There has been a lot of rubbish written about the boat-people Australia took from the refugee camps in the countries of first arrival in South East Asia. By rushing into Vietnam behind the USA, and then being sent back home by ‘pyjama-clad’ opponents, we had to take some of those who took to the boats.
Returned servicemen told me about the political reality of pretending to avoid the ‘domino’ effect of a communist takeover in South East Asia. For a few years, there would be a report published somewhere in Australia about the risk of drowning and rape in ‘taking a boat.’ Social workers employed in state agencies told us about the corrupt behaviour of some of those we had taken from the camps. I was involved in preventing the escalation of disruptive behaviour by some Vietnamese thugs. Later, we read about the fortified drug houses and youthful salesmen on street corners.
Policies on humanitarian entry from any source are mainly political. Most of those we ‘saved’ could not have satisfied the UN Convention. Yet, by and large, eventually there was (as one might expect in the light of our equal opportunity and settlement assistance policies) successful settlement. But it was a very costly exercise (as is the recent effort to cope with the asylum seekers arriving directly by boat).
The following are relevant extracts from “Musings at Death’s Door.’ HE stands for humanitarian entrants.
“The Indo-Chinese boat people, selected from refugee camps in the Asian countries of first asylum (Thailand, Malaysia, in the main, but also Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines), represented the first significant entry of Asian HEs; the predominant entrants were, naturally, Vietnamese. … Family reunion was very generous; the applicant was seemingly free to define his relationships. For instance, a Vietnamese sponsor, after a residence of 3 months in a migrant hostel, claimed his wife was actually his sister; both now wished to sponsor their respective spouses from the camps.
Indeed, for a while, thanks to a sympathetic public servant lacking common sense, Vietnamese HEs were permitted to change their personal particulars. The only change not sought was gender; nature can be so unkind!. I closed down that loophole, with Ministerial approval. Those of us in the migrant settlement business were impressed with the ability of some of our HEs to find, or even create, loopholes in official entitlements. For instance, a Vietnamese grandmother with 3 grandchildren managed to extend their public housing from a single flat to 3, on the grounds that they did not (over some time) get along with one another. Then, an elderly couple left a flat attached to their son’s home to obtain scarce public housing for senior citizens; so said their son to me.
For the record, Australia accepted more Indo-Chinese HEs per head of host-people (that is, Australians) than any other country, including the USA and France! It became clear soon that we had taken in quite a number of criminals, gangsters and economic migrants. However, apart from those visibly involved in the drug trade, the Indo-Chinese HEs have settled in well. The success of their children is the evidence.”