What we glibly refer to as "boat people" is in reality a part of a group of people more correctly specified as "unauthorised entries". These are people who are entering the country without the appropriate permissions (visas where required, passports, proof of ability to sustain oneself if arriving as a tourist etc). It includes all those people who arrive "properly" but overstay. This number dwarfs the new arrivals but is usually forgotten. The cost of maintaining dtention centres includes the cost of detaining them as well.
None of this stops the blathering about arrivals by boat and the processing of asylum seekers or labeling them as "illegal immigrants".
Paul Sheehan in today's SMH has probably outdone any other recent comment.
Let's simply start with labelling. Sheehan wrote;
It is not just the ridiculous cost. It's the mindset. The overwhelming majority of Australians would regard the people smugglers' boats as illegal entries. Yet the Department of Immigration cannot bring itself to use the term "illegal". It refers to these incursions into Australian territory as "irregular".
Let me get this clear, we think a Government Department should label all of a group of people "illegal" merely because a majority of Australians regard them as such, not because it is the law? Firstly the decision about whether something specific is or is not legal rests on a court decision, not a bureaucrat. Secondly they aren't necessarily illegal because if they are genuine asylum seekers they have the right to do so.
Sheehan then just goes totally loopy in criticising the way we treat people without paperwork;
While the majority of the electorate appear to believe that the last people who should be allowed permanently into the country are those who try to come in illegally, the Gillard government does not even forcibly return people it has ordered to be deported.
It does not automatically reject anyone who arrives without identity papers. Instead, it follows policies laid down by the United Nations Convention on Refugees and other UN protocols.
This is simply extraordinary. Genuine, not-illegal, asylum seekers are those most likely NOT to have papers. These are people escaping regimes that are the antithesis of an ordered democracy like Australia, and people whose initial departure is often rushed.
Yes, it does create a convenient opportunity for fraudulent entry attempts. If you show up with no papers you have to be treated as a refugee. But that doesn't guarantee you entry.
What is it that Sheehan wants instead. Off shore processing like Howard introduced? Guess what most of those actually were granted asylum. Processing offshore is more costly than processing onshore.
There is no simple solution to irregular or unauthorised arrivals that is both secure and humanitarian. In the long run we need to solve the global issue of freedom. In the short term we need to act with compassion and rigour.
NB For another time, why is it the "right wing" that opposes asylum seekers? Has anyone pointed out to them that their much loved free market liberalism requires complete global mobility of labour as a precondition?
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est