Six months ago today, the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers recommended a return to offshore processing on Nauru, predicting it would act as a “circuit breaker” to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

The issue still needs more thought. Photo: Department of Immigration and Citizenship

In the first six months that followed, more asylum seekers – 10,595 – arrived by boat than in any other six month period in Australian history.

Tragically, deaths at sea have continued, with more lives lost off the coast of Indonesia. Today, the core intention of the Panel’s work – to prevent loss of life at sea – remains unresolved and the need to improve protection for asylum seekers and refugees in our region and beyond still requires urgent attention.

If we are serious about finding ways of reducing the risks associated with boat journeys to Australia, we need to address the issues at the heart of the movement of refugees in our region.

Unilateral actions from Australia alone will not resolve the perceived problem nor will international efforts which focus exclusively or overwhelmingly on deterrence, interception and detention.

Endless political focus on “border protection” cannot of itself resolve issues which have such deep humanitarian dimensions. Many of the people seeking to cross borders in any way they can have serious claims for protection from persecution.

Of the asylum cases finalised by the Australian Government among boat arrivals over the four years to 30 June 2012, 93 per cent of the applicants were found to be in need of refugee protection (more than double the recognition rate for asylum seekers who arrive by plane with visas). Refugee status determinations conducted by the United Nations in many Asian countries also have high recognition rates.

There are many obstacles to refugees being adequately protected in various parts of Asia, the small number of Refugee Convention signatories in the region being just one of many.

However, it is in no country’s interest to do nothing while this ongoing humanitarian crisis of people crossing borders in fear continues.

Three decades ago, Australia was heavily involved in international efforts to respond to a far larger humanitarian crisis caused by the mass movement of refugees from Indochina.

At the moment, no country is more focused on the movement of refugees in the Asia-Pacific region than ours is. If we want to see positive regional leadership aimed at resolving the issues we see, then clearly Australia needs to exercise whatever positive leadership it can.

While the regional picture is bleak, it is not entirely so. We have seen some small steps forward in the region worthy of note.

In Thailand, NGOs have been able to work with government agencies to release refugees and asylum seekers from detention.

In December, Malaysia agreed to accept 40 Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma who were stranded on the boat that rescued them, after being rejected by Singapore.

India has opened the way to give registered refugees access to long-term stay visas and the right to work in the private sector.

The Philippines and South Korea have passed domestic refugee legislation and NGO representatives in other countries are developing draft legislation to help promote discussion and dialogue.

As we have seen in the past, countries in the region can be encouraged to take further steps, particularly if they are being supported internationally with practical assistance, aid and offers of resettlement.

Any regional dialogue on refugee needs should look at incremental steps, starting with:

• Removing barriers to refugee determination processes – Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in the region are denied access to either UNHCR or domestic asylum systems, including many on the Thai-Burma border and in Bangladesh.

• Supporting non-government organisations – Host governments should be encouraged to allow organisations to provide emergency assistance, health care, education and legal help.

• Granting legal permission to stay – Promoting legal recognition of asylum seekers and refugees in countries across the region will allow people to remain in the country while their asylum process progresses.

• Developing alternatives to detention – Freedom from arrest and detention is crucial to building a sense of safety and security for a refugee living in an unfamiliar country.

• Granting the right to work – Having legal permission to work is fundamental for survival and living in fear.

• Access to health and education – Countries could be encouraged to provide access to government services such as education and health care to reduce pressure on UNHCR and NGOs who fill gaps in service delivery.

• Access to durable solutions – As the process builds, host states, UNHCR and others could work together to assist refugees in finding voluntary repatriation, integration into the host country or resettlement.

As these measures show signs of success, it will become more possible to engage nations in serious discussions about developing national asylum legislation (like The Philippines and South Korea have done) and about signing the Refugee Convention.

In our own national interest, Australia needs to move beyond the negative leadership it has shown by deflecting its international obligations to Nauru and Papua New Guinea with its punitive offshore processing of asylum claims.

Australia must model the best-practice asylum policies it would like to see replicated in the region and begin some serious regional discussions about how to protect the most vulnerable. This is the circuit breaker we need.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEDST

Paul Power has been Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the national umbrella body for 150 agencies working with refugees and asylum seekers, since 2006. Paul leads the organisation’s policy development and public education on refugee issues and its advocacy with the Australian Government, international networks and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Prior to joining RCOA, Paul worked in the NGO sector as a media officer, trainer, researcher and manager, after a 12-year career in the newspaper industry as a journalist and editor. Through his NGO work, Paul has been involved with projects in international aid, community development, mental health support, volunteer training, social research and advocacy.

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    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      05:22am | 14/02/13

      We need to ask the basic and fundamental questions.

      Firstly how can Australia as a nation help some of the most desperate among the 10,000,000 plus million refugees in the world. See for example the desperate sufferings of the Rohingyas at:

      Secondly how can Australia ensure its survival in the looming food crisis in Asia before 2050 and not be swamped by a tsunami of millions of boatpeople if we do not destroy the entrenched belief in Asia that Australia welcomes boatpeople.

