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A Guide to Asylum Seekers in Australia

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Here is a pretty quick guide. There was a very, very good one that was posted in the last couple of weeks but I can't seem to find it. The most important stuff is, off the top of my head (don't trust my figures, they are close but not precise)

- Australian government policy does not have a large impact on asylum seeker numbers compared to the worldwide fluctuation in refugee numbers

- This suggests that push factors are more important than pull factors

- The vast majority (more than 90%) of asylum seekers come by plane rather than boat, and plane-people are more likely to be rejected than boat-people, but you don't hear anyone yelling stop the planes

- The vast majority (more than 90%) of asylum seekers processed in crapholes like Nauru are found to be genuine refugees, not economic migrants. This is largely due to the fact that we are a LONG way from everywhere and you need to cross an ocean in a leaky boat to get here

- We don't get ANYWHERE near as many refugees (or economic migrants, for that matter) as many other places in the world

- Subtracting the number of refugees-who-get-here-and-apply-for-asylum from the-total-number-of-refugees-that-are-resettled-here-from-camps-around-the-world is a stupid policy and only recently implemented.

- Processing people on islands prison camps in the middle of nowhere is much, much more expensive than processing them in the community, and it's not like they'll vanish into some vast refugee community as soon as they set foot here since the refugee community is actually very small.

- The majority of illegal immigrants are british backpackers who overstay their visas but you don't see paranoia about them

- Locking people in island prison camps with no idea of how long they will be there is effectively torture, and numerous medical/psychology groups have said this. Those On My Left dropped an amazing (horrifying) list of sources backing this up a few months back, I can try to find it later tonight if needed.

- The result of months/years of psychological torture is numerous suicide attempts, riots (which only happen when a prison is run very, very badly) and when people are finally granted refugee status, they are so psychologically wounded that they need years of expensive treatment to allow them to reintegrate into society. Rather than being able to contribute, we shatter them and then have to pay to try to fix them.

- Asylum seekers processed in the community are given less money than newstart (itself inadequate) and denied the right to work. What do they do all day? Sit around in crappy accomodation and feel pretty crap.

- Asylum seekers are entitled to legal representation while in Nauru but they aren't told this. They're given access to a phonebook and a translator and that's it.

- If someone is found to be a refugee but ASIO doesn't like them, they are trapped in prison indefinitely i.e. forever. ASIO doesn't have to say why they don't like them. The refugee can't defend themselves against this super-secret evidence. They can't be sent back home because they're at risk there (i.e. they are a refugee). So they stay in Nauru.

   The sexual assaults committed by refugees or asylum seekers.

I don't think this is particularly common, there is only one such instance I can think of off the top of my head. A counter statistic is that a refugee is 26 times less likely than an Australian citizen to commit a crime.

   Deterrence and the idea that we should "prevent these boats leaving in the first place". In addition to this, the idea that there are "pull factors".

[1]This blog post does a pretty good job at explaining the relative unimportance of pull factors compared to push factors.

   Economic migrants

They do exist. However, they account for an overwhelming small number of boat arrivals, as evidenced by the fact that ~90% of boat arrivals are granted refugee status. The 90% figure will probably drop the next time the figures come out, on account of the 'enhanced screening', which labels nearly everyone as an economic refugee regardless of the reality of their circumstances.

   Accusations of "Queue jumping". Which goes back to:
   • Refusing to help refugees who have arrived by boat on the grounds that they were only able to do so as a result of their wealth, being able to afford a people smuggler's services, implicitly at the expense of those in refugee camps.

In the case of Sri Lanka, it's an island. There is no way to escape without getting on a boat. The argument from Scott Morrison and the Coalition is that the boats should be headed to India, since it is much closer than Australia. This ignores the fact that the sea between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu on the Indian Mainland is heavily patrolled by the Sri Lankan navy, and that India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee convention. They have no legal rights in India, no hope of attaining citizenship, and no future outside of subsistence in a refugee camp.

   Border security: National security in the case of terrorism and further people smuggling, biosecurity in the case of diseases, plants, animals and so on.

There haven't been any terrorists try to reach to Australia by boat. They have no incentive to, since it's dangerous, time-consuming, and they will have a far more comprehensive security check if they come here by boat, than if they do on a plane with a passport and a visa.

Biodiversity is the reason we have customs at the airport, however, not every piece of luggage is checked for prohibited items, and ultimately it is a system that would be easy to evade if one so desired. Biodiveristy is not a legitimate argument for the unecessarily long detention times or psychological torture inflicted upon detainees of our prison-like detention centres. We do not stop every yacht or commercial ship that comes into our nation and check them for threats to biodiversity, nor do we strip search every person arriving from abroad. The argument against maritime arrivals who are legally seeking asylum  from the perspective of biodiveristy applies a double standard and is obviously made in bad faith.

Questions to ask yourself Edit

How big does the number have to be before it is all about the number: How many of the 43.7 million forcibly displaced persons inclusive of 12.6 million 'permanent residents' of refugee camps worldwide should Australia grant asylum too? FYI if we go pro-rata by population then we accept: 136,000 and if we go pro-rata by GDP then we accept: 830,000. So what is our fair share? Should we accept our fair share? Should this be conditional on others? Should we take up the slack for others who choose not to accept their pro-rated share? Currently we are doing an apparently poor job accepting only 11,342 people in 'immigration detention' inclusive of 2800 or so 'in Community'.

