Myths and Lies 

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December 28 2001

This material is a synopsis of a paper produced by the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, Sydney, and the School of Education at the Australian Catholic University. It was distributed to Uniting Church Clergy late in 2001. I have added some comments of my own.  (On December 28 2001 this article was posted at  The page following this contains more myths and comment.

Myth 1: Boat people are queue jumpers.
How can you have queue jumpers when there are not any queues to jump. There is no Australian diplomatic representation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We do support the group of nations that oppose the regimes and support sanctions against them! Few countries between the Middle East and Australia are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention so such asylum seekers are forced to continue to travel to another country to find protection.

Myth 2: Asylum seekers are illegal.
Not true. Under Australian law and international law a person is entitled to make an application for refugee asylum in another country when they allege they are escaping persecution.  Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." People who arrive on our shores without prior authorisation from Australia with no documents, or false documents are not illegal. They are asylum seekers  a legal status under international law.  'illegals' are people who overstay their visas. The vast majority of these in Australia are from western countries, including 5000 British tourists.

(The whole point of the Australian Government's despicable handling of the Tampa Affair was to prevent the people reaching Australia, so they could not make refugee applications.  The government essentially admitted the fact that it is legal for people to come. Jan) 

Myth 3: Australia already takes too many refugees.
Australia receives relatively few refugees by world standards. In 2001 Australia will receive only 12,000 refugees through its humanitarian program. This number has remained static for three years, despite increasing numbers of refugees worldwide. Australia accepted 20,000 refugees each year at the beginning of the 1980s.

Myth 4: We're being swamped by hordes of boat people.
Fact: 300,000 refugees arrived in Europe to seek asylum last year. Only  4174 reached Australia by boat or plane. In 2000, Iran and Pakistan each hosted more than a million Afghan refugees. 

Myth 5: They're not real refugees anyway.
97% of applicants from Iraq and 93% of applicants from Afghanistan seeking asylum without valid visas in Australia in 1999 were recognised as genuine refugees. Therefore, under Australian law they were found to be eligible to stay in Australia. Overall 84% of all asylum seekers are found to be legitimate refugees.

Myth 6: They must be 'cashed up' to pay people smugglers.
The UNHCR says that payments made to people smugglers range from AU$4000 to AU$5000. Many families and communities pool their resources in an attempt to send their relatives to safety.

Myth 7: There is no alternative to mandatory detention.
Australia is the only Western country that mandatorily detains asylum seekers whilst their claims are being heard. 

Myth 8: If we let them in, they'll take our benefits.
Refugees, like migrants, create demand for goods and services, stimulate the economy and generate growth and employment.  A recent UCLA study has shown that unauthorised immigration boosts the US economy by $800 billion per year.

The Edmund Rice Centre has more myths posted at Debunking More Myths (December 27 2001.) 
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