In the forthcoming election in Australia, a major issue of contention is how to stop the invasion of the country by an increasing flood of undocumented, objectively unidentifiable economic immigrants. The future of Australian society is being threatened by these boat arrivals, because of unfocused official policies and (reportedly) challengeable assessment procedures, which can be expected to result in seriously adverse inter-community and budgetary consequences.
The issues arising from this manner of asylum seeking are quite simple: morality, legality, equity (or fairness) and good governance. This part deals with the first 2 issues.
As necessary background, it must be noted that, at Australian airports, a person found, after an in-depth scrutiny, of having been dishonest in obtaining an entry visa, is sent back to the point of departure. It would be obvious that an entrant with an acceptable visa who, after landing in Australia by air claims asylum, had not told the truth to the visa-issuing official. Should not such a person be treated the same way? That is, be sent home (or to the point of departure to Australia) immediately, and advised to follow due process?
This is the background against which a claim for refugee asylum by an unidentifiable boat arrival needs to be assessed. The primary issue is morality. The related issue is what is being camouflaged? Should not a person who has disposed of all his documents before taking a boat be thereby viewed with suspicion? Have we, as a nation, not learnt anything from our experiences with the boat people of a previous era?
My experience as Director of Policy on refugee and humanitarian entry suggests that we attract criminals and other unsavoury individuals when we pay unwarranted attention to the UN Convention on Refugees, or allow party politics to influence humanitarian entry. There is enough evidence of this.
As for the legality involved, Australia is an independent nation, with a right to protect its borders. The UN has no jurisdiction over this right. The UN Convention on Refugees is not legally binding; it is not a treaty, and can be applied in a manner consistent with the national interest. Thus, Muslim refugees from Kosovo were given only temporary protection, and were then required to return to their homes, when stability had been achieved. It was a sound policy.