Asylum seeker influx stirs Australians

October 16, 2009

                                                      By Michael Perry

Australia is being invaded!!

Well, thats the impression you get if you’ve been reading the Australian media headlines.

Photographs of a rickety wooden ship crammed with 260 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, which was intercepted by Indonesia as it sailed to Australia, have been splashed across newspaper
frontpages this week and dominated TV news bulletins.

“Six more boats on the way” and of a “Flood of 10,000 boatpeople”, warned headlines. “Acting to stem the tide” and “No vacancy for boatpeople”, said headlines on stories of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moves to stop boatpeople arrivals.

Monitoring the political pulse, webwite breakfast politics was swamped with asylum seeker stories on the morning of Wednesday Oct. 14, the day after the latest boat was intercepted in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands.

But what is invading Australia? Boatpeople? Or divisive politics, sparked by an opposition trailing badly in opinion polls, mixed with ignorance of the facts by Australians?

In recent months Australia has seen a steady flow of boatpeople arrivals off its northwest coast. More than 1,600 have arrived so far this year, mainly people fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

But the numbers are a drop in the ocean compared with the tens of thousands of asylum seekers sailing across the Mediterranean to Europe each year.

In 2007 alone more than 51,000 people arrived on the coasts of Itay, Spain, Greece and Malta. In the first seven months of 2009, the number of illegal immigrants entering Italy doubled to 15,000, leading to new laws carrying a four year jail term for entering the country illegally.

 In 2008 there were 16 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced people worldwide, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in June.

 Pakistan topped the list with 1.8 million refugees, followed by Syria with 1.1 million and then Iran with 980,000. Afghanistan accounted for the largest number of refugees at 2.8 million and Iraq next with 1.9 million.

While Australia’s media and some politicians warn of a rising tide of refugees, the number of refugees in Asia-Pacific actually fell six percent in 2008, in contrast to a rise in Europe.

The UNHCR’s 2008 Global Trends report on refugees and displaced people mentions Australia only once, acknowledging that it accepted 11,000 refugees in the year. Australia is absent from
any list of asylum destinations.

Contrary to popular impression, aircraft is the preferred mode of transport for Australia’s illegal arrivals. Some 96 percent of illegal arrivals don’t come via a rickety boat but sitting in the comfort of an aircraft. Backpackers and other tourists who overstay their visas account for the majority of Australia’s illegal immigrants.

Yet, the media and politicians routinely whip up a storm over boatpeople arrivals, ever since former conservative Prime Minister John Howard used the issue to win the 2001 election.


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They are little grey men and cowards to the man of woman of them.

We have 890 migrants arrive every day, 1700 foreign students and 40,000 tourists and other visitors and not a soul even notices.

WE even have 800,000 people come on boats.

To put everything into perspective – those this year are less than the 2106 passenger capacity on the P & O Oceania.

And that comes here year in and year out unremarked – it was one of these big girls who brought the swine flu where as refugees on boats didn’t .

Posted by Marilyn Shepherd | Report as abusive

Around half of all Australians are immigrants or the children of immigrants (including myself). 50 years ago the Australian population was around 8 million, today it’s 22 million. Is there any country in Europe that has accepted so many immigrants or has such a rapidly expanding population?
These new arrivals have found food, housing, education and employment on one of the most barren continents on earth, and in a nation possessing an economy the fraction the size of Europe’s. And let’s keep in mind that is not Australia’s imperialistic legacies or economic ambitions that that have destroyed the viability of third world nations and created these problems in the first place.
Europe should fix the mess it has created, or at least take refugees on a per capita par with Australia’s. However, given the vast subsides Europe pays its famers to grow food, and the millions it pays to then plough it back into the earth (while millions starve)…I don’t think I’ll hold my breath and wait for the EC to do anything constructive – their dismal track record speaks for itself.

