Asylum seeker policy – core issues

The main issues for Australia should be obvious: protecting the integrity of the nation’s border; and balancing the national interest against competing demands. The latter reflects: opportunism; a deficiency in morality; self-seeking; and a dearth of awareness of the financial costs and adverse societal consequences of a simplistic open-door approach.

The beneficiaries of this latter approach are: the legal profession; and the thousands of self-selected immigrants who will probably remain on the public teat for a long time because they are economically unviable (that is, unable to get jobs). Members of the glee club may not remain cheerful about their success to date when they are required to pay more taxes to offset the billions wasted through this seek and succour process.

Is it possible to protect the national interest against those surfing on the wash of the UN convention on Refugees? Since the convention is not legally binding, Australia could either opt out of it formally (other countries inundated by asylum seekers may soon do this); or apply it in a pragmatic manner, having regard to the societal, financial, equity, or other consequences.

Refugee entry has necessarily to be selective. Hitherto, refugees had entered Australia after UNHCR had decreed that they are refugees under the UN Convention; that is, they came through the front door, after also being assessed by Australia as capable of fitting harmoniously into the nation. Australia has had a commitment to take is as many as possible for a long while, yet allowing space for some humanitarian entrants. The latter also entered by selection, not by self-imposition.

A 3-year temporary residence visa, which denied family reunion rights and permitted repatriation of the visa holder, would have deterred many opportunists. The foolish cancellation of this policy has produced disastrous consequences.

Australia has an undeniable right to place in detention anyone breaching its borders. Unlawful (that is, visa-less) arrivals will need to learn that uttering vehemently ‘Open sesame’ (refer the Ali Baba story) is not enough to qualify for welfare, Medicare and public housing. The treatment of boat arrivals in detention has been most generous; reportedly, they have been given mobile phones, in addition to board and lodging, and all manner of necessary services.

And it does take time to process the claims of claimants who hide their identity and, possibly, any mental health problems. Indeed, how did those officials and jurists who granted residence rights to 4 out of every 5 applicants decide that the applicant did not pose any risks to the nation in terms of security or criminality?

There needs to be more honesty and transparency.