Welcome | Bienvenue | Karibu | Merhaba

Welcome to the Asylum & Refugee Law Project…

Over the next week, in the lead up to the Australian federal election on 21 August 2010, we will be publishing a series called “Frequently Quoted Inaccuracies”. The series will critically analyse those popular discourses in Australian political rhetoric and media that have (mis)shaped the public perception of refugees and asylum seekers. We hope it gets you thinking!



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21 responses to “Welcome | Bienvenue | Karibu | Merhaba

  1. Alan Chester

    I totally agree with your position. Please keep the pressure up to support genuine refugees.

  2. The Bow-Legged Swantoon

    Folks, I admire your efforts to bring facts to the table but what you are dealing with is not a lack of facts but history and society. Whether it was fears of a Russian invasion in the 19th century, a Japanese invasion in 1941, a Chinese invasion during the Cold War, an Indonesian invasion after independence or arrivals of boat people from Vietnam, China or western Asia, Australians as a rule simply hate the idea of boats arriving unannounced. It is an island mentality that is not unique to this country. Any encouragement of boat arrivals erodes the general good-will felt towards the migration program and may eventually lead to a much harder stance on all aspects of migration by the major parties. Activists consistently ignore this, perhaps because it guarantees they will always have an opportunity to feast on their favourite food, outrage. Good luck with it all.

  3. Alan Fetherstonhaugh

    Could you investigate the following and display the answers

    1. People who overstay their visas would not be getting any govt handouts – True / Flase

    2. How many of the illegal immigrants (that have now been approved) are still on unemployment benefits or some type of Govt assistance ?

    3. How many of the illegal immigrants have since brought their families or extended families to Australia and what is the total ?

    • Bron

      Hey Alan,

      Just want to clarify some of your terminology – everyone has the right to seek asylum in a safe country in fleeing from persecution. This is a fundamental human right as outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights. If an asylum seekers claim to asylum is ‘approved’ they become recognised as refugees. Therefore they are NOT illegal!

      From my understanding, Australia takes only about 13,500 humanitarian entrants each year. This includes those involved in the resettlement program, those who come to Australia by boat and family brought out following refugee resettlement.

  4. Grace McCaughey

    Thank you students for this blog. I wish it could be made available to everyone internet user in Australia. It is so sickening to know that many people cast their votes based on such lies. It ought to be illegal for politicians to tell deliberate lies at any time, more especially during election campaigns.

    Best wishes for your great project.

  5. Bill

    I feel its just the new wave of scare tactics used by modern goverments – we saw it with 9/11, and the GFC
    Sad really that media & goverments use these methods

  6. Edmond Atalla

    There is a vast difference between those that arrive by Plane and those that arrive by Boat. Those who arrive by plane, their identity is known and therefore it is expedient to process their true claim to assylum. Those that arrive by boat, have no identity, therefore how does one get any assurances of the claim to justify who they say they are?

    I think Julia Gillard has the best policy in relation to off shore processing at the point of entry. i.e this will distroy the product that the people smugglers have to offer.

    So, please be carful when your quoting figures of plane Vs Boat enteries.

    I would also like to know how many boat people (not boats) arrived under a Liberal Government VS that under the Labor Government.



    • Yowie


      Whilst I won’t deny that the political party in power in Australia could well be a factor for where the people smugglers choose to take their ‘clients’, the total number of asylum seekers in the world would surely more depend on such things as the state in which the average Afghani, Somalian, Iraqi or other refugee or asylum seeker find themselves, and not which political party happens to be in power here. Australian therefore received a proportion (a very small proportion) of that total number of asylum seekers and this needs to be taken into account before one starts to look at the numbers.

      Saying that less boat people arrived under x government than y government and thus concluding that because less boat people arrived when x governement was in power, x government is somehow better at ‘border protection’ or somesuch is far too simplistic.

      • Edmond Atalla


        The issue I raise is two fold:

        1. Regardless of which Government is in power, there ought to be strong policies that are aimed at people smugglers not the refugees. That is, we must have a policy that makes it unattractive for the people smugglers to benefit from someone else’s misery.

        Julia Gillard I believe has the best policy (if she can achieve it) that stops the smugglers at their point of origin.

        Abbott’s policy is not good as it still allows for the refugees to take the dangerous trip and they will, because they know that statistically of those that were sent to Nauru under John Howard’s Government (97%) been accepted as refugees into Australia. We need to stop the smugglers at the point of origin; it’s the only viable solution.

        Another deterrent that can be applied to stop the smugglers is to have a lengthy mandatory jail sentence scaled to the number of people that they bring in. i.e. perhaps 2 years mandatory sentencing for every 5 refugees they bring in. This will make the smugglers think twice before they make the dangerous trip. This nonsense from Mr Abbott’s mandatory sentence of 12 months will do nothing to stop the smugglers. Why wouldn’t the smugglers come and receive 12 month of free accommodation, free medical treatment and good break at our tax expense. Look at your stats as to how many smugglers are repeat offenders and this will self explain the situation.

        2. The second point I wish to make is this, I am not opposed to Australia taking it allocated share of refugees each year (regardless of how big or small we believe this is). But this needs to be done in a fair and systematic manner, that is, refugees should present them selves at the first safe haven country to the United Nations, claim refugee status and be assessed in an ordinarily manner… not try to jump the que and take the place of someone else waiting in line

    • Bron

      Interestingly, if someone if fleeing persecution, and often this persecution is actually motivated by the Government of their country (Darfur, Burma, Sri Lanka – just a couple of examples), how are they supposed to get the documentation you, and Mr Abbott, are suggesting that they should have???