      Thirdly do the boatpeople hijack our humane refugee policies?

      Like many recently issues in Australia we are totally mislead and confused by the situation at hand rather than to map out strategies to solve them.

      If the key objective is to stop people dying in boats crashing into Australia our big brother USA has already had an effective policy since 1996. Under its Wet Feet Dry Feet Policy no boatpeople is accepted into USA and it has stopped the boatpeople from Cuba and Haiti. See,_dry_feet_policy

    • MK says:

      02:31pm | 14/02/13

      The problem with the comparison to Wet feet dry feet,
      is the Cuban’s come from Cuba to USA over the water,
      and Cuba gladly accepts them back
      (then throws them in jail)

      Whereas with australia,
      99% come from indonesia, not their countiry of origin
      and often there is no simple send them back option
      with countries often reufsing to accept their own refugees

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      05:24pm | 14/02/13

      @ MK. Your point of view is noted.

      But I had explained in great detail the problem to a guy in Asia who builds resorts and hotels. He had direct access to the PM of a country which for obvious reason I shall not name. They have a cost effective way to use sturdy pre-fabs buildings to house thousands of refugees if neede which can be controlled by UN. Australia can have a credible policy to transfer all boatpeople to such a UN controlled camp and declare that no boatpeople trying to hijack our humane refugee program will ever be accepted.

      Instead of these boatpeople Australia can take its fair share of really desperate Syrian, Rohinyas, Afghans, Iranian, Iraq etc refugees living in very desperate conditions in camps in many countries.

      We are totally confused over boatpeople and refugees. We should with limited funds help the refugees but not the boatpeople for many reasons. For a start we are the most expensive country to operate a refugee camp. For each boatpeople we can help five hundred refugees overseas.

      Please think logically and effectively to help the many desperate refugees in the world and stop the boatpeople hijacking our humane refugee program.

    • Zach says:

      05:45am | 14/02/13

      Has the Gillard ALP fixed the asylum problem ?

    • gof says:

      07:49am | 14/02/13

      #Zach ,
      Why is it up to the Gillard ALP government to fix the problem?
      The asylum problem is the flow on effect from the two needless wars instigated by the previous NLP government which has displaced and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Do you not feel any compassion for those innocent children ruined by our previous governments warmongering policy?
      Why do the LNP supporters expect the current ALP government to fix all of the LNP stuff ups?

    • paul says:

      07:54am | 14/02/13

      They implemented the NOalition policy and more people came by boat.

      They will have to find more than having NO for every policy and three word slogans as their roadmap if they want to attain government.

    • lostinperth says:

      10:10am | 14/02/13


      How was the Sri Lankan civil war “instigated” by the previous NLP government?

    • Zack says:

      10:36am | 14/02/13

      Good ALP ‘answers’, I can see why you guys can’t provide a surplus to save your carbon tax promises smile

    • Chaz says:

      10:43am | 14/02/13

      Iraq and Afghanistan

      geesh, you coalition supporters are dense.

    • Joe201 says:

      10:50am | 14/02/13

      @Gof: Those two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) were instigated in the early 2000’s and yet y 2007 the boats had stopped coming. Today, we’re now pulling out of those wars and the boats are coming again.

      Your theory doesn’t correlate with the facts.

    • Stan says:

      11:12am | 14/02/13

      It is only under a direct democracy we would be able to stop the illegal boat people not under the absolute power of the mob and their unelected spin doctors.

    • marley says:

      01:07pm | 14/02/13

      @Stan - maybe the Swiss should try out direct democracy, then, because they’ve got a problem with asylum seekers.

    • acotrel says:

      04:43pm | 14/02/13

      ‘They will have to find more than having NO for every policy and three word slogans as their roadmap if they want to attain government.

      Is not Tony Abbott the Phar Lap of politics ?

    • Steve says:

      05:54am | 14/02/13

      “It’s time to rock the boat on offshore processing”

      Of course it is Paul. Labor is about to about to removed from government so we can all go back to saying how terrible detention is and how those meanie conservatives hate, just hate. And are cruel.

      In fact you could say that they are hating haters that hate and are cruel.

      Spare me.

      After hundreds and hundreds have died at sea I am over the lot of you. The one function a federal government has is to protect our borders and provide defence of the government. That is it. Labor can’t do it and provide an orderly intake of immigrants legal or otherwise.

      “Many of the people seeking to cross borders in any way they can have serious claims for protection from persecution.”

      And many are liars and main chancers. Many.

      My care cup is empty. As is the population with 4, yes count count them 4, places filled with the “take a refugee into your home” offer filled.

      By the sounds of it you work for a nicely government funded feel good body. Tell you what. How about we abolish it, along with 150, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!!!, agencies you represent and take all of their government funding and open up a few more intake places for refugess we process and pick from countires of first destination?

