Asylum Seeker Fact Sheet and Myth Buster

A political cartoon showing a Complaints counter with the UN logo over it and a queue of world leaders with boxes labelled with their various humanitarian crises, e.g. Iran with 500,000 Iraqi refugees, Africa with 6 million AIDS cases, Sudan with 380,000 Ethiopian refugees; then John Howard barging in to the front of the queue with a boat tucked under his arm saying "stand aside! I've got 450 Afghanis on a boat!"

The Queue Jumper (01 September 2001) - a cartoon by Nicholson
from "The Australian" newspaper:
- very little has changed in the last nine years

Helen posted a link to a fact sheet from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in one of the LP comment threads. The fact sheet is in PDF format, making it un-indexable by search engines and inaccessible to some readers with disabilities, so I have transcribed it below. (The cartoon above is my own editorial comment on the issues using an old but still relevant cartoon by Peter Nicholson (reproduced with permission)).
NB The fact sheet was published before the Labor leadership change that made Julia Gillard our Prime Minister, therefore it refers to the Rudd government. As yet, there is no change in the Gillard government’s policy on asylum seekers that has any significant impact on the facts or myths below.


ASRC Fact Sheet and Myth Buster June 2010 |


MYTH 1: We no longer have children in detention centres.
• The Rudd Government has broken one of its key 2007 election promises as there are still children in detention.
• As of the 21st of May 2010 there were 427 children in detention [1].

MYTH 2: We no longer have many asylum seekers in detention centres, now that there is a Federal ALP Government.
• Australia has as many people in detention now as we did under the Howard Government.
• As of the 21st of May 2010 Australia had had 3,621 people in detention [2]

MYTH 3: It makes good financial sense to keep Christmas Island open to process asylum seekers.
• The Rudd Government has committed to spending $973.6 million dollars on Christmas Island for the next 5 years.
• That same amount of money would fund the entire budget of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for the next 540 years.

MYTH 4: The Rudd Government invests an equal amount of money in caring for asylum seekers in the community, as it does to keep asylum seekers in detention.
• For every $1 The Rudd Government gives the Red Cross to care for community based asylum seekers, it will spend $30.41 dollars to keep asylum seekers in detention centres over the next 4 years.
• That’s $1.441 billion dollars on detention compared to $47.4 million dollars to the Red Cross Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme

MYTH 5: Australia is being flooded by asylum seekers coming by boat and has lost control of its borders.
• In the last 34 years (from 1st January 1976 to 30th April 2010) we have had a total of 23,024 people come by boat to Australia seeking asylum. That’s an overall average of 677.1 asylum seekers a year [3].
• At this rate it would take 149 years to fill the MCG once with asylum seekers coming by boat.

MYTH 6: Australia is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to the number of refugees we accept into our country.
• According to the UNHCR there were some 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008. This includes 15.2 million refugees, 827,000 asylum-seekers (pending cases) and 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) [4].
• Australia does not even make the Top 20 of industrialized countries in 2009 in the number of refugees we
• When we look globally here is how we sit in comparison to the top refugee receiving countries in the world:

Australia …. …. …. 13,750
Pakistan …. …. …. 1,800,000
Syria …. …. …. 1,100,000
Iran …. …. …. 980,000
Jordan …. …. …. 500,000
Chad …. …. …. 330,000
Tanzania …. …. …. 322,000
Kenya …. …. …. 320,000

MYTH 7: The freezing of the processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seeker cases is lawful.
• The suspension policy involves discrimination on the basis of country of origin and nationality. Accordingly, the policy infringes the principle of non – discrimination contained in Article 3 of the Refugee Convention, as well as other instruments such as Article 26 of the ICCPR and Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
• Furthermore, the prolonged detention of persons for the duration of the suspension of processing of their refugee claims amounts to arbitrary detention in contravention of Article 9 (1) of the ICCPR.

MYTH 8: Asylum Seekers in the community receive four times the income from Centrelink that Australian Aged Pensioners do.
• No asylum seekers are eligible for Centrelink payments of any kind [6]
• A small percentage of asylum seekers get access to the Red Cross Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme for a limited period of time. This scheme provides for an income that is 89% of what a person would get if receiving Newstart Allowance.
• Permanent refugees are eligible to receive Centrelink but just at the same rate as an Australian permanent resident.

MYTH 9: The majority of asylum seekers come by boat to Australia.
• Only 30% of all asylum seekers come to Australia by boat, the rest come by plane [7].

MYTH 10: Australia takes its fair share of the world refugees and displaced people.
FACT 10:
• We receive each year just 0.03% of the World’s refugees and displaced people. That is 13,740 of the 42 million refugees and displaced people in the world.

