The refugee racket – Part 1

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.

Policies and politics

Moving from the sublime to the mundane, no one but the relatives of politicians would demur at a recent report by the Australian media that politicians are very lowly regarded by the public. Yet, recently the Australian Government demonstrated that it is not easily swayed by the ‘rent-a-crowd,’ or ‘glee club,’ or other not-so-disinterested supporters of free entry into the nation (with an associated right of access to all its generous unearned welfare benefits) of anyone who chooses to land on its shores without prior approval.

It is not often, as alleged by the media and other keen observers, that sound policies are substituted for crafty politics. Generally, no amount of public criticism is likely to be effective in preventing or avoiding decisions which are claimed by those who have no political axe to grind to be inequitable or simply inadequate.

For example, at the federal level, a foreign-controlled mining industry, the liquor and gambling industries, the welfare industry, the private schools industry, etc., ensure quite successfully that their interests are not damaged in any substantive manner by any proposed change in official policies. The most influential foreign entity, apart from our godfather (the USA), is that mini-sovereign state based in Rome. Media reports hint that, at the State and local government levels, there is often some undue favouritism displayed. But, isn’t all this politics?

Having had a highly interactive and contributory life in Australia, as an adult, for more than 6 decades, I am able to ask why, collectively, our politicians are seen to be so subservient. Compare their stance with that of the traditional Anglo-Australian worker; he stands tall, is equal to one and all, and is also a beacon to workers in neighbouring nations. (Read chapter 1 in Musings at Death’s Door) Yet, I can attest that the politicians and Ministers I have dealt with are nice people. Indeed, a Senator once had a federal Cabinet decision reversed when I (as an ordinary citizen) challenged its legality.

It is, however, creditable that there is, with some rare exceptions, no evidence of corruption politically – at least of the kind reported to be evident elsewhere in the world. Perhaps we should respect out politicians more!

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.

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Succour seekers – a parable

Woofer’s faint but excited barks warned of intruders into my extensive plantation. Since two sides were protected by electrified fences, the intruders must be attempting to cross the fast-flowing creek which delineates my property at the farther end. At my urgent request, representatives of the Emergency Services Unit were able to save from drowning 2 persons.

Apart from their clothing, they had nothing on them. They claimed to be escapees from a distant plantation where they had been brutalised.  Any injuries incurred not being visible, the trauma they claimed had to be psychological.

For my protection, and since it was now night, I locked them in a distant corner of the plantation, which provided comfortable lodging, food and other necessary facilities. Did the escapees know about this facility for my workers? Is this why they had sought to enter my plantation? The Protective Services Unit would be called in the morning.

At the crack of dawn, there appeared instead a delegation of 3 from the Succour Seeker Supporters. They criticised my action. As escapees from brutality, the 2 escapees had a right not to be locked up, they declared fiercely; these desperate people had a right to be housed and fed in a humane fashion within my house with the back door left open at all times, until the authorities decided their future. All this was a requirement laid down on a tablet which had come down to them from on-high during pre-history.

The lawyer in the group said that he would take me to court for not allowing free movement to the escapees within my home and property, and for displaying inadequate care. The politician explained that the convention required me to provide succour, no matter what financial costs and family disruption resulted. The third member said that it was the Christian thing to do, especially as there only 2 to look after.

When I asked how these succour seekers would live, after they had left my property, and until they learned that freedom equalled responsibility to house and feed themselves, the joint response from the Supporters was ‘Its God’s Will.’ In the meantime, while we awaited God’s guidance to the heathens (for that is what the escapees are), our courts would require me to house and feed them to a standard they had aspired to after watching our t.v. – thanks to CNN and Al Jazeera. So mought it be!

Asylum seeking – some issues

Asylum seekers are not refugees until accepted by appropriate authorities that they satisfy the UN Convention on Refugees. They need to provide evidence that they have a genuine fear of persecution by officialdom on return to their country of nationality. They need to be outside that country, having fled for protection.

