The UN Convention and asylum seeking

Anyone claiming to be a refugee relies upon the UN Convention on Refugees to be heard. This Convention was introduced to deal with the large numbers of people in Europe displaced by World War Two. I have known a few of those accepted by Australia as personal friends or work mates.

Today, the Convention is clearly out-of-date as it is being used by those who choose to leave their country of nationality or normal country of residence to better themselves in a Western country of their choice; while there are large numbers of displaced people, accepted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees, who are in limbo, and awaiting re-settlement. These refugees could remain in this limbo for years, even for a lifetime. Against that, asylum seekers today insist on being given permanent residence immediately on arrival in their country of choice.

Among the asylum seekers, there may be some who have been persecuted by their government by reason of their religion, race, politics, etc., etc. Ill-treatment by someone from another tribe or by a criminal does not count. If an asylum seeker does not provide evidence of persecution by officialdom, on what basis can Australia’s officials and courts decide to accept the claimant as a genuine refugee?

Other issues: Is there no other part of one’s country of nationality or residence where one would be safe from tribal violence or criminality? Is there no other country of the same cultural tradition to go to, so that the new arrival’s culture is not in some conflict with either the institutions or the social mores of the receiving nation? Where the applicant would fit best culturally should surely be a consideration by decision makers. Then, why did the asylum seekers now in Australia not seek immigration entry – that is, by following due process? Do they have something to hide, including their economic unviability?

The UN Convention is not a treaty. The latter is legally binding. The former is for the ‘bending’ by signatory governments. But then, international agencies do have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They have little regard for the exigencies applying in individual member-states. Complaints by UN bureaucrats about compliance can thereby be unrealistic. UNHCR representatives need to accept that Australia is significantly different from many other nations flooded by asylum seekers many of whom are chickens coming home to roost in the former colonial mother’s hen-house. Australia is a societally integrated nation through our equal opportunity practices.

It is surely time for UNHCR to come up with new approaches. The old shoe does not fit any more.