More Myths and Lies 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the Refugees > More Myths and Lies

December 28 2001


These points are listed by the Edmund Rice Centre as myths about asylum seekers who come to Australia.  They are additional to the original list you can find summarised on the preceding page of our site.


  • Australia is second only to Canada in the number of refugees it takes. In fact of the 71 countries taking refugees Australia is ranked 32nd. On a per capita basis it is ranked 38th.

  • The people in the boats are terrorists.  I quote ERC directly:
    This is incorrect. Just 11 of more than 13,000 people who sought asylum in Australia last year were rejected on “character grounds”. Only one was regarded as a security risk because of suspected terrorist links. He had come by air, not by boat.

  • Refugees should stay in the first country they come to and ‘join the queue’.   ERC says Australia has not taken a single refugee from the Jakarta UNHCR in three years.  So, what queue?  Also quoting ERC: International law requires that asylum seekers should not be penalised according to the way in which they enter a country. Australia’s current policy does not accord with this requirement.

  • Getting tough on refugees does not affect Australia’s international reputation.  On the contrary, we stink.

  • Australia is a ‘soft touch’  In fact we are among the harshest.  We forcibly detain all arrivals, taking good care to keep them in remote inhospitable parts of the country where they will gain little public sympathy, and have poor legal representation.  We buy off poor Pacific nations and ship refugees there instead of meeting our international obligations with some humanity.

  • It is easier to get refugee status in Australia than overseas. ERC says we are about the same as other countries

  • People who destroy their identification can’t be genuine. It is safer to travel unidentifiable when you are being persecuted by your government.

  • Asylum seekers are “ungrateful” and behave badly.  This myth is based on allegations of children being thrown off ships, and riots in detention centres.  The Australian newspaper published a Nicholson cartoon on the ship subject with Ruddock extinguishing the blaze on Reith's trousers, and the PM extinguishing Ruddock.  Liar, Liar, pants on fire is the only conclusion the reader could draw.  ERC says the allegations were at best "not able to be substantiated."  
    (Since then the whole thing has been shown to be a lie Aug 2002)

    If our Aussie troops were incarcerated in places like Woomera and Pt Hedland they would try and burn the place down too.  The only reason they didn't is because in WWII they would have been shot.  We have not yet stooped to that.  Are asylum seekers ungrateful, or just desperate to make us see the appalling conditions they are held in?


    In the Sambell Oration on October 17 2001, Justice Marcus Einfeld said 

  • Most detention centres in this country suffer overcrowding, a lack of natural light and recreational facilities, and have completely inadequate sanitary conditions. As our own Human Rights Commission has found, they are more like overnight police lock-ups than places suitable for the lengthy detention of people who have committed no crime. And of course they are mostly sited thousands of miles from civilisation. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the Minister describe them as something like Australians' homes. Some 482 children under the age of 18 have been facing this very horror. Thirty or so of them have been facing it alone.

  • Detention centres are better than the countries they have left behind  

    One questions this, given what has been in the news in Australia.  And even if it is true is it correct that

    Alone of all countries in the world, including Canada, the United States and the nations of Europe and Scandinavia, we have indiscriminately detained all of them the elderly, the children, the sick and the pregnant at a cost by the way of around $50,000 per person per year when the Catholic Archbishop of Perth was offering free accommodation for all of them in Catholic homes while the review process ground on. In any civilised country, freedom from arbitrary detention is a fundamental human right derived from the common law, yet successive Australian governments have detained for long periods of time up to 5 years and more asylum seekers who have arrived in this country, having fled terror, persecution, hunger and other human rights violations too horrible to dictate, in their homelands. Marcus Einfeld

  • Sending boat people to other countries solves Australia’s asylum seeker problem.  Very simply, how can it cost less than processing them here.  We build new camps, pay the country etc...?

I was able to find the full text of the Sambell Oration here on December 27 2001 although direct links to the Brotherhood of St Laurence website seemed to be down.  The BSL Media Release is here. The ERC links were verified on December 27 2001.




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