MYTH 11: Australia already takes too many refugees.
FACT 11:
• Australia provides just 13,750 places each year in total for refugee and humanitarian entrants to Australia. This figure includes all people who we receive onshore and offshore and by boat [8].
• Refugee and humanitarian entrants make up just 6.6% of the places in our overall permanent immigration program in 2010. The lowest it’s been since 1975 [9].

MYTH 12: Asylum Seekers are placing Australia at risk of an unsustainable population boom.
FACT 12:
• In 2009 the Department of Immigration granted 4,338,227 permanent and temporary visas, refugees and humanitarian entrants made up just 0.31% of all visas granted for the year [10].

MYTH 13: Australia is being flooded by asylum seekers compared to other Western Countries.
FACT 13:
• In 2009, Australia received 6170 asylum applications, just 1.6% of the 377,160 applications received across 44 industrialized nations [11].

MYTH 14: We have more people seeking asylum by boat due to Rudd being soft on asylum seekers.
FACT 14:
• Most number of asylum seekers to come by boat in a calendar year to Australia [12]

2001 …. …. …. 5,516 …. …. …. Howard
1999 …. …. …. 3,721 …. …. …. Howard
2000 …. …. …. 2,939 …. …. …. Howard
2009 …. …. …. 2,750 …. …. …. Rudd

MYTH 15: Australia gets more asylum seekers than other Western Countries.
FACT 15:
• There were 20 industrialized countries who had more asylum seekers than Australia based on a per capita basis in 200913.
• Countries that received more asylum seekers than Australia in 2009 included: England (29,800), Germany (27,600), Norway (17,230) Belgium (17,190), Greece (15,930), Austria (15,830), Netherlands (14,910), Switzerland (14,490), Poland (10,590) and Turkey (7,830).

MYTH 16: Australia is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of people seeking asylum by boat.

FACT 16:
• 22 Industrialized countries had a bigger % increase in people seeking asylum than Australia during the same period.
• In comparison this is what other countries for example have experienced in 2009 in the same period:

Country | % increase 2009 cf 2007 | % increase 2009 cf 2008
Australia …. …. …. 28% …. …. …. 27%
Finland …. …. …. 344% …. …. …. 160%
Norway …. …. …. 234% …. …. …. 51%
Poland …. …. …. 152% …. …. …. 5%
U.K ….. …. …. …. 39% …. …. …. 21%
Austria …. …. …. 32% …. …. …. 41%
Canada …. …. …. 65% …. …. …. 11%
Austria …. …. …. 32% …. …. …. 41%
Germany …. …. …. 46% …. …. …. 2%
Netherlands …. …. 134% …. …. …. 23%
Malta …. …. …. 203% …. …. …. 9%

MYTH 17: Australia is being swamped by Refugees from Afghanistan.
FACT 17:
• Australia had only 0.03% of the worlds Afghan refugees (940 people out of 2.8 million) in 2009
• Even though there are 2.8 million Afghan refugees globally across 69 asylum countries worldwide, 96% of them were located in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran alone

MYTH 18: The Rudd Government has ended the Pacific Solution that the Howard Government created.

FACT 18:
• Whilst the Rudd Government closed Nauru and Manus Island, over 4,000 islands remain excised from Australia’s migration zone, allowing the Australian Government to avoid its international obligations to asylum seekers who arrive on our shores.

MYTH 19: There is no difference between the ALP and the Liberal Party when it comes to their policies on refugees.
FACT 19:
• Whilst both the ALP and Liberal Party have harsh and unjust policies towards asylum seekers, the Liberal Party has the harsher and inhumane policy as it has as part of its refugee policy these stand alone policies:
(a) Turn back boats
(b) Re – introduce Temporary Protection Visas and the 45 day rule
(c) Process all families and children on Christmas Island that arrive by boat without exception

MYTH 20: We have a more generous refugee and humanitarian program under the Rudd Government than we did under the Howard Government.
FACT 20:
• We take less people as refugees under the Rudd Government than we did under Howard as a percentage of our overall immigration intake. Under the Howard Government refugees made up 7.6% (13,104 visas) of the total immigration program. Under the Rudd Government refugees are 6.6% (13,750 visas) of the total migration program. To put Labor’s 6.6%, or 13,750 people, quota in context, it is half the proportionate rate the Howard Government set in 2000-01 – 14.6% (13,733).
• The first two years of the Rudd Government has resulted in the refugee share being reduced to 7.3% (13,500) in 2008-09, before rising slightly to 7.5% (13,750) and now dipping again to 6.6% of the overall program.
• The Rudd Government’s humanitarian quota is less than half the size in real terms of the benchmark Paul Keating set in his last year in office – 6.6% in 2010-11, compared with 15.3% in 1995-96.