Is every asylum seeker equally deserving: What's the difference between an asylum seeker in a boat in international waters in the Timor Sea vs a refugee in a refugee camp in Pakistan? Are we deserving of equal condemnation for failing to accept all 1.6 million eg Afghan refugees in Pakistan?

How do you choose: The UNHCR convention on refugees limits the definition of refugee to people who meet a set of criteria - eg at risk of death/persecution etc. What requisite probability of risk should be the threshold for admission? What level of seriousness should be the threshold for admission. Obviously death would qualify but would a forced appearance for 30 minutes on their equivalent of QandA or some other inconvenience count too?

In what order: Is there a 'queue' of refugees and are those who arrive by plane or boat 'queue jumpers'. Do successful onshore applicant takes a visas away from an offshore applicants? The sum total of offshore applicants (53,396 in FY11) exceed the total humanitarian visas granted to onshore and offshore applicants (13,799 in FY11)? Were the balance lying bastards or deserving but displaced by onshore applicants? Or should we just have a floating number - anyone who asks who meets set criteria gets in regardless of number? (If so see Q1)

Is it just about minimising total harm - all about the numbers: Is it more barbaric or inhumane to admit more larger numbers of refugees from UN refugee camps or people seeking asylum from overseas locations than it is to accept fewer numbers of asylum seekers who reach Australia and if so why?

Is it just about minimising total harm- to ourselves : So what do you do with the undocumented asylum seeker who may or may not be legitimate or fails to meet the standards of proof for identity or refugee status. And what do you do if the person has a communicable disease which would otherwise preclude their admission into Australia?

Is it just about minimising total harm - saving those most in need: Why shouldn't Australia accept asylum seekers from around the world commencing with the most desperate cases, and the most vulnerable people subject to the worst conditions; rather than accepting those who pay to come for just showing up? Is the fact that a person can make it to Australia a priori evidence that their case is not as bad as the worst of those who have to apply from offshore locations?

Resource Guide to Asylum Seekers Edit

Because so many dumb people ask the same question ad nauseum I wrote myself a little cheat sheet for when they inevitably come up. Its a bit long, but I hope someone will find some use for it.

Resource sheet for you on how to talk to fucking idiots about the issue of Asylum seekers in Australia.

Fucking Idiot: They aren’t real refugees anyway, they are economic migrants. I even heard Bob Carr say it so you are wrong and dumb.

You: Bob Carr was in fact wrong. Here are three websites that say why.

If you read these it will mention that 90% of refugees that come to Australia and have a genuine claim to asylum. Those that do not are usually sent back overseas. There is no evidence to suggest that the vast majority are anything but genuine refugees.

Fucking Idiot: But they are filthy “illegals” and shouldn’t be accepted because they are illegal. They also use people smugglers who are the very spawn of Satan’s spiky scrotum and therefore are evil.

You: While the term illegal would usually be correct for someone arriving to Australia without a VISA, that isn’t the case here. Australia is a signatory to the UN refugee convention which says this.

1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

So every person who comes to Australia as a refugee (see above answer, which is 90% of them) are not breaking laws or doing anything illegal.

Fucking Idiot: They destroy their papers on purpose. Only someone with something to hide would do this. They are therefore all terrorists and will behead people for insulting Muhammad.

Refugees often do not have papers, and do often destroy them. This isn’t illegal if they are seeking asylum. There are several reasons why Asylum seekers may not have papers including: 1. Many refugees are fleeing a country where they are a minority group, and are not allowed to get official papers from the government that doesn’t like them 2. They are asked to destroy them by people smugglers as a condition of their passage 3. When they are fleeing, it could be dangerous for them to be identified by officials in their own country. 4. They are fleeing and may not have time to get correct papers if possible

Fucking idiot: They have the money to buy a boat ride, therefore they aren’t real reffos and also I’m not racist.

You: Money has no bearing on whether you have a true claim to asylum. Many people from many cultures seek asylum for many different reasons, whether they are rich or poor. They are fleeing for their safety too, which may be because they have money in the first place.

Fucking Idiot: They all come from Indonesia, why aren’t they happy there? If they stay there I will be perfectly calm and sane and not have the urge to glass people.

You: Remember that thing from the UN refugee convention above? Indonesia has not signed it. People seeking asylum have no rights in Indonesia, and are not allowed to either work or get any government assistance. Read this for more information Fucking Idiot “The living conditions of asylum seekers and refugees at liberty in the Indonesian community differ depending on their sources of support. Officially, asylum seekers and refugees are not allowed to work nor do they have access to social support from the Indonesian government.”

Fucking Idiot: Well now they get sent to Papua New Guinea can you stop whinging? They should be happy to just not be tortured and starving.

You: Actually, Papua New Guinea has a horrible human rights record. Most women are abused, half of them are raped and almost half of the men admit to committing rape at some point.

Fucking Idiot: Fuck you

You: Smash the state.

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