key to the boatpeople phenomenon is to realise that it is not about refugees. It is instead a determined illegal immigration…

The government deals with this matter in a consistently dishonest fashion, giving up morsels of information only under pressure. Here are some facts. In the year to August 2010, some 45 per cent of illegal immigrant boatpeople had spent more than three months outside their country of origin. Of this 45 per cent, some 88 per cent had spent more than a year outside their country of origin.

In other words, they were not fleeing directly from persecution. Many Afghans who have come to Australia have never lived in Afghanistan, or at least not for a very long time. Life in Australia is infinitely preferable to Pakistan, but deciding to migrate to Australia is not the same as being a refugee.

The vast majority of the world’s refugees will never achieve permanent resettlement in a foreign country. Nor does the refugee convention envisage that they should. Rather, they should be protected as near to home as possible until they can safely return.

At last some real perspective brought to the polarising topic of “unauthorised boat arrivals” by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor for The Australian. I’ve reproduced the entire article below which presents some interesting and at times astounding facts about the boat arrival phenomenon.

What really astonishes me, however, is that a person who is in a safe country, who pays for illegal documentation to fly to Indonesia, who bribes customs officials to get on a boat, who pays huge sums of money for a boat ride to Australia and who destroys their documentation to improve their chances of getting a visa garners such passionate sympathy from refugee advocates. Hello! The real refugees are the ones starving in tents on some godforsaken border. They are the poor souls that need your sympathy and advocacy and passion not those wealthy and safe enough to migrate by the back door.

THE Gillard government has made a spectacular mess of policy towards illegal immigrants and is now in danger of forfeiting a key element of Australian national sovereignty.

The key to the boatpeople phenomenon is to realise that it is not about refugees. It is instead a determined illegal immigration. Piece by piece, the illegal immigrant industry is bending back the Gillard government, breaking its will and breaking its policies.

It was the Rudd government that changed policy decisively in August 2008. It closed the offshore processing centre in Nauru and abolished temporary protection visas.

As a result, people-smuggling to Australia got back into business big time. In the 2 1/2 years since the government changed policy, nearly 11,000 boatpeople have arrived. Last year, asylum applications to Australia increased by 76 per cent. Among industrialised countries overall there was a decline. In 2009, while the global number of applications was static, they increased in Australia by 30 per cent. With the end of the monsoon season, there have been some six boats this month alone, carrying more than 330 people in total.

The government deals with this matter in a consistently dishonest fashion, giving up morsels of information only under pressure. Here are some facts. In the year to August 2010, some 45 per cent of illegal immigrant boatpeople had spent more than three months outside their country of origin. Of this 45 per cent, some 88 per cent had spent more than a year outside their country of origin.

In other words, they were not fleeing directly from persecution. Many Afghans who have come to Australia have never lived in Afghanistan, or at least not for a very long time. Life in Australia is infinitely preferable to Pakistan, but deciding to migrate to Australia is not the same as being a refugee.

The vast majority of the world’s refugees will never achieve permanent resettlement in a foreign country. Nor does the refugee convention envisage that they should. Rather, they should be protected as near to home as possible until they can safely return.

Everything the government tells you about this matter is likely to be a wrinkle on the facts, a spin, an angle, and it is likely to contain much less than meets the eye.

For example, Julia Gillard went to the election promising to turn back the boats and set up a regional refugee processing centre in East Timor. There is little prospect of that centre ever coming into existence and no prospect of it ever having an effect on the illegal immigrant trade.

Recently, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen trumpeted an agreement with Afghanistan that would allow failed asylum applicants to be returned. The problem was the Afghan government thought it meant no such thing.

So, how many failed Afghan asylum-seekers have been returned against their will since 2007? Absolutely none. How many Afghans have gone back voluntarily? The answer is five.

More than 80 per cent of illegal immigrants arriving by boat come with no documents, yet nearly all need documents to get to the country they take the boat from. This naturally makes security checks extremely difficult. It also underlines what everyone in the field knows already, that the entire process of granting someone refugee status is almost completely subjective and easily scammed. There is a whole industry based on learning the right answers to questions Australian officials ask. In the first nine months of last year, more than 40 per cent of Afghans were rejected as refugees in their primary assessment but after all appeals were exhausted 96 per cent were accepted. Yet in the same period, some 9577 Afghans applied offshore to come to Australia as refugees and only 951 were accepted and given visas.

What is happening on Christmas Island exactly parallels what has happened in Europe in the past couple of decades. A determined illegal immigration presented itself as an asylum issue and gradually beat back the will of European governments to enforce control of their borders. This determined illegal immigration often used extravagant protest and even self-harm techniques to engage European compassion.

And it worked, just as it is working on Christmas Island. Bowen fatuously declaims that no one engaging in riots and breakouts will benefit from their actions.

Exactly the reverse is true. The government has effectively surrendered its policy and moved hundreds of people to mainland Australia. The Age newspaper obediently called for the end of mandatory detention.

Here are three other lies from the government. It says mandatory detention is not meant as a deterrent. Yet when, in April last year, it suspended asylum applications by Sri Lankans and Afghans, it was precisely to achieve a deterrent effect. Since the government now will not send any Afghans home, this is the only deterrent. The illegal immigrants know this and are whittling it away.

Second, Bowen, who recites cliches like a metronome, keeps talking about “an international solution for an international problem”, by which he means the Bali process. But we have had co-operation, often expensively bought, on this issue from our neighbours for many years.

What changed is that Australia put the ultimate prize of permanent immigration to this country back on the table for people-smugglers to sell. It is an Australian problem and the only solution is in Australia’s hands: no permanent resettlement in Australia for those who arrive illegally.

Finally, Bowen actually slanders the Howard government for its compassion. John Howard stopped the boats with his Nauru processing centre because illegal immigrants came to believe that going to Nauru would not get them to Australia. Once the trade in boats stopped, Howard then generously let the remaining people on Nauru come here. That is not remotely like Christmas Island where everyone knows if they get there they get to stay in Australia.

Once the government caves in on mandatory detention, as it surely will soon enough (if by no other means than speeding the process up), the numbers coming to Australia illegally will increase by the thousands.

With chain family migration this will be tens of thousands of people self-selecting to come here, not being selected by our program (which I have always argued should be bigger).

That is a catastrophic loss of Australian sovereignty and a comprehensive failure by the Gillard government.

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