Persons displaced by war or comparable conflict are termed refugees, but they would not satisfy this Convention. They can return home after the turbulence has settled. Many may not choose to return, if they are resident in refugee camps, and if there is a possibility of re-settlement in a Western nation. Only the middle class (broadly described) would have such ambitions although, judging by reported events in Africa, the motivations for non-return can be variably confusing.

Australia successfully repatriated Cambodian boat people from a rural background; they would not have been able to integrate into the nation. Displaced middle class Muslims from Kosovo were given only temporary visas when the Balkans split into ethno-religious enclaves. They were required to go home when stability there was achieved. Vietnamese boat people selected for humanitarian entry by Australia from the nations of first asylum, especially Malaysia, were known to return to their former country as Australians, without fear, after the communist government had settled in.

Temporary (3-year) visas also applied to accepted asylum seekers until recently. Its removal represented an invitation to economic migrants (who would not await the due process of selection) to enter Australia any way possible; they must be aware that now 4 out of every 5 applicants would eventually be permitted to stay. No confirmation seems necessary as to the validity of their claims. Would validity mean anything when we do not know who or what 90% of the boat people are when they land?

The UN Convention is not the only contentious issue in this opaque process. What of our politicians, the bureaucracy, the courts, and segments of the Anglo-Australian community? A recent report, based on information obtained from Immigration officials, members of the Refugee Review Panel, and workers at detention centres, is scathing about the process of deciding asylum claims.

Greg Sheridan in ‘The Weekend Australian’ of 8/9 and 15/16 June 2013 said ‘The refugee determination process in Australia is a sick and dysfunctional farce … the system is so loosely designed, so completely open to manipulation by asylum seekers, people smugglers, and community groups emotionally committed to asylum seekers, and then interacts inappropriately within the Australian legal system, that it has become a multi-billion dollar joke that is more or less completely worthless.’

To which, one might ask: What of the morality involved? What of the multi-billion dollar taxpayer burden? What of the social consequences for a nation which has been very successful in integrating immigrants and refugees coming in by the front door, through due process?

Asylum seeking by boat – its supporters

Asylum seekers, especially by boat, cost the Australian taxpayers an incredible amount of money and, reportedly, receive little gratitude for acceptance. Their supporters complain vociferously about the necessary due process. When it is reported that, 5 years after acceptance, more than 90% of the     Afghans remain on welfare … … ! Are we taxpayers just milking cows? Who are these supporters?

Why do they choose to support thousands of foreigners they do not know, who insist that they have a right to remain in Australia after obtaining entry by the back door; that is, without an entry visa? Worse still, 90% or more reportedly destroy all their other papers, so raising these issues: who and what are they; and what of their morality in destroying their papers?

There was a supporter who claimed on t.v. that the asylum seekers had all suffered torture and trauma; but did anyone ask how he knows? Then there are those who say that, since the numbers are small (like 20,000 per year?), we should take them all, and let them live in the community; but had they been asked what these unlawful arrivals would live on? An asylum seeker is not a refugee until accepted.

Then there are the pro-bono lawyers who work assiduously to have rejected seekers entitled to appeal after appeal (a right most of us cannot afford); but, who pays the high court fees? Do these lawyers keep finding new facts to put to the courts? One would, of course, expect these lawyers to present ‘arguable’ cases to the courts, in order to obtain more entry rights in the future, through the precedents set thereby. Then, were these lawyers involved in actions by those accepted to sue the authorities for inadequate care while their claims were being assessed?

Single-issue politicians have also entered the fray to support easy entry by boat; but I do not recall any of them dealing with the key issue: Who are the seekers they support in principle, when they (reportedly) can have 4 names and 3 dates of birth (see the Weekend Australian, 8-9 June 2013)? Apart from identity, what of national security, criminality, mental health, a necessary willingness to accept Australia’s institutions and social mores, and to integrate into the nation without being a financial burden?

I find these supporters, except perhaps the lawyers, intriguing. I would ask them ‘What are the national interest implications of an open-door asylum seeker policy? Surely, the political supporters should be able to respond in a professional manner.