      Using off shore processing as a way of deterring people smugglers assumes that the people board these boats because the ‘Lonely Planet Guidebook for Asylum Seekers’ highlight Australia as the go to place for refugees … but I’m not sure that this is the reality. The majority of Asylum Seekers are coming from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka … maybe having a closer look at the conditions in these countries would better explain the desperation that would lead people to put their family on a boat to Australia … Off shore processing isn’t going to do anything to stop the desperate need to flee persecution.

      At very least, at least Julia recognises the need for UNHCR involvement.

      • Bron

        Oh and for the record, there is no queue!!! At least 60% of the worlds refugees are not in camps but located in urban centres. This is why UNHCR put out their Urban Refugee policy last year. The majority of these refugees do not have access to UNHCR, especially when in a country that is not signatory to the refugee convention (ie the majority of the Asian block!!!). It may not even be possible to for many refugees register and get their refugee status in these countries.

        It is easy to see how political and media spin miscommunicates the facts. It just seems like lazy politics – use fear to side step the real issues

        If there was a queue, at the current rate of resettlement globally, it would take 135 yrs to resettle the refugees recognised today. Would you be willing to leave your family in a dangerous situation a wait for up to 135 yrs …

      • Edmond Atalla


        Are you telling me that the 13,500 refugees that we take each year have been waiting for 135 years for their number to come up??

        If that’s not what your telling me, then tell me why the refugees who first travel by plane (with a valid passport) to get to the boats they would have passed many countries that have access to UNHCR, why wouldn’t they claim refugee status there and be probably assessed as part of the 13,500 intake each year?? and I am sure that this will not take 135 years to process!!

    • Anna Wade

      Hi Edmond and Bron,

      I noticed you raised the issues of offshore processing, “queue jumping” and targeting the ‘product’ of the people smugglers – the FQIs on these topics have now been posted. In addition, some some data on trends in the number of boat arrivals to Australia has also been posted. I’d love to hear everyones views on this.

      Edmond, that’s an interesting point you raised re establishing identification. There were some good points raised in other posts about the practicalities of attaining documentation in the circumstances faced by many asylum seekers. In addition to this, it could also be worth discussing how the validity of a person’s identity is affected by the presence or absence of documentation – e.g. If a persons identity documents were completely destroyed in a fire, how do they retain their identity? Does a lack of identification documents weaken an asylum seekers case for protection from persecution?

  7. Marc

    Fantastic idea guys.

    It’s great to see someone finally using some common sense rather than the steady stream of bullshit we’ve been fed.

  8. Peter de

    Students, you can try to reduce this issue to a pseudo-academic exercise until election day 3010 if you so desire.

    The annual intake of proven refugees is something that most Australians seem to tolerate, albeit somewhat grudgingly perhaps.

    However, an influx of self-selecting, queue-jumping, country-shopping illegal immigrants who trade on our naivety and bank on our largesse while displaying an insolent sense of entitlement is another issue entirely.

    Nevertheless, I wish thee well in your endeavour.

    • Bron

      It is sad when looking past the mis-direction and reflecting on the actual facts is seen as reducing something to ‘merely academic’. If you

  9. Rebecca

    Thank you so much for producing this site, though I suspect your efforts will go largely unnoticed as the fear and rhetoric is greatly ingrained. I have tried to put your site out there to as many as possible.

    Could you please answer how many refugees Australia has taken in the last decade, particularly from Africa? I have heard that the number is One Million (a great deal higher than the number of asylum seekers arriving in boats).

    I can only begin to imagine the desperation of a family to board a boat after paying a great deal of money, to be taken to a foreign country where they must then be held as prisoners for months or years whilst begging for asylum and safety.

    • Bron

      Hey Rebecca,

      Australia has not resettled anywhere near 1 million refugees in the last 10yrs – not even over the last 70 years since the refugee convention established.

      But you are right, the percentage of asylum seekers arriving by boat in is far less than the number of humanitarian entrants that Australia accepts each year.

      The UN Refugee convention does not distinguish between refugees based on mode of arrival! Sadly, Australia does…

  10. Anna Wade

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you for your feedback. If you’re interested in finding out more about Australia’s intake of refugees, the UNHCR compile quarterly reports with detailed statistics. These reports can be found at this website:

    The UNHCR also has a page on their website called ‘Frequently Requested Statistics’:

    We are in the process of updating our resources page – stay tuned!


  11. Bron


    You do realise that only a very very small percent of registered refugees will ever be resettled in a third country? It is estimated that there something like 25 million refugees and stateless people worldwide. If all these people are in a queue to be resettled into any of the countries that participate in the resettlement program GLOBALLY, it would take something in the vicinity of 135 yrs, provided that no more people register of refugee status.

    Take a look at a world map. From Sri Lanka – India – not signatory to UNHCR, Burma – massive human rights violations, Malaysia – not signatory to UNHCR, Indonesia – not signatory to UNHCR…

    And where is this queue for resettlement into Australia? Surely you are not suggesting that as soon as an asylum seeker is registered as a genuine refugee in a country of first asylum that they automatically added to the resettlement ‘queue’ to Australia?

    Ironically, Australia has not resettled a single refugee out of detention in Indonesia for a number of years (check out article in SMH on East Timor discussions on Asylum Seekers – today I think) – clearly the “queue” is not working, if it actually existed.

    Move past the political spin and fear mungering jargon – all this does is create fear and misinformation and then politicians present a policy that addresses the fear at the expense of the reality … it is just lazy politics!

  12. Jen

    Excellent work – it’s really cheering to know that this project is being undertaken; even more cheering to consider that the students doing this work are likely to be leaders and opinion makers in the next few years.

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