Posted by blueterrace | Report as abusive

Refugees are suppose to stop at the first safe port. Australia is on the other side of the world for these people. They aren’t refugees, they’re queue jumpers avoiding the correct way to apply for residency. This is why they turn up without identification papers, to make it harder to reject them. I don’t know what they’re told before they hand over their money to the people smugglers. But Australian’s don’t want them here, they’re not welcome.

Posted by Wiseguy | Report as abusive

We must look into whether the refugees are bona fide or are they just economic refugees, seeking a better life overseas. Sri Lanka had concluded its tragic civil war and is on the mend. If Australia accepts such refugees, this will encourage more and more economic refugees. It is time to say “No” to economic refugees but welcome and shelter those refugees who are fleeing from genuine persecution.

Posted by Lim Boon Chuan | Report as abusive

These numbers of illegal immigration are laughable compared to how many come to the U.S. every year. The numbers are about 1 weeks worth of immigration here. Australia is a huge country, and can absorb these amounts. I am not for unbridaled immigration, but there has to be enough dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs that these immigrants would do. I think a more pressing issue is severe drought in the country. How can we use solar power to desalinate water, and then create endless farmlands in Australia? Then, Australians would need the immigrants there to provide farm labor.

Posted by eastbaysensei | Report as abusive

[…] “In 2007 alone more than 51,000 people arrived on the coasts of Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta. In the first seven months of 2009, the number of illegal immigrants entering Italy doubled to 15,000, leading to new laws carrying a four year jail term for entering the country illegally.” Asylum seeker influx stirs Australians […]

Posted by Australia is being invaded! Let’s build barricades with statistics! « A possie in Aussie | Report as abusive

Reading ‘eastbaysenei’comment that the immigrants would only be useful to do ‘dirty, dangerous/difficult jobs’ shows what a red neck he/she must be. Having said that I do not agree with the large number of boat people paying people smugglers in the guise of genuine asylum seekers . And please note. Australia is the only Country in the world that when granted asylum, they immediately receive permanent residency, welfare benefits, free medical and Govt assistance with accommodation.

Posted by Scotty | Report as abusive

It is not the responsibility of the world to take in all these refugees, but it IS the responsibility of the european and rest of the civilized and democratic world to sort out these insane and cruel Governments in order to stop this out of control infulx of boat people. If sadam could have been overthrown and replaced then so can most other unwanted and unjust leaders.You cannot have 3/4 of the world’s population living in a handfull of Countries.It is uncalled for to insult Australia when Australia have lovingly taken in uncountable refugees who are given more assistance they ever thought possible, kindly note that there are 100’s of 1000’s of legal australians who are disadvantaged, homeless, jobless etc. To take more in would bring any Country to it’s knees.
The worst offence in my opinion is millions of “refugees” worldwide voted their present Governments into power and in most african countries, voted the european’s out of the Country, the hilarious cheek is that they are now trying to run into the arms of the very people they threw out!Take Mugabe for example, why has he not been physically removed? I once heard that 3/4 of zimbabweans were living in South Africa, this is not on – Mugabe must be removed as Head of State and along with him, many other Heads of State in many other Countries, and replaced with UN elected Leaders.If people cannot run their own Country then they will have to be forced into being taught how to. This will put an end to some but not all, cruel and inhuman leaders and bring about democracy and justice for all in that particular Country. No religious group or cultural group should be subject to cruelty or be disadvantaged in any way, all human rights should apply to all citizen’s no matter who and what you are and the powers that be should step in to remove unjust and cruel leaders in whatever Countries they can.

Posted by concerned | Report as abusive

In the past immigrants were selected by the country as people who would be
suitable to merge into the population without any trouble or danger. They were
carefully selected ,They were not boat people and everything that was needed
to be known about them indeed was. These people coming in by boat are not
wanted by the Australian people . They are an unknown element in a very
dangerous world. The Tamils may include terrorist trying to escape the justice of
their own country. If you don’t know about the various branches of the tamil
terrorists then look it up on the internet. It is very interesting. We don’t need
people that may constitute a danger to the rest of the Australian population.
We should flatly refuse to take any boat people into our country. EVER.

