Side door acceptance, being essentially political, permitted so-called humanitarian entrants (HEs). Where refugees had to be outside their country of nationality and in fear of official persecution (some necessary flexibility here being permissible), with nowhere else to go, the HEs had to fear official discrimination (depending on the eye of the beholder) while also outside their country of nationality, with nowhere else to go. The ‘nowhere else to go’ qualifier seems to have been ignored by our policy wallahs for quite some time. As politics determines policy in this arena; the policy can be quite flexible, ie. shonky.
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. Christians and ‘ethnic Chinese’ may have received some preference in selection. Family reunion was very generous, the applicant 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 get along with one another. Then, an elderly couple left a flat attached to their son’s home to obtain scarce public housing; 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.
Soon, as I was told, the Liberal Party wanted white right-wing HEs, just for a change. These came from Eastern Europe (except Yugoslavia). Anyone claiming to be a refugee seemed to be accepted. In one recorded instance, a man claiming to be a refugee went back home to collect his wife, as advised by an Immigration officer! As with the Indo-Chinese, Australia provided their air fares, housed and fed them in a migrant hostel for 6 months. They received a regular welfare payment, which enabled them to pay for their board and other expenses. They were then allocated a flat for 3 months, to ease their entry into private accommodation.
Many of the Indo-Chinese were assisted by small loans to buy furniture, much of it not repaid. As a couple of Indo-Chinese girls said to an Immigration officer, ‘You Aussies f…ing stupid. You give money for nothing.’ Little wonder that there was, and still is, such a rush of claims for asylum entry. Acceptance as a refugee permits a lifetime access to the public teat.
(The above are extracts from my book ’Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’
Australia, having rushed into Vietnam to prevent the Vietnamese deciding their own future – because the USA was already there – had to contribute to sorting out the problems faced by the countries of first asylum. These Asian nations were not impressed with the USA’s ‘domino theory,’ as there seemed to be a shortage of communists in the region. Quaintly, both academe and officialdom in Australia reportedly upheld this theory.
This lends support to my claim that we are a voluntary satrapy. As I have stated elsewhere in this book, we do need inclusion within the USA. We are not an Asian nation, but an extension of the West on the edge of Asia.)