The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory, defines a refugee as:
“Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.”
An asylum seeker is a person who has sought protection as a refugee, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been assessed. Every refugee has at some point been an asylum seeker.
Those asylum seekers who are found to be refugees are entitled to international protection and assistance. Those who are found not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their country of origin.
Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are neither engaging in illegal activity, nor are they immigrants. Both international and Australian law permit unauthorised entry into Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation.
The Australian Government indicated that in the 2013-14 financial year, it intends to provide 13,750 places in the Humanitarian Program.
The shameful thing about detention of asylum seekers is there is no limit under Australian law to the length of time for which a person may be held in immigration detention. Granted asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without a valid visa must be held in immigration detention until they are granted a visa or removed from Australia, Some asylum seekers spend long periods of time in immigration detention waiting for their refugee claim to be assessed; waiting for the completion of health, identity and security checks; or awaiting removal from Australia if they have been found not to be a refugee nor someone who is owed ‘complementary protection’.
Some say asylum seekers are jumping the queue the fact of the matter is seeking asylum is not a means of “jumping the queue”. In fact, it is the standard procedure for applying for protection. Every refugee in the world has at some point been an asylum seeker.
The governments policy towards asylum seekers and border protection is completely wrong and denies those who need protection.
The offshore processing is costing Australian taxpayers 10 times more than letting asylum seekers live in the community while their refugee claims are processed, the Commission’s report reveals. At the same time not providing appropriate protection to asylum seekers.
The costs for holding an asylum seeker in offshore detention is $400,000 a year , $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia, and less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention. In contrast, it is around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed.
Offshore processing and arbitrary detention has received widespread criticism from the UNHCR, Amnesty International and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Both the ALP and the Coalition have failed asylum seekers.
Infographics from Amnesty International highlighting the facts: