Previous issues
Contact Us

Summer 2000 cover

National Observer Home > No. 43 - Summer 2000 > Editorial Comment

Illegal Immigration Into Australia

Increasing concern is being caused by illegal immigration into Australia.

This illegal immigration has two sources. First, it has been revealed that large numbers of visitors arrive at Australian airports who either have false identities or who receive temporary visas which they over-stay. These latter entrants arrive with the intention of disregarding any restrictions upon the length of their visits and of submerging themselves in ethnic communities where they are difficult to identify. Hence there is a swelling accumulation of illegal immigrants in Australia, who if discovered are difficult to remove in view of the generous legal assistance by the Australian taxpayer in funding legal fees enabling them to oppose extradition.

Secondly, the problem of "boatpeople" has become increasingly obvious. Due to a perception that Australian immigration laws are weak, large numbers of would-be immigrants have paid, and are now paying, substantial sums to intermediaries who organise illegal entry into Australia.

Many of these boatpeople originate from China, Afghanistan and Iraq. When they arrive within the Australian jurisdiction they commonly claim rights of entry as refugees. Again, they are provided with financial resources by the Australian taxpayer to pay the legal costs of arguing their cases one estimate is that the cost of removing an illegal immigrant is, on average, approximately $60,000. Because the relevant government regulations are loose, and because the Federal Court has proved itself to be less reliable than the State Supreme Courts, many illegal immigrants have proved to be undeservedly successful before the Federal Court.

What is apparent is that the existing legal rules in regard to illegal immigrants are inadequate. The grant of legal assistance to them in order to sue the Australian government is absurdly generous. What, instead, is needed is a simple rule that any person who has illegally entered Australia is to be returned forthwith to his country of origin. Any application as a "refugee" should not be made in Australia, and it should be provided that those claiming refugee status do so before coming here.

So far as boatpeople are concerned, it must be appreciated that if, as now, Australia continues to have an excessively sympathetic attitude, it will continue to be singled out as a place for illegal entry. Although one may wish to treat kindly those who are subject to unreasonable or oppressive governments, if a firm position is not taken there will be  a continual expansion of the business of bringing in illegal immigrants to Australia. Those who organise transportation are highly renumerated, and it would be naive to believe that they can be restrained otherwise than by firm and decisive treatment.

For boatpeople, therefore, the appropriate course is to have sufficient coast guard vessels to intercept them before they come within Australian waters and to require them to return to their countries of embarkation. Where appropriate food, water and fuel should be provided to them on humanitarian grounds to ensure that they can return safely to those countries. (If they have already arrived in Australia they should be returned or deported on the same basis.) When returned to their own countries they will be able to make proper applications for entry to Australia if they choose to do so, either on a normal basis or as refugees. It should however be added that the concept of "refugee" should not be construed generously for these purposes. There are many countries where civil rights are more limited than in Australia, and where varying degrees of repression exist. Unfortunate as this position is, it does not compel Australia to accept persons from those countries as refugees. Otherwise the flow of applicants would swell beyond any possibility that they could be assimilated or even be welcome.

These matters should be dealt with on a non-party basis, since they affect Australia's security. It would of course be too much to expect that the Australian Democrats, who are perceived as the courtesans of Australian politics, would adopt a responsible position, but the Liberal, National and Labor Parties must do so.

National Observer No. 43 - Summer 2000