Asylum seeker debate fuelled by misinformation Google Wikipedia The debate about asylum seekers in Australia is contentious and politically charged, but research commissioned by Amnesty International has found that anti-asylum seeker sentiments are not actually fuelled by racism. The findings reveal many Australians’ views on refugees are informed by misconceptions and a lack of facts. Australians have been polarised by the highly politicised debate, so much so that human rights organisation Amnesty International commissioned its own research into views about asylum seekers.
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Essential Media’s Peter Lewis runs the polling company that was commissioned to do the research. Mr Lewis says he was surprised that the results were not based on racial issues. “Distrust or antipathy towards asylum seekers was a perception -[that] these were people that were breaking the rules, that they were doing something wrong and because they were doing something wrong, being tough on them was actually taking a stand for Australian values,” he said. “What I thought was really interesting was this was not race-based.
A lot of the people that were having these views were people who themselves were efugees, who would say, ‘these people are breaking the rules’ and taking positions that real refugees like my family should be taking. ” The research also found a large gap between people’s perceptions and the facts. “You told them, for Instance, that It’s not illegal to seek asylum. And people Just didn’t believe that,” Mr Lewis said. “You told them that 90 per cent of people who arrive by boat seeking asylum are found to be genuine, political refugees, and again people find that hard to take. And then you tell them that of the entire immigration Intake every year, fewer than 2 per cent are sylum seekers arriving by boat and they’re Just gobsmacked. ” Amnesty International has used the findings to develop a new campaign called Rethink Refugees.
Detainees say four Iranians sewed their lips shut in desperation as part of a hunger strike last week. The Immigration Department has denied the detainees’ claims. But Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says that s
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disgraceful. “It is Just ridiculous that the department maintains that lack of transparency and openness and honesty, with what is happening,” he said. “lt gives people no confidence at all that they are actually facing up to the problems inside the detention centre in any kind of adequate way. Mr Rintoul says the Immigration Department should ask support groups for help. “There needs to be a circuit breaker in Darwin,” he said. ” There needs to be refugee advocates, someone from the Ombudsman, someone from the human rights groups that can go in and be a vehicle or people to talk to, and to intercede between the asylum seekers and the Department of Immigration. ” A migrant is someone who decides to leave their country in order to seek a better life and can return home at any time. Migrants may be granted temporary or permanent status to reside in Australia.
A refugee is recognised as having been forced to leave their home country for fear of persecution – such as torture, imprisonment or execution – and they cannot return for fear of that persecution. The definition of refugee does not cover those who leave their country nly because of war or other civil disturbance, famine, natural disasters or in order to seek a better life. An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have their claim assessed. Every recognised refugee has at some point been an asylum seeker.
Where Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker policy aims to tackle people smuggling. The Government is stepping up efforts to process asylum seekers offshore, and has recently negotiated a refugee swap deal with Malaysia. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has vowed to “stop the boats” through ffshore processing, bringing back temporary protection visas and turning back asylum seeker boats where possible According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), between 2007 and 2010 the approval rate for asylum seekers varied between 48 per cent and 67 per cent.
Around 40 per cent of asylum seekers who arrive by plane are granted asylum, compared to 85 to 90 per cent of those who arrive by boat. How many refugees does Australia take each year? Is this a lot compared to the rest of the world? Ms Gillard has acknowledged that in 2009, Australia only received 0. 6 per cent of the world’s asylum seekers. ASRC says last year Australia received 8,250 asylum claims via air and sea arrivals. In comparison, last year the United States received 55,500 new onshore applications for asylum, France received 47,800 and Germany received 41 ,300.
On average, Australia accepts around 13,500 refugees and humanitarian entrants each year, according to ASRC. Up until 2009, only a small proportion of asylum applicants in Australia arrived by boat – most arrived by air with a valid visa and then went on to pursue asylum claims. Recently there has been a Jump in the number of boat arrivals, and a record number f asylum seekers arrived on boats in 2009-2010. ASRC puts that fgure at 5,267. Boat arrivals comprise Just less than half of onshore asylum seekers in Australia.
In comparison, it is estimated that in 2006 over 72,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat on the coasts of Italy, . Every one has the right to seek asylum in Australia. The asylum seekers who arrive by air usually enter on a valid visa, while most who arrive by boat do not have a visa. Regardless of how they arrive, asylum seekers are classified by Australian law to be “unlawful non-citizens”. But that does not mean hat they have committed a criminal offence – they have a right to seek asylum under international law and not be penalised for their mode of entry.
The Government notes the term illegal may more appropriately apply to those without a valid visa who are not seeking protection, such as visa overstayers. In June 2009, it was estimated that there were about 48,700 overstayers in Australia. The term ‘queue’ refers to resettlement through the United Nations. Only a very small proportion of asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR and only 1 per cent of those recognised by he UNHCR as refugees who meet the resettlement criteria are subsequently resettled to another country.
Many asylum seekers are not in a position to Join this queue and instead find protection by crossing a border. ASRC estimates that in 2011, governments will offer places to 80,000 refugees from over 10 million across the world. It says if all of these refugees were to Join a queue, the wait for a positive outcome for a person Joining the end of the queue would, at current resettlement rates, be 135 years. Asylum seekers living in the community are granted welfare nder the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme. Payments are equivalent to 89 per cent of the Centrelink Newstart Allowance.
Asylum seekers in immigration detention centres receive a small allowance but do not receive Centrelink equivalent payments. Once granted refugee status, former asylum seekers are entitled to the same benefits as any other permanent Australian resident. However, they are exempt from the standard waiting period that applies to migrants seeking to access social security payments or concession cards. They also receive short-term assistance aimed at elping them settle effectively. ASRC says budget papers reveal the cost of Australia’s immigration detention system will hit $800 million in 2011-12.
It says at current numbers, with approximately 7,000 people in detention, it will cost $110,000 per asylum seeker in detention in 2011-12. But it is difficult to put a dollar fgure on the cost of processing asylum seekers and keeping them in detention as Australia’s policies are not encapsulated as a single program. They entail not Just the cost of keeping asylum seekers in detention, but a long list of other costs such as the cost of order monitoring and boat interception, the cost of new infrastructure and the cost of providing legal, medical and other services to detainees.
Australia is one of only about 20 nations worldwide that participate formally in the United Nations’ resettlement program and accepts quotas of refugees on an annual basis. Eighty per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted in the developing world, so the burden of assisting the world’s asylum seekers and refugees actually falls to some of the world’s poorest countries. UNHCR data shows that Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide.See More on Australia