      How about that eh? Sounds good to me,

      Best practice asylum policy is this. Sacrosanct borders. We choose on our terms and our values the number and people that we wish to admit in a given year. That is all. We don’t need 150 agencies, all government funded, and one big umbrella duplication agency, government funded, to sort that out.

      We need one person with a brain and a passport. That will do fine.

    • Shep says:

      07:10am | 14/02/13

      @Steve ... I really LOVE this post, and wholeheatedly support your motion to dissolve, bravo.

    • ramases says:

      07:48am | 14/02/13

      Well said Sir, its time these bleeding hearts were put to the test, let them fund these people who come here illegally and expect the Australian Tax payer to fund their lifestyle.
        Here in Australiat we have our own people living in alleys and dying of hunger, pensioners who cant afford to air cond or heat their homes or even have 3 meals a day, hospitals that need more beds, schools that need more teachers, people who have lost everything in major natural disasters get a paltry $900 largess when we spend that a week on each and every one of these people who arrive illegally, get a grip.
        If they make the trip and die in the process then its not our fault but theirs and the people who extract thousands from them and put them on leaky boats.
        I’m sick and bloody tired of people trying to make me feel guilty for someone else’s action when in reality I had nothing to do with it.
        The truth is I don’t care, have never cared and will not care in the future, they are the people who make this decision to take flight and try and gain entry into our country and they are the ones who bare the responsibility and I’m not alone as many, in fact the majority of people here feel the same.
        Its only those with a barrow to push that try time and time again to pull at the heart strings of the Australian people with tales of death and destruction but its now so old hat and yesterdays news that we now gloss over it without so much as a tsk tsk.

    • Borderer says:

      09:11am | 14/02/13

      I agree but how about saying we accept asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, like PNG, NZ, etc if there is a war causing them to flee and we put them up in a UNHCR camp for resettlement or repatriation when things settle down.
      People outside our immediate region that have clearly travelled large distances to get here are put in the UNCHR program once they arrive but they are excluded entry to Australia as refugees, they join a waiting list like those in Africa to be settled elsewhere.
      It removes the incentive to travel here when they clearly wont be accepted into Australia but does ignore their asylum demands.
      We can then devote more resources to accepting refugees who are actually in imediate peril rather than some joker paying a criminal to flee from safety to Australia.

    • Luke says:

      10:18am | 14/02/13

      “By the sounds of it you work for a nicely government funded feel good body. Tell you what. How about we abolish it”

      Only 27% of the funding comes from the Government.  It’s probably best to research pre-rant.  Cheers.

      “And many are liars and main chancers. Many.”

      The statistics say about 3% actually.

      But I’m sure you know better, “by the sounds of it”.  wink

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      10:42am | 14/02/13

      Except we don’t have sacrosanct borders. Kiwis come and go as they please. Australia has no control over the numbers of people that come into Australia each year

    • OverIt says:

      04:46pm | 14/02/13

      Luke, “The statistics say about 3% actually”
      The statistics say that 3% are found not to be genuine refugees.  Confirming that in many cases, the Immigration Department, in the absence of having any way of confirming with absolute certainty that the identity claimed by individual asylum seekers bears any relation to the reality, gives them the benefit of the doubt.  Captain Emad was apparently a “geniune refugee”.  Now seriously, how do you think any government agency is going to come up with a statistic of who is a liar and main chancer?  Conduct a survey with tick boxes?  And have you never wondered why people who have clearly crossed several international borders but have since “lost” their ID prefer to get onto a leaky old boat for $10k plus, rather than fork out less than a grand for a flight to Australia?  It’s because to enter Oz by plane they have to have a visa.  And for that, they need ID.  Meaning the authenticity of their claim is easier to check.  The likelihood of being granted asylum for those who arrive by air is far less than those who arrive by sea.

      The amount of liars and main chancers is far greater than any government statistic will tell you.  And how do I back up my claim?  I have personally heard a large group of them in a suburb near me bragging about how easy it is to get in, how you just have to say x, y and z and ‘they - i.e. Immigration’ can’t prove otherwise.  They are actually given personal scenarios by the people smugglers in some cases.  And if I could speak Farsi I’m sure I would have overheard many more similar conversations.

      3% my a*se.

    • Steve says:

      05:33pm | 14/02/13

      One correction to my post typo wise

      ” The one function a federal government has is to protect our borders and provide defence of the nation (not government).

      @ Luke - You are either being deliberately false and misleading or have no idea what you are talking about. Or you are financially illiterate. Little out of clumn A and some from column B perhaps - that’s my bet.

      What you did was toddle off to the website of this organisation and look at the annual report. Or you are from it and know it categorises in misleading way.

      A further 30 seconds spent there would have made you realise that they categorise work they do for the government as not a government handout. They catergorise donations from governments bodies separately as well. All sorts of different income catergories are used. But they do not mask the fact the source of the monies are public. Learn to read. It is probably best to do that before making an idiot out of yourself.

