The Australian people are completely fed up with the boatpeople saga. Chief among their concerns is a decent humanitarian desire to stop the drownings that accompany the people-smuggling trade.
But that is not the whole story. The Australian people in their overwhelming majority want the national government to reassert national sovereignty over our borders. When the flow of illegal arrivals in our north started after Labor abolished John Howard’s policies in 2008, all the wiseacres said it was silly to get exercised about the relatively small numbers who initially arrived.
But as anyone who had studied these flows for a moment knew, once an illegal entry flow is established, it will grow and grow and grow.
With this week’s boats, the total number of refugees who have come since Labor softened the policy is 43,660. But the rate keeps on accelerating and as long as people keep arriving in Australia and don’t get sent back, there is really no natural limit to the level it might reach. If you convert the past three months to an annual rate, illegal arrivals are now coming at 40,000 a year. Even without counting the inevitable family reunion chain migration that will follow, you only need that rate for a few years and you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of low-skilled, mainly Muslim immigrants, predominantly with poor English. This is a devastating crisis building up for Australia.
Many Western countries are toughening up their approaches to stop illegal immigration, or the rorting of legal systems. Canada, which has a far smaller rate of boat arrivals than Australia, has now instituted a system of effective temporary protection visas, mandatory detention, declining welfare benefits and the like.
Visas for spouses have been cut down hugely in Denmark and Britain because these are rorted so heavily, and asylum-seeker rules were tightened in Germany.
France and many other European nations have taken comparable action.
In our own region, no nation is remotely as generous, or remotely as soft a touch, as Australia.
Singapore, the richest country in Southeast Asia, could effortlessly absorb 10,000 asylum-seekers a year if it wanted to. But Singapore gets no asylum-seekers because it will accept no asylum-seekers. Singapore understands that if it accepted 10,000 people turning up on its shores this year, then next year it would be dealing with 30,000, and 50,000 the year after.
Similarly, no numbers of any consequence come from the Middle East to Japan or South Korea. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young‘s recent contention that Australia had the harshest, or one of the harshest, regimes in the world is a typical Greens contribution — completely and utterly the opposite of reality. As Labor’s former immigration minister Gerry Hand points out, no one in Australia’s extended region provides anything like the benefits, security, layers of appeal and effective lack of repatriation that Australia does.
I write all this with sadness. I have always been, and remain, a strong supporter of a big, generous, legal immigration program. I am absolutely opposed to illegal arrivals.
The key concept to understanding what is going on is to recognise that we are dealing with determined immigration rather than a classic refugee situation. This is true even if you accept that the majority of people coming to Australia could qualify as refugees. They make their decisions about where to seek permanent residence on the basis of which nation is the softest touch and which offers the most extensive welfare.
The refugee convention envisages people fleeing across borders to avoid persecution. Consider Sri Lankan Tamils. There are tens of millions of Tamils living next door to Sri Lanka in India. They are certainly not persecuted. But India is poorer than Sri Lanka. Australia is much richer. So they choose Australia, not India. That is an immigration decision, not a refugee decision.
Consider Iranians, now the biggest source of illegal arrivals in Australia. Iran has a horrible government but it does not persecute big minority populations internally. Everyone deals with the same horrible political system.
For a middle-class Iranian to fly to Malaysia, where they get visa-free entry, to then take a small illegal boat to Indonesia and then get on a boat to Australia indicates a huge desire to live in Australia. It also indicates a belief that once here they won’t be sent back. But it says nothing about a real refugee situation.
Part of the problem is the moral and political intimidation that comes the way of anyone who tries to speak about this honestly.
The Australian Press Council, for example, has ruled that I may not call people who arrive illegally, illegal immigrants. I respect the Press Council, and the integrity with which it deals with such questions. But I believe its ruling is wrong in fundamentally important ways. It leads to a contortion of language and an inability to discuss the issue properly.
It is similar to the coercive political correctness, and the institutional enforcement of a left-liberal ideological world view, which has previously crippled Europe in its ability to deal with illegal immigration. The fraudulent and offensive use of Holocaust rhetoric and analogies rendered sensible debate all but impossible. You either let everyone in or you were Adolf Hitler. Europe mostly has shaken off that intellectual shackle, but Australian public discussion, in an effective abridgement of free speech, is still imprisoned in this mistaken ideological prescriptiveness.
The Refugee Convention itself talks of refugees “unlawfully” in a country of asylum, and of the “illegal entry” of refugees. It is not illegal to seek asylum, but it is illegal to enter Australia without legal authority. The UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime says illegal entry is “crossing borders without complying with the necessary requirements for legal entry into the receiving state”.
In 2009 Kevin Rudd repeatedly referred to boatpeople as “illegal immigrants”. Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Stephen Smith, Martin Ferguson, Robert McClelland, Simon Crean and many other Labor politicians have previously referred to boatpeople as illegal arrivals. The opposition does so routinely.
But there is still a vast, pervasive pressure against people, especially journalists, speaking plainly and truthfully about this. As Orwell observed, control language and you control thought. This issue needs clear thinking and plain speaking.Source: The Australian – People are fed up with continued growth in asylum-seeker numbers
- Australian authorities too busy to recover floating bodies of asylum seekers (craighill.net)
- United Nations refugee agency slams Australia’s tough new asylum seeker policy (craighill.net)
- Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praises Australia’s asylum ‘decency’ (craighill.net)
- Up to 25,000 asylum seekers expected in Australia this year (craighill.net)
- Asylum seeker ‘enhanced screenings’ dangerous: former official (abc.net.au)
- Swiss back tighter asylum rules (updatednews.ca)
- Mark Latham says Labor should support tow back asylum boats policy (australiantimes.co.uk)
- At risk of an asylum seeker underclass (abc.net.au)
- Towing back asylum boats ‘dangerous’ (bigpondnews.com)
- Outsourcing our dirty work: the truth about Nauru (abc.net.au)