If you wanted to get into Australia and you have bad [terrorist] intentions, what do you do? …You insert yourself in a crowd of 100 for which there is great sympathy for the other 99.
Wilson Tuckey MP, 22 October 2009
The claim that terrorists pose as asylum seekers in order to gain entry into Australia has, unfortunately, become a feature of the political rhetoric on the issue since the MV Tampa Affair in 2001. It is a claim that ignores key facts in making an automatic link between terrorists and refugees. Some of these are:
- modern terrorists groups have significant resources and capabilities;
- the Refugee Convention definition, required to be met by asylum seekers to obtain a protection visa specifically excludes persons in respect of whom there are serious reasons for considering they have been involved in serious crimes;
- The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) perform extensive security checks in addition to the long and complex process of assessing asylum seekers’ claims for protection;
- all asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa, including all asylum seekers arriving by boat and some who arrive by plane, are subject to mandatory detention.
Terrorists would not likely submit themselves to rigorous, complex and lengthy scrutiny by the governments of countries they may be seeking to attack. Nor would a terrorist likely endure long periods of mandatory detention or dangerous sea voyages in leaky boats. Indeed, Australia’s national strategic blueprint for counterterrorism does not even mention the possibility of terrorists posing as asylum seekers. The automatic association of asylum seekers and terrorists ignores these important facts.
 In the United States, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission charged with investigating the 2001 attacks in Washington and New York described ‘the enemy’ as “sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal”. None of the 9/11 attackers entered the U.S as asylum seekers; they either had legitimate immigration documents or forged documents.
 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as amended by the 1967 Protocol, opened for signature 31 January 1967, art 1F, (entered into force 10 April 1967).
 DIAC, ‘Character and Penal Clearance Requirements’ <http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/character-requirements/> at 14 August 2010.
 DIAC, ‘Fact Sheet 82 – Immigration Detention’ (2010) <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/82detention.htm> at 14 August 2010.
 Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, The Counter-Terrorism White Paper: Securing Australia – Protecting our Community (February 2010) <http://www.dpmc.gov.au/publications/counter_terrorism/index.cfm> at 14 August 2010