Australia's Refugee Policy
An asylum seeker is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of unjust persecution. A refugee is an asylum seeker whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed.
The Australian Government was one of 143 countries to ratify the Refugee Convention in 1954. The objective of this convention is to ensure all refugees are processed in a way which is consistent with an international standard. The convention requires that:
Refugees cannot be sent to a place where they may be persecuted. This fundamental principle is known as non-refoulement (Article 33)
Australia cannot punish refugees for entering or living without permission, or unnecessarily restrict their freedom of movement (Article 31)
Those who arrive by air with valid visas seek asylum whilst living in the community. Only around 45% of air arrivals who apply for asylum are found to be 'genuine' refugees.
Those arriving via boat are sent to an offshore processing facility (like those in Nauru or PNG) where they are assessed as to whether they are 'genuine' refugees. Around 88%–100% of boat arrivals are found to be 'genuine'.
The conditions in these camps have been described as 'draconian' & 'abusive' by the 2017 Human Rights Watch report on Australia.
There is a big difference the between the above two routes of refugee resettlement. From 2012 to 2016 the government spent around $9.6bn on asylum seeker processing. The costs for this expenditure can be broken down into:
Offshore detention: $400,000/year
In-Australia detention: $230,000/year
In Australia community detention: Less than $100,000 a year
Asylum seekers who live in the community or on a bridging visa, with government support: $40,000/year
Australia has been consistently ranked in the top 3 countries in the world who resettle the most refugees through the UNHCR, & its resettlement program on a per capita basis — is also one of the most generous in terms of arrival support, health, education and language services
Recently, Peter Dutton has suggested some refugees come to Australia solely for economic reasons and are 'gaming the system, taking advantage of Australia's generosity’. He has also suggested that these refugees are more likely to be those entering Australia via boat.
The above statement has been extremely controversial, and has once again raised questions about how Australia should treat its refugees.
Should Australia's current policy
for vetting asylum seekers who come
by boat be more flexible?
Refugee Action Committee, 'How Australia Violates Human Rights'
Hugh de Krestser in ABC, ‘Australia's human rights record under scrutiny ahead of expected election to UN committee’.
Wollondilly Advertiser; ‘Campbelltown should be a prime destination for refugees’; ABC; ‘Accepting refugees makes the most economic sense’.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics in ABC, 'Accepting refugees makes the most economic sense'
The Advertiser, The cost of Australia's stop the boats policy saves $3.5 Billion