      The figure you quote is for direct government subsidies from the feds.

      You see they are firmly attached to the teat. And you tried to muddy the water. Shameful person.

      @Borderer - i am not against that at all. I am against country shopping full stop. If they are fleeing for their lives then the first safe destination should be adequate.

      I am all for temporary housing and for sending people back when safe. Many many Sri Lankans could be returned with new skills and capital to help their birth country. A few could take some Australian wives and husbands to help out too. What a boon for Sri Lanka that would be.

      It would open up other spots for genuine refugees as well.

      The figure you quote is for direct government subsidies form the feds.

      You see they are firmly attached to the teat. And you tried to muddy the water. Shameful person.

      And stop it with the immigration stats. When the policy is to process and move on the people, when it is set in the illegals favour then they are meaningless.

      “But I’m sure you know better” Yes. Yes I do.

    • Old Fogey says:

      05:58am | 14/02/13

      Now how about the other side of the argument.  Stop pussy footing around.  Most of these so called refugees are simply trying to buy their way into Australia to achieve a better standard of living.  Why don’t we call them illegal immigrants any more?

    • Rose says:

      07:18am | 14/02/13

      We don’t call them illegal immigrants because that is not an accurate description of them. They are asylum seekers until such time as their applications for asylum are processed at which point they become either refugees and granted asylum or are deemed not to be refugees and are deported. Illegal immigrants are those who overstay their visas.

    • che says:

      08:29am | 14/02/13

      ‘Of the asylum cases finalised by the Australian Government among boat arrivals over the four years to 30 June 2012, 93 per cent of the applicants were found to be in need of refugee protection’

    • My Space says:

      06:08am | 14/02/13

      Gillard, Rudd and their worthless government created this mess. Over 17,000 people arrive by boat in 2013. This means that the cash revenue for this industry, an industry that was developed by this useless government, is probably well over $17,000,000. Do you think that the people smugglers will simply want to stop earning millions of dollars a year just because we say so?? It simply will not happen!!!

      Over the past 4- years the budget for this area has increased 10 fold, and we all now know that the budget is pure obfuscation, and has blown out to over $1,000M.  This is now almost 20-times more than the Budget for National Disasters .... but don’t worry there is no budgeted funds for National Disaster sin a few years. It was so wonderful that Gillard went to Bundaberg and said that this worthless Federal Government was going to provide $1,000,000.

      Is this how a TRUE Labor Government operates .... not even putting Australians second ..... maybe 8th or 9th.

      All you need is one rule .....


      Australia accepts 3,000 Refugees and 7,000 Asylum Seekers from the UNHCR. That’s our quota, that’s our cost, that’s our budget. Any person that is against this plan is simply saying that people who have over $10,000 to get to Australia by boat or lie on their Visa Application are more entitled to asylum than the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who do not have this money or opportunity.

    • ramases says:

      11:41am | 14/02/13

      My Space, you also forgot to mention that those needing airlifting to Brisbane had to go via Air Force cargo planes whereas Illegal Immigrants go to their destinations by Government hired aircraft. Our own people dont even qualify for the same treatment as the Illegals, hows that for a slap in the face. Well done again Julia.

    • acotrel says:

      06:09am | 14/02/13

      Tony Abbott had a great big new idea about everything the other day when he suggested we should develop northern Australia. He is obviously beginning to have constructive and innovative thoughts in the run-up to the election.  It is unfortunate that his ideas was slightly unrealistic because of environmental issues in northern Australia, however his heart is in the right place . All of the regional growth centres f rom Melbourne to Cairns are in need of population and investment in infrastructure.
      Good work, Tony ! ‘Turn back the boats’ was never going to work, and Australia needs more people to develop it anyway.

    • Alex says:

      06:29am | 14/02/13

      Makes so much sense. Such a shame that politics and counties drive this issue instead of facts and good policy.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:37am | 14/02/13

      Der Terk Er Jerbs!!!

      Great article.

    • Yasou says:

      06:55am | 14/02/13

      Paul, no one minds refugees getting a new start. We loved having them through the 70s and they brought diversity, but they did it off their own back. We didn’t give them free food, free homes, free money (to send overseas), free education, free medical, free pharmaceuticals, free transport, free and unfettered court access and a titanic-load of interest groups griping on their behalf.

      In your sheltered world of government funding, you imagine that each migrant only takes what they need, assiduously pays their taxes and generates massive wealth for the economy…

      You are naive… Criminally naive. Behind their crocodile tears they are laughing at you and your soft, stupid country for being so gullible. While ever we are a soft target, they will come.

    • Shep says:

      07:04am | 14/02/13

      The best way of “reducing the risks associated with boat journeys to Australia” is to stop them and escort them safely back from whence they came.

      Illegal immigrants try to come to Australia by boat, because the countries they leave and all subsequent ones they travel through are shitty places to live.  Our isn’t.  This is simply because of our hard work and we risk losing it all by allowing our society to be over-run by inclusiveness. 

