Asylum seeking – a racket?

Visitors to Australia, armed with visas, can be ‘turned around’ at Australia’s airports and sent back to the point of departure immediately, were immigration officials not satisfied about their reason for seeking entry. However, once in the country, all that they need to do to avoid being sent home is to claim asylum, to be a refugee in genuine fear of persecution on return to their country of nationality. The other path is to seek to be ‘intercepted’ by Australia’s border protection vessels at sea, and to claim asylum.

As a migrant in Australia, the son of a migrant into another country, and the grandson of an immigrant (on my mother’s lineage), I believe that I understand migrants and what impels them. The majority of my friends in Australia over 6 decades were/are immigrants. My former Immigration colleagues used to describe an immigrant as an adventurer; he would choose to cross the seas and to survive (without public welfare) in a foreign country whose language and culture were alien.

As a former Director of Policy on refugees and humanitarian entrants (as well as on ethnic affairs, citizenship, and migrant settlement), I am well aware of the diverse motivations of governments and those individuals who had sought to enter Australia under prevailing generous policies on concessional entry. In spite of the policies being somewhat flexible, even porous for political purposes, there was no shortage of optimists seeking concessional entry without cause, and contrary to policy, or those within the country endeavouring to assist them. The latter were usually representatives of churches or ethnic communities.

I have been personally abused and threatened for not agreeing to approve entry outside of policy (because I had no authority to do so).

From both my experience of dealing with concessional entry of persons from 3 continents, and what I have read about the current situation, I am inclined to accept that asylum seeking in Australia is indeed a racket; although there may be some applicants who have a genuine fear of persecution on return to their country of nationality. How is one to know how genuine their fear is?