Monday evening’s Four Corners program about people smugglers gaining fraudulent entry to Australia didn’t derail the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney’s propaganda campaign even for a moment:
The Four Corners’ people smuggling program has only added to the demonisation that surrounds the media and politicians’ portrayal of people smugglers.
Rather than exposing a trans-national criminal network, Four Corners has revealed, what is so often the case, that people arranging boats for asylum seekers to come to Australia have often been refugees themselves, motivated by concerns for the safety of their families or asylum seekers from the same country.
The problem is that their assertions are belied not only by the Four Corners program itself, but by this story and this one and this one and no doubt many others. It’s now impossible to deny that Australia’s asylum seeker assessment and processing system is badly broken, fractured under the combined weight of:
Green politicians … would be the first to scream if asylum seeker arrivals ever reached the sorts of numbers that arrive in Europe each year
- an Abbott Opposition intent on opposing any Gillard policy at any cost (especially the Malaysian Solution which actually might have worked);
- a Gillard government which thinks it can’t afford to re-embrace the Nauru/Pacific Solution to any extent at all;
- Malaysian and Indonesian governments that won’t enter into legal agreements to honour the Refugee Convention for fear that they will make their own countries magnets for asylum seekers rather than just “jumping off points” to Australia;
- Green politicians who mindlessly embrace the Refugee Action Coalition world view but would be the first to scream if asylum seeker arrivals ever reached the sorts of numbers that arrive in Europe each year (which might well occur if the welcome mat was put out as the Refugee Action Coalition seems to want);
- The silent majority which sees the asylum seeker issue as critically important notwithstanding that current arrival numbers are tiny by world standards and don’t pose any threat whatever to Australian society; and
- people smuggler gangs prepared to stop at nothing to implement their “business model”, including sending boatloads of desperate people to their deaths and still collecting the fares from their extended families, not to mention confiscating all asylum seekers’ passports and other ID to facilitate fraudulent entry to Australia under false ID by customers (and, it now seems, people smugglers themselves) who would not succeed if their real identities became known.
It is this latter problem that poses the greatest threat to Australia’s national security, and even to the consensus among left-leaning people that mandatory detention and offshore processing should be opposed as unequivocal evils.
And yet it is now undeniable that people are getting protection visas under false IDs, and that some of them are organised criminals running people smuggling operations from this country. Almost by definition we also don’t know how many others, including more general organised crime figures or even terrorists, may have gained entry in this way. The RAC would no doubt instantly label this as “demonising” asylum seekers, and no doubt only a small minority would actually fall into the dangerous category. But clearly from the Four Corners program, at least some do.
I’ve wondered for a long time about why the approval/issue rate for protection visas for asylum seekers arriving in Australia has always been so much higher than for the UK or Europe. The UK success rate is about 25% on initial assessment, rising to a little over 40% after appeal. By contrast, the success rate of asylum seekers arriving in Australia is about 70% rising to between 80 and 90% after appeal.1
2he most likely explanation for the extraordinarily high acceptance rate is that we are letting in lots of people who really aren’t genuine refugees at all.
Of course it might be that the proportion of genuine asylum seekers arriving in Australia is twice as great as the UK and Europe, or it might be that the latter countries’ assessment systems are unduly harsh. However, Monday’s Four Corners program, along with the acknowledged fact that the people smugglers confiscate the ID of all their passengers as a matter of course, strongly suggests that the most likely explanation for the extraordinarily high acceptance rate is that we are letting in lots of people who really aren’t genuine refugees at all.
Moreover, at least while we have a bipartisan policy that the total number of successful boat people arrivals will be deducted from Australia’s total approved humanitarian migrant intake (presently fixed at around 14,000 per year), these fraudulent “refugees” are getting in at the expense of genuine refugees in much greater need. In that sense there is a queue and they are jumping it.
What can sensibly be done about it? I suggest there are no comfortable answers. However the government should immediately legislate to require that a protection visa cannot be issued unless the decision-maker is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the applicant’s true identity. That clearly isn’t the current practice in reality. Adopting and enforcing that policy rigorously would certainly mean more asylum seekers remaining in detention for even longer periods than at present. However, neither the Refugee Convention nor any commonsense concept of national security requires us to give people protection visas and release them into the Australian community when we don’t even know who they are or what dangers they might pose.3
- 1. Incidentally the linked story from The Australian spins the 70% figure as an alarming increase under the Gillard government from a previous low figure of 30%. However the latter was a short-term artefact of the Rudd government’s suspension of processing asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as an initial knee-jerk reaction to the alarming surge of boat arrivals after Rudd abolished the Pacific Solution without putting any other policy in its place. The long-term success rate for asylum seekers arriving in Australia has generally hovered around the 80% mark, even under the Howard government.
- 2. BTW To pre-empt anyone suggesting there’s any logical contradiction between this post and my recent one advocating a more strategically humane policy towards people found to be refugees but subject to adverse ASIO assessments: there isn’t. If we know who people are then we can assess the risk level they pose to the Australian community. In some cases that assessment might permit them to live in the community subject to appropriate surveillance, reporting and other conditions. OTOH If we don’t even know who they are then no such assessment is possible.