      We are who we are, thats why we love it, and most of us a terrified at seeing it changing in ways we can’t control without our permission.  Its not xenophobia, its pure pride in our building of a great country and a wonderous homeland, amd hoping for it to stay that way for as long as we are able.

    • craig2 says:

      07:31am | 14/02/13

      Well, time to play my violin again. Don’t care, over it and I’m suffering compassion fatigue for this group and this coming from someone who regularly donates to three charities. Whatever rocks your boat Paul Power.

    • Al says:

      07:32am | 14/02/13

      You want to stop the boats there are some fairly simple soulutions:
      1) allow applications for refugee status and entry into Australia to be lodged with any Australian embassay and/or Consulate;
      2) Where the above process isn’t followed introduce a practice of firing on (warning shots) and then sinking the boats.
      I know it sounds cruel, but it will quickly reduce the numbers of those willing to undertake those journeys and also provide an alternative process for genuine refugees.

    • marley says:

      02:01pm | 14/02/13

      @Al - there is a process for the first of your steps.  It requires that an asylum seeker register with the UNHCR, that the UN determine that he’s a genuine refugee, and that the UN determine that he should be a candidate for third country resettlement.  Very few of the millions of refugees in the world comply with the third of these criteria.  And for those that do, there is one slot available globally for every 8 or 9 candidates. 

      So, we have people who are genuine refugees but can’t get to the top of the list, and we have people who are simply not on the list at all but still want to move. 

      That’s the unfortunate reality.

    • FZR560 says:

      08:25am | 14/02/13

      I am so ashamed, what will the world think?, have you no compassion? blah, blah, blah…....  We are being scammed and I’m offended.

    • AdamC says:

      08:43am | 14/02/13

      The problem with Labor’s refugee policy is that they placed too much reliance on an ebryonic offshore processing system as the sole mechanism of deterrence. People smugglers simply overwhelmed the ALP’s offshore processing infrastructure and broke former Immigration Minister Bowen’s ‘business model’. Theirs remains very muc intact, despite the government’s silly boasts.

      And Labor’s policy of capitulation, by letting asylum seekers reside in the community - almost guaranteeing eventual resettlement - is like a red rag to a people smuggling bull. Alarmingly, many government ministers do not even seem to realise this.

      This talk of regional solutions is a fallacious distraction. Most boatpeople who arrive in Australia are mere interlopers in our region, drawn by the prospect of a permanent visa to Australia.

      The only way to stop people smugglers sending their clients into our region is to stop resettling them. It is as simple as that.

    • Nostromo says:

      08:48am | 14/02/13

      Don’t worry people, if all sense & morals desert the ‘majority’ of Australians (factorig in our preferential abortion of a voting system) come September & Labor stay in power, then no one will want to come here - they’ll have to stop the boats *emigrating* en masse lol!

    • OLD MAX says:

      09:19am | 14/02/13

      It’s about time Australia bit the bullet, and returned these so called refugees
      who travel halfway around the world to get here. NO IDENTIFICATION PAPERS
      NO ENTRY, let’s not keep bowing to indonesia, send them back.

    • Mik says:

      10:02am | 14/02/13

      Indonesia and the airlines would have details of their travel identities upon entry so those who were threatened into throwing away those ids could give permission for these to be released if they have nothing to hide. Of course, these may be false also but some intelligence from the whisper web may pick up where the originals may have last been used, if they ever existed.

    • marley says:

      01:09pm | 14/02/13

      It is an unfortunate reality that you can’t send an asylum seeker back to Indonesia unless he happens to be an Indonesian citizen.

    • Old Fred says:

      03:34pm | 14/02/13

      Old Max, It is Australian officials who check the claims of the boat arriving asylum seekers… and as Mr Power says, the facts are that 93 % were confirmed to be genuine - that is to say they really were escaping from death and persecution and it is not safe to go home. In fact, home is lost to them .That’s an average over the four years before 30 June 2012.

      So think again about calling them “so called refugees” and use a bit of imagination to understand why a refugee will risk his life to safe his life   and that of his children.

    • Old Fred says:

      03:34pm | 14/02/13

      Old Max, It is Australian officials who check the claims of the boat arriving asylum seekers… and as Mr Power says, the facts are that 93 % were confirmed to be genuine - that is to say they really were escaping from death and persecution and it is not safe to go home. In fact, home is lost to them .That’s an average over the four years before 30 June 2012.

      So think again about calling them “so called refugees” and use a bit of imagination to understand why a refugee will risk his life to safe his life   and that of his children.

    • marley says:

      04:21pm | 14/02/13

      @Old Fred - no, DIAC doesn’t “check” the claims of asylum seekers. It records what they say and makes an assessment of whether the person is or is not a refugee.  Many of their negative decisions are then overturned by courts or tribunals.  The figure of 93% includes genuine refugees and those that to whom the benefit of the doubt was given in the absence of any evidence at all beyond the word of the claimant.  The UNHCR itself knows that the figure is out of whack with reality.

