It is about the Vote People, not the Boat People (Part 2).

This is the second half of this piece: Check out Part 1 here.


As an asylum seeker who has arrived by boat to Australia, under either the Labour or Coalition, you will be treated as a second class asylum seeker, be discriminated against due to your mode of arrival, possibly be settled in a third world nation without the infrastructure to support you OR be allowed into Australia but only on a temporary basis, until you can be sent back.

WHY does this policy standpoint seem to work?  The arguments used by voters include:

1. We don't hate refugees, we just don't like those who are jumping the queue.

Mate, there is no queue.  If that doesn't answer the question, let's look at reasons people decide to jump on a boat.

Problem 1 - Difficult access to UNHCR processing locations.  In some cases, like those from North and East Sri Lanka, the only place where you can apply for refugee status via the UNHCR is in Colombo, down in the South and in the heartland of the 'enemy'.  The number of checkpoints between where the refugees are coming from and where the UNCHR processing location is means that more likely than not, you won't make it through. What is your other option? Jump on a boat somewhere and try your luck.

Problem 2 - No camp nearby.  The UNCHR has a number of refugee camps and processing locations around the world.  However, if you are in a situation where a camp is inaccessible, or worse, you find one and it is full, where do you go?

Problem 3 - The length of wait to be resettled.  This is one of the wedge issues.  If the average wait in a refugee camp is 17 years, does it not make sense that individuals will try other options to start their life?  Yes, there are those that go through the system, wait in a camp and get duly processed.  It is pure folly to believe though that everyone has equal access to the UNHCR's processing pathway.  If there is an option - no matter how dangerous - that means you may be accepted into a nation in a shorter period of time, that option will be taken.  

This is an aspect of the issues that requires a concerted international or regional effort to tackle.   It is a major factor which means that if resolved, or even partly so, asylum seekers will not have the same incentive to risk their life by jumping on a boat.  They will have belief in the system and will wait - if they believe the system works.  This can be done by substantially increasing the capacity of the UNHCR to allow them to process individuals at a much faster rate, something Australia can work on.


2. Why don't they stay in Indonesia and Malaysia?

Both of these countries are not signatories to the UN Convention and as such, offer no rights and protection to asylum seekers and refugees.  This means that they live on the edge of civilisation, unable to work or educate themselves and their families and in the constant fear of detection and persecution.  This lifestyle is simply unsustainable.  Many are often recognised refugees and are simply waiting to be resettled, however, it can take them up to 20 or 30 years to be resettled into a third country.


3. We have to protect our borders.

Burnside says it best here.

"Border protection" is a grossly misleading term, used by both major parties. It implies that boat people are a threat to us. They are not. We do not need to be protected from asylum seekers: they need to be protected from their persecutors. 

We need to stop this defensive, exclusionary discourse that implies this is an issue of national security.  If it were, it would be under the Department of Defence.  It isn't. It is under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  Which means it is an issue of immigration!

Some say that if the refugees were white, this wouldn't be a problem, alluding to this issue targeting the xenophobic vote.  This is true, to a certain extent.  Interestingly,


There is no doubt there are people who will try to rort the system, individuals who take advantage of kindness.

However, this should NOT dictate our behaviour as a nation.

If we want to be world leaders, if we want to play a part in the region as part of the 'Asian Century', we have to show that we are willing to take our share of an international situation that isn't going anywhere.  


At the end of the day, the attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers in this country may be deemed as legal, technically. It may be deemed as politically savvy, for winning votes in this election.

However, at the end of the day, there is no way it can be deemed as fair, just or morally correct.

For a nation with the resources that we have, with the pride in ‘fairness’ we tout, with the capacity to take on refugees and provide them with the opportunity to start a new life, it is sad that we are not willing to take part of the international responsibility to protect properly.  Particularly as in some cases, our armed forces contributed to the situations that are forcing people out of their homes (Afghanistan, Iraq).  

…and they wonder why people are disengaging from politics.

boat people