Posted by Emma | Report as abusive

If I were a person in genuine fear of my life, I would jump the border for the nearest safe country. I would take the quickest route to safety.

I would not spend thousands of dollers to be smuggled across the globe to the nearest western country.

Such behaviour does not seem to indicate a genuine need for refuge. Nor does the fact that these people appear to be well fed and obviously rich enough to pay people smugglers for the journey.

This seems to indicate the majority are simply economic refugees, only fleeing the fact that they don’t live in a western nation. And allowing their desire for a better life to put the processing of genuine refugees at risk.

So according to this article’s logic, I suppose I must be one of those ignorant Australians who have fallen for diversive political tricks. My fault for thinking too hard about it, I suppose.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

These are not legitimate refugees seeking refuge, they are immigrants smuggled here by criminal gangs on dangerous, overloaded boats to exploit the vast Australian coastline and avoid cues in normal immigration. Instead of going to one of their neighbors for asylum from war they seek an huge upgrade in living standard by traveling all the way to the other side of the world to Australia, and pay a lot of money for it.
I don’t understand why we cant process them inside Australia and then deport them if they don’t qualify? Maybe by holding them offshore we are closing legal loopholes they could exploit.
The myth that Australia is a huge country with plenty of room is just that, the only land available for living is around the coastline and we want to protect our quality of life and learn from the mistakes of countries who are overpopulated.
The funny thing is just how many other countries these boats will pass right on by, on their way down under.. and all of these countries are closer in culture to where they came from.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Brian – look at a map and explain to me which “close in culture” to their largely English-speaking, Hindu county they’d go past on the way to Australia. There is a largely Hindu area closer, India, but there are many Tamils in Indian camps who have been trapped there for many years fleeing this civil war that has been going on since the 1980s, and despite shots not still being fired, the largely Sinhalese governmet is holding more than 100,000 people in camps where they are not even allowed to search for and find their lost husbands, wives or children, let alone have hygienic conditions. The monsoon is coming, and many fear, rightly, that they’ll die in Sri Lanka anyway. Australia needs to be pressuring Sri Lanka and India to help people at the source – that makes more sense than ramping up this scare campaign again. They have the right to come here and claim asylum under internatinal law, whether you approve of that or not. To stop them coming, we need to help re-build their homeland.

Posted by ergotine | Report as abusive

Anon – why not investigate the conditons people are fleeing from — you do a lot of supposing, exactly which country that has a safe haven would you like them to go to?

Emma – you gave yourself away there – saying we shoudl not accept any boat people – do you know that we have agreed to do so under international law? Do you also know that there are thousands of visa overstayers and other people who arrived by plane who went below the surface and did not turn themselves in and ask for asylum but stayed here after pretending to be here for work or tourism? Of course mostly they are from the UK – or is that different?

Posted by ergotine | Report as abusive

ergotine, no I don’t agree with the issue being used as a political football by parties with the same opinion on it anyway..
But I wasn’t speaking about Sri Lankans when I made the comment about culture, I was speaking about Australia’s illegal immigration problem. This is the first boat from Sri-Lanka I’ve ever heard of..
Most of the boats come from Arab countries like Afghanistan and pass a lot of other Arab countries on the way to Australia.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

As the article says, the majority of illegal immigration comes via plane not boat, and overstay their visa on the pretence of work or tourism. The only difference between them and the ‘boatpeople’ is skin colour… Besides immigration is a good thing, alloys are stronger.

