Information from many sources
10 Important Facts
about Asylum Seekers
- Everyone has the right to seek asylum ‘Article 14: Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries, asylum from persecution.‘ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
- While it is usually illegal to enter a country without a valid visa, it is not to be considered as illegal if it is for the purpose of seeking asylum (‘Article 31: The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence’ of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention)
- As a UN Refugee Convention signatory, Australia is prohibited from imposing penalties on people entering if they are coming directly* from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened (Article 31: The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence’ of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention) * Coming directly, means that people haven’t been offered protection and allowed to settle in another country first. (UN High Commissioner on Refugees guidelines on detention of Asylum Seekers)
- People seeking asylum cannot stay in Indonesia. Indonesia is not a UN Refugee Convention signatory. Refugees are not offered protection and are not allowed to settle there. Asylum seekers can be gaoled or deported if they are discovered.
- People seeking protection must not be prevented from entering a UN Convention signatory country. They must not be returned to a country where their life or freedom is threatened. (The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, UNHCR)
- 92% of people arriving by boat since 2008 have been assessed to be genuine refugees, fleeing things like war, persecution, genocide and torture. (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Asylum Trends Australia, 2012-13 – Annual Publication, page 30)
- There’s no such thing as a queue. Anyone who wants to claim asylum must leave their home country first, so they flee to other countries. This is the standard way to seek asylum. “The concept of an orderly queue does not accord with the reality of the asylum process.” (Asylum Seekers and Refugees. What are the facts, Parliament of Australia website)
- International law prohibits the use of arbitrary detention. People cannot lawfully be held without a valid charge. Anyone who has been arrested must have their case brought to trial without delay or else be released (Article 91. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.’ of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Yet at 31 October 2013 there were 6,401 people in immigration detention facilities. Some of them had been detained for over two years (Australian Human Rights Commission website).
- The UN and Amnesty International have both presented reports which condemn the conditions in detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru as being unsafe and inhumane. There are currently 179 children held in detention in those conditions on Nauru. (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)
- Australia receives a fraction of the world’s asylum seekers each year. In 2013 alone, Sweden received 54,300 requests; France received 60,100; USA received 88,400; and Germany received 109,600 requests for asylum. In 2013, 24,300 people requested asylum in Australia. (www.unhcr.org)
Is it illegal to seek asylum by boat?
The following information has been taken directly from the Australian Parliament Website:
“Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels.
Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an Australian Embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk. Refugees may also be forced to flee with little notice due to rapidly deteriorating situations and do not have time to apply for travel documents or arrange travel through authorised channels.
Permitting asylum seekers to enter a country without travel documents is similar to allowing ambulance drivers to exceed the speed limit in an emergency – the action would be ordinarily be considered illegal, but the circumstances warrant an exception.”
It is not illegal to seek asylum
A Save the Children/Unicef report released in September 2016 found that the government’s deterrence policies against refugees cost a total of $9.6 billion over four years between the 2013 and 2016 financial years. This includes the cost of detention both in Australia and on Manus and Nauru, as well as the government’s turnback policies.
It has cost $1 million each for every detainee imprisoned on Manus Island since 2012, according to the Parliamentary Library. That one detention centre alone has cost around $2 billion over this period.
This enormous sum could instead reverse government cuts and boost spending on health and education. It is a stark example of the government’s priorities.
year. Detention in Australia costs $239,000 per year. By contrast, allowing asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are processed costs just $12,000 per year, one twentieth of the cost of the offshore camps, and even less if they are allowed the right to work.
Refugees have been painted as “economic migrants”, “country shoppers” or worse, equate refugees with terrorists. In reality, approximately 90% of those who arrive by boat are legitimate refugees.
The government will continue to waste billions of dollars sending asylum seekers to the camps on Nauru and Manus Island until we demand humane policies
With thanks to …
Roads to Refuge has some good info