    • Luke says:

      10:04am | 14/02/13

      “Of the asylum cases finalised by the Australian Government among boat arrivals over the four years to 30 June 2012, 93 per cent of the applicants were found to be in need of refugee protection”


    • Anubis says:

      12:11pm | 14/02/13

      Except that even the UNHCR has acknowledged that Australia’s methods for determining who are valid refugees is the softest in the world. If UNHCR criteria were to be properly applied you would probably find those figures reversed. Won’t happen unfortunately - too many bleeding hearts like the author of this article have their snouts firmly buried in the trough.

      Evidence of this is that Captain who was a key part of a smuggling ring who gained refugee status (and his extended family). It was quite interesting to read yesterday that the extended family members had their protection visas and refugee status revoked.

    • franklin says:

      03:21pm | 14/02/13

      The classification of an asylum seeker as a refugee is a very subjective process. In the end the process often comes down to whether an asylum seeker’s claims are to be believed or not, and in nearly all cases without the presentation of any real evidence. All enquiries after the arrival of an asylum seeker involve assessments as to whether the story of persecution they present is believable or not. Travel and identity documents are purposefully discarded and so the further an asylum seeker moves from their home country, the more difficult it is to confirm their identity and the facts of their story. For many years asylum seekers getting on boats to Australia with an intention to claim asylum only have needed to present a prepared story that is an effective distillation of the stories of previously successful applicants. The story has to be moving enough to engage the 1951 Convention protection obligations, but at the same time vague enough to be uncheckable and unverifiable. As very few stories from dysfunctional third world countries can be conclusively and individually disproved the storytellers get the benefit of the doubt and so gain refugee status.

    • Rose says:

      10:50am | 14/02/13

      It seems to me that for the past decade or so we have approached this ‘problem’ all wrong it has become a political issue rather than a humanitarian one. The first thing we need to acknowledge is that in the whole scheme of things we get a trickle of refugees, the rest of the world getting the bulk of them. We also need to acknowledge that we cannot go it alone and expect to make any real long term dent in the problem. we need to do as the author suggests and work it a a regional and then global issue.
      No amount of draconian measures will do anything but make a temporary lull in the numbers. We need long term regional and global solutions and we need them to incorporate solutions for countries of origin as well as resettlement strategies.
      We need to stop looking at it solely as Australians and start looking at it as global citizens.

    • Loxy says:

      11:10am | 14/02/13

      I believe very strongly that asylum seekers will become the number one issue in this country and probably all western countries in the next 10-20 years. Conflicts, wars, natural disasters are all on the increase across the world and this will undoubtedly lead to more and more displaced people seeking refuge in western countries.

      If a strong stance is not taking on this issue now then what all the bleeding hearts label as a trickle of boat people really will become a raging torrent in the future that we can not cope with.

      It’s time to re-think our agreement with the Refugee Convention, a document that might have catered well for the handling of this issue when it was written over 60 years ago, but is now clearly out of touch with modern society.

      I think the only way to stop the boats completely, which should be the ultimate goal, is to not accept any asylum seekers who approach our country in this manner. We could offset this by upping our quota of asylum seekers who enter the country through the appropriate processes.

    • Leigh says:

      12:20pm | 14/02/13

      It’s well past ‘time’ that we had politicians capable of, or willing to, protect our borders from illegal entry.

      Instead, they have given into, and encouraged, people to come here uninvited. Few illegals are knocked back; they all get housing, the dole and most of the welfare you once had to be an Australian citizen to collect.

      These politicians, unable to carry about their basic duties of border protection, are also spending more of our money on new, bigger and better facilities to house people arriving illegally.

      That acts a further encouragement for people smugglers to continue their trade.

      Why this author brings up the old chestnut of “tragic deaths” at sea is a mystery. It is clear that it doesn’t worry the oncoming illegals, so that’s no deterrent either, and nothing to do with Australia. Our job is to stop the boats, and our Labor government is clearly incapable of doing that. There is no evidence that a Coalition government will be able to do it either, now that Labor has had several years to turn border protection into a huge joke.

      Forget ‘processing’ and looking for the ‘cooperation’ of other countries; it’s our problem, and we need someone in Australia to fix it. The Germans eventually had to turn to extremes after they had been treated like monkeys by incompetent and gutless governments who thought they had a ‘right’ to govern.  Opinion polls and loud-mouthed progressives are only covering up the real feelings of voters who will go to the real poll in September. There will be more choices then than just the two ‘born-to-rule’ parties and the loony Left.

    • acotrel says:

      04:39pm | 14/02/13

      ‘The Germans eventually had to turn to extremes after they had been treated like monkeys by incompetent and gutless governments who thought they had a ‘right’ to govern.’

      So you think that if a government is voted into office , it doesn’t necessarily have the right to govern ? Are you a gun owner ?