MYTH 21: Asylum seekers are illegal immigrants
FACT 21:
There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention of 1951 which means that a person is able to seek asylum in Australia by boat or plane, with documents or undocumented. They are breaking no laws under the Refugee Convention of 1951

MYTH 22: Asylum seekers don’t need to come all the way to Australia, they could stop in another country along the way.
Fact 22:
• There is no queue or processing system for asylum seekers to come from Afghanistan or Iraq.
• There is no requirement under the Refugee Convention for a person to seek refuge in their first country of arrival.
• For asylum seekers who make it to Indonesia from the Middle East, the available countries who are signatories to the Refugee Convention and accept refugees is very limited. Indonesia is not a signatory. From Indonesia to Australia only Thailand and Cambodia are signatories.

MYTH 23: We are seeing more people coming by boat because of a softening of our border protection policy
Fact: 23
• Annual figures released 16th of June 2014 [10] by the UN refugee agency show that some 43.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2009, the highest number of people uprooted by conflict and persecution since the mid-1990s.

Myth 24: Asylum Seekers who come by boat from Indonesia just don’t want to wait their turn in the queue
Fact 24:
• The Australian Government refuses to accept any asylum seekers assessed as refugees by the UNHCR who have arrived after 2007 in Indonesia.
• In the last 3 years the Australian Government has settled each year an average of just 52 refugees from Indonesia in Australia.
• The waiting period in the ‘queue’ for a refugee in Indonesia (who is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention) seeking settlement in Australia is on average 37 years.

MYTH 25: People seek asylum in Australia to get access to government support and live the good life here. Asylum seekers who can afford to come by boat are economic migrants.
FACT 25:
• Asylum Seekers do not leave their country due to choice. People seek asylum because they fear for their safety and life in their home country. They leave by whatever means they can.
• No asylum seekers have access to: Centrelink, a Health Care Card, Public Housing, Settlement Services, English Programs, Job Services Australia, Traineeships or Tertiary Education. Many also have no right to even work or a Medicare Card.

4. UNHCR (2008) Global Trends,
8. DIAC Annual Report 2008 – 2009,, Federal Budget 2010
10. DIAC Annual Report 2008 – 2009,
11. UNCHR (2009) ‘Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2009’
13. UNCHR (2009) ‘Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2009’

There are many more resources available at the ASRC for those who want to learn more.

Categories: Politics, social justice

Tags: , , ,

10 replies

  1. I’ve always loved that cartoon!

  2. It’s a corker, isn’t it?

  3. One of the guys I work with has for a while refused to believe #1 isn’t true because the ALP promised they would end it.

    The fact sheet is in PDF format, making it un-indexable by search engines and inaccessible to some readers with disabilities, so I have transcribed it below

    btw there’s no problems with search engines indexing PDFs as long as they don’t just contain images (and this one doesn’t, it has the text in it).

    • btw there’s no problems with search engines indexing PDFs as long as they don’t just contain images

      Is that a relatively new thing, or have I been misinformed all along regarding PDFs?
      ETA: I certainly noticed relatively recently that it is now possible to select text and cut and paste it from some PDFs where I was previously unable to. I can see how if I can now do that then search engines ought to also be able to index the text.

  4. Extracting text from (non-image) PDFs is a bit of an art: the format is designed to place shapes (including letters) nicely on pages and tends to specify the text in terms of where it is placed on a page (ie, presentation markup) rather than in terms of how it relates to other text (semantic markup).
    But precisely because there’s so much good information locked up in them (in particular, in academic publications) there’s been a lot of work put into PDF-to-text conversion. The fact sheet here is probably pretty trivial: the properties said it was produced by Microsoft Word, which probably does lay it out in more or less the correct letter order. Open source state-of-the-art still has trouble with two column text and similar, it tends to be laid out line-by-line, regardless of the fact that in two-column documents, lines will contain text from two entirely different columns!

  5. Thank you for posting this useful list – it’s good to have somewhere to direct the poorly informed and aggressive!

  6. The short version is: if you can copy-and-paste out of it and get fairly sensible results, it’s fairly indexable too. (I don’t know about being accessible to screen-readers so much.)

  7. Rob Corr’s infogram is just full of WIN.

  8. Is that a relatively new thing, or have I been misinformed all along regarding PDFs?

    Its been around on Google for at least 3-4 years. I don’t know when it started. But searching on academic research topics I often end up with links into PDFs.
    Re: cut and paste – it depends on your pdf viewer. Also some are pdf viewers modal and you can switch between a mode where you can select text and one where you can’t so it can get a bit confusing.
    Some convert-to-pdf generation programs used to just generate images rather than a “real” pdf because it was easy. Which is what probably started the misleading belief that pdfs aren’t indexable.

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