Posted by Blackbeard’s Delight | Report as abusive

It’s not a racial issue blackbeard, Australia is extremely multicultural proud of it. The issue for me is the loss in quality of life and further destruction of Australian nature as room has to be made for all these new immigrants.
Immigration can be good for business, but overpopulation is never good for quality of life and the environment. There are a million and one examples of this.
What makes Australia special, and what makes it Australia is the relatively unspoiled nature of our environment and quality of our lifestyle which is currently under threat from human expansion.
We have NO obligation to overpopulate our coastlines and destroy our environment and way of life to help people illegally immigrate.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

I have been to Christmas Island and can say that some of the “refugees” on the Island should not be here at all.
While I was on the Island there were a few things that blew me away…..
1 the refugees suposedly come with nothing but the clothes on there back, yet they tell the guards they’ve had there stolen an MP4 player (that’s only being out for 6mths while that person has been there for 8mths) 9 times out of ten they get these “stolen things” replaced
2 One woman claimed that the guards had stolen $15,000 dollars she had in her room under her pillow, yet upon processing she was noted as having nothing.
(and to get to the other side of the Island where the bank is, is about 13k through fairly full on bush, and it’s only open certain times)
3 One “suposed” refugee took to another refugee with a cricket stump….in the eye.
4 The refugees get better food options than the locals on the island, three square meals a day and the goverment flies in fresh food every three days where as the locals get a containership once a month.
I’m not completly opposed to having refugees but I can’t understand how a refugee can afford 10-15,000 per head in a large family.
If they can afford that then why Q hop?

Posted by Fibo86 | Report as abusive

and no I’m not guard or someone that works for the goverment.

Posted by Fibo86 | Report as abusive

The best way to deal with all these people who are entering the country illegally, is to fly them right back to where they came from; it would also be the cheapest option. It cost too much money to keep them in detention centres while they are being processed, so fly them home and make them apply through the correct channels. Illegal immigrants should not be tolerated as the cost the nation is to high. Furthermore, I am not responsible for the problems these people face, and if my country was at war I would not run away; I would stay and fight. Do we really want a bunch of cowards living among us? I don’t.

Posted by Sue From AUS | Report as abusive

I don’t like them and I don’t want them. That is the truth and I won’t deny it. You can call me racist if you want, I don’t care and maybe I am, or maybe I have seen more than you in life.

I know where many illegal immigrants get their money from. They steal it. Yes this is the truth these people know more about scamming other people’s money than you could ever imagine. Because they are involved in crime they also know how to lie and how to work the system. They seldom work alone, as they are part of larger crime syndicates. The members of these syndicates will help them get jobs where they can work illegally and never have to pay taxes. If they are accepted as refugees they will also get huge government grants; while our own people struggle to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Our laws have enabled this.

You work, your parents work and your children work and you all pay tax. then these people get it all handed to them. But god forbid if you loose your home, because you wont get any help from the government, as you are not a refugee; so you may end up on the street, while the refugees get everything and I mean everything.

Posted by JENNY | Report as abusive

Well, Michael, I’de be interested to have a clarification of the following paragraph from the article:

‘ Pakistan topped the list with 1.8 million refugees, followed by Syria with 1.1 million and then Iran with 980,000. Afghanistan accounted for the largest number of refugees at 2.8 million and Iraq next with 1.9 million. ‘

What is the difference between Pakistan, then Syria, then Iran ‘topping the list’ with their numbers of refugees… and then, Afghanistan followed by Iraq accounting for the largest numbers of refugees??

Beyond that, and concerning Australia itself, shouldn’t all statements & reporting on a contemporary issue such as ‘boat people’ be predicated by the historical arrival of Brits by boat, who are the reason the continent most often referred to today as Australia became a colonial state in the first place??

Furthermore is that you must know that Australia is one of the rich countries, and immorally has created wealth through colonial theft, and that furthermore still is the specific fact of Australia having extensive natural resource industries, including mining/extractive industries, and is a significant contributor to climate change. You need to realize and draw the connections to the facts of the extents to which Australia has been cumulatively, and is continuing to contribute to the underlying causes of political-economic refugees as an escalating trend. Those of us educated and following the big picture have been well aware that the current indications-observable facts of growing instability are just the beginnings. In fact I’de say it is a good thing that this has begun to get seriously underway since it may create greater political pressures to work toward fact based solutions.
My opinion overall would be that it does not do much good to confuse~muddle facts, or to not include the full scale and extent of the societal dangers of how all of this inter-depends.

Posted by Reuty | Report as abusive