    • Mr Sam says:

      01:31pm | 14/02/13

      So Singapore just has to say no. It has no UN pressure, no International condamnation? Is Australia even in control of its borders? Come ALP! It is 2013, you’ve had since 2007 to get this right!!!!!!

    • Tanya says:

      01:40pm | 14/02/13

      There is a need to look more closely at the sources of information and/or the belief systems from which so many Australians derive the notion that asylum seekers are fraudulent opportunists. The media plays a big part in it.

    • ramases says:

      02:52pm | 14/02/13

      And there not, where is your undeniable evidence that they are who and what they say.
      They arrive here with no papers, so we have to take at face value their statement as to who they are and where they are from. That in itself should ring alarm bells to anyone in power but it seems that that’s okay as long as you came her by boat.
        Its time a strict regime was bought into play, if you arrive here illegally without papers you will be jailed indefinitely until we can identify you then you will be sent back to where you came from. No releases into the community, no motels or old age pension units but proper jails where you are given the basics and no extras, food, water and a place to sleep, no internet, no phones, no legal representation at tax payers cost, no cigarettes. On top of that you are put to work top earn your keep or you can request to go home immediately. Works for me.

    • franklin says:

      02:44pm | 14/02/13

      Traditionally, asylum was a regional problem. Refugees sought sanctuary within their own geographical or cultural environment with the aim of returning home as soon as they safely could. The revolution in communications, ease of transportation, enduring poverty, protracted internal conflicts and social upheaval have combined to create a pervasive feeling of discontent throughout third world countries. This, in turn, has led to a globalisation of population movement. The end result is that a combined mass of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrants is now converging on affluent western countries in the quest for a better life. Within this movement, refugees in need of sanctuary are a small minority. The overwhelming majority of those who move are either refugees who already have asylum - and thus are in no danger of persecution - or illegal migrants who more often than not try to pass themselves off as refugees.

      Asylum seekers pay $10,000 to $15,000 to travel via criminal gangs of people smugglers from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Christmas Island. For perspective note that the yearly per capita income of Afghanistan is around $800 per year or less than $3 per day. Also note that there are four countries that border Afghanistan that are United Nations member states AND signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, AND four more such countries that are only one country away. These countries have signed the same refugee convention as Australia and as refugee advocates inform us it is not illegal to seek asylum in such countries.

      In contrast, the most desperate refugees in the world are single women and children living in squalid refugee camps in Africa and Asia. They live in abject poverty and are forced to deal with hostile locals, an almost total lack of economic opportunities, frequent gender based violence, high rates of crime and food shortages. They are obviously unable to pay many thousands of dollars to people smugglers, it is a great struggle for them just to provide their daily food.

      Many compassionate Australians take the view that the very limited number of places in Australia’s refugee resettlement program should be allocated to those most vunerable. It offends the sense of fairness of many compassionate Australians that asylum seekers with many thousands of dollars to pay criminal gangs of people smugglers should automatically take precedence in Australia’s refugee resettlement program ahead of UNHCR refugees in much great need.

    • Mik says:

      05:14pm | 14/02/13

      Richer displaced persons will try to use their contacts and money to escape, poorer people cannot do this which is why there will be greater numbers of the latter in refugee camps. It does not mean richer people were in less danger in the country of origin than they were. It may also happen that ordinary criminals and perpetrators of the situation may use their money and the confusion of the exodus to also exit.
      There has to be new thinking so that more refugees are not made, so that they can exist safely in their own countries without becoming refugees. This is not going to happen overnight so there has to be new ideas put in place so that they can be safe, learning, earning and being prepared, where possible, for leadership roles when their countries are safe enough for re entry ( I understand baby steps are being made with South Sudan, perhaps another reader has more information). There are groups currently who will probably never be able to make that re- entry - that is the fault of the country of origin, not the host or accepting nations. These people have to be humanely accommodated elsewhere and reparations from the country of origin must be part of the conversation.
      There is much talk of historical reparations, especially with regard to colonization, so reparations to those currently directly affected by displacement, and the countries who have to accommodate them should also be on the agenda.

    • OverIt says:

      06:01pm | 14/02/13

      Franklin, it never ceases to amaze me how many bleeding hearts never question how young men in their early to mid 20s have apparently acquired ‘life savings’ of 12 times or more the average wage.  That is, of course, while actually living on the average wage. Even if they’d been working for 10 years, the cost of the journey to Australia would take all their wages during this time, and more. It’s actually the equivalent to a 22 year old Australian male having around $700,000 in life savings - and how many 22 year olds are even ON the average wage yet?

      The other old furphy bandied around is that they sell things to finance their passage.  What things?  How many young males, while living on their average wage, could acquire enough equity in property to be able to sell for such a profit?  And with a large percentage of the population living on subsistence level, who are the buyers?

      To think people believe that the majority of the current crop of boat arrivals are genuine asylum seekers makes me shake my head in disbelief.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:11pm | 14/02/13

      Much of the problem seems to spring from, you guessed it, the Australian public service model of administration.

      In some ways it is similar to why so many people rip-off Centrelink despite the fact DSS/Centrelink officers are invariably smart enough to pick the bludgers from the genuine cases almost at a glance.

      The nub of it all is: criteria.  Legislation, and entitlements granted by legislation, usually come down to the applicant satisfying certain criteria.  (e.g. for Unemployment Benefit, the criteria usually being “aged between 18 and 60”, “not working”, and “actively seeking full time work”.

      If the applicant provides information satisfying those criteria, then generally speaking the public servant addressing their case has no discretion or independent judgment to exercise.  They cannot deny the claim based on a suspicion, even if you wore a $1000 suit to the interview or drive away afterward in a Ferrari.  (Or at least they can’t deny the claim without the denial overturned on appeal to the SSAT shortly afterwards.)

      If the criteria are formally satisfied, the entitlement usually is granted.  If you are wanting to rip off Centrelink, all you must do is satisfy the criteria surrounding a benefit and give Centrelink no information with which they could figure out you are lying.  That is the heart of a lot of welfare rorting in Australia.

      A similar situation applies to DIAC.  There’s no “queue” as such, but boat arrivals are generally processed via a “priority processing” procedure.  And DIAC does not have power to reject an application just on suspicion: in most cases they are bound to assess the application on the information to hand, which in the case of illegal boat arrivals, will generally come down to the arrivant’s word alone (or that of he and few of his mates on the same boat), it being a frequent practice to dump your papers before you get to Australia.

      There isn’t the staff or funding in ASIO to go snooping around villages in Sri Lanka to verify the arrivant’s story (i.e. see whether the person is a war criminal or just an unsuccessful snake oil salesman) so in many cases the officer is compelled to declare the arrivant a “genuine refugee”.  *That* is what drives the “96% genuine refugee” statistic that refugee advocates point to when it comes to boat arrivals.  Unfortunately it doesn’t screen out the genuine refugees from the economic ones.

    • Val says:

      03:41pm | 14/02/13

      Guys,havn`t you forgot where have come you grandparents from?Do you want me to remind you?Seems that you`ve got short memory people!You`re yourselves came here from England,killed thousands of Aboriginals!Do you know that no one invited you god damn here!So shut up and don`t say a shitty word about assylum seekers!

    • St. Michael says:

      04:19pm | 14/02/13

      I’m sorry, Val, but not one of my ancestors killed a single Aboriginal.  We came here in one case from Europe after World War 2, in the other case from England on steamships, not sailing ships.  And we didn’t pay people smugglers a fortune to get here, either, in one case we were UNHCR refugees, in the other, free settlers.  As for the Aboriginals: as Helen Demidenko once said, “People are dispossessed all the time.  Suck it up.”

    • Shane says:

      05:44pm | 14/02/13

      No Val, my ancestral heritage is Irish. Another nation that was invaded by the English hundreds of years ago, our rulers were deposed and as recently as the 1970’s we had English soldiers murdering peaceful protesters. We still live under the banner of an invading country. How about you stick your bigotted opinions where the sun don’t shine?

    • Heather says:

      06:24pm | 14/02/13

      Oh that’s right Australia was the first and only country ever taken over by another culture….

      And Val you have NO idea where my grandparents came from or what their stories are.

      So stick THAT in your ass-ylum seeker ....

    • earthfan says:

      03:45pm | 14/02/13

      It is not an accident that refugees come from places that have high birth rates.

      Since the International Convention for Refugees was ratified, the world’s population has doubled, and many countries, Australia included, have reduced their reproduction rates to replacement levels or below. It is no coincidence that the areas of the world that have conflict, are also places where the birthrates are high.

      Common sense tells us that, whatever a country’s problems may be, a high birthrate can only add to them. It is hard to imagine how any government can supply jobs, education, clean water etc., to all their citizens, while they continue to breed at the rate our forefathers did. And when they fail, conflict is inevitable.

      Parents in undeveloped countries create the conditions for conflict when they try to provide for their own future security by having four or more children. It is not reasonable for them then, to demand that those who have practised greater restraint, rescue their able bodied sons from the situation they themselves helped to create.

      What is the point of resettling refugees, if those left out breed more refugees?

      Immigration is ruining our country. Perth is dependent on desalination plants running on fossil fuel energy and pumping hypersaline water into our beloved ocean. Our fish stocks are depleted, our flora and fauna treasures are endangered due to habitat destruction.  Cities are encroaching on agricultural land. Residential blocks of land are getting smaller and smaller and the journeys to work are getting longer and longer. Children are growing up in little flats with nowhere to play within earshot of their mothers other than the driveways.  I call that a drop in living standard.

      We should have NO humanitarian immigration intake at all. Instead, ALL our humanitarian aid should be directed towards supplying girls and women with education and contraception services. The refugee camps would be a good place to start.

    • porloc says:

      04:21pm | 14/02/13

      An Abbott government will have a clear mandate to deal with the problem of these illegal economic immigrants.


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