9 Truths People Get Wrong About Refugees and Asylum Seekers

  • 1. There’s no such thing as “queue jumpers”

    The process for people seeking asylum and resettlement is more like a lottery. The United Nations process of resettling refugees to other safe countries operates as a discretionary process, based on criteria that changes all the time!

  • 2. People seeking asylum by boat are not illegal

    Asylum seekers do not break any laws by arriving on boats or without papers. Both Australian and international law allow asylum seekers to enter Australia without authorisation.
    The RCOA’s fact sheet states:

    “The idea that there is, or can be, an entirely orderly process for seeking asylum ignores the reality that forced displacement is anything but orderly.”
  • 3. Most displaced people never cross a border

    For every refugee who flees to another country, there are two that are internally displaced. These people are known as internally displaced persons (IDPs), and don’t count as refugees. This means they can’t get the help that the UNHCR provides for refugees.

  • 4. Most refugees aren’t resettled. 

    Only about 1% of all recorded refugees were resettled permanently in another country. Most refugees – even people in very vulnerable and dangerous situations – cannot realistically expect to be resettled in the near future, if ever.

  • 5. We don’t take many.

    Unlike Australia, most countries that host refugees can hardly afford them. Over 80 percent of refugees live in the developing world, with Pakistan being home to 1.5 million! Other major host countries include Iran, Turkey, Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad and China.

  • 6. They don’t all want to come here.

    There are generally three options for refugees: repatriation; local integration or resettlement. Most would prefer to return to their home country, though their having left indicates that staying is not an option due to safety concerns.

  • 7. There are more refugees now then ever before.

    The UNHCR data shows that the there have been large numbers of IDPs, asylum seekers and refugees since WW1 (when they started recording, there was 1 million refugees left over from the war) but in the past three years the number has skyrocketed to over 16 million people. The ongoing crisis in Europe has increased that number my many thousands.

  • 8. Asylum seekers can’t receive Centrelink benefits… And Centrelink benefits are exactly the same for refugees and non-refugees!

    This myth apparently originated in a hoax email that claimed that refugees get more Centrelink benefit than aged pensioners, but it plays into an ‘us and them’ mentality that is common in the debate around this issue. The fact is that there is no special benefit for refugees. And asylum seekers can’t obtain any benefits without proving their refugee status.

  • 9. Asylum seekers are not ‘economic migrants’ or ‘security threats’

    All those seeking asylum in Australia go through a rigorous and often lengthy assessment process to be labeled a refugee and be resettled on humanitarian grounds. And the majority of asylum seekers who have reached Australia by boat have been found to be refugees. Almost half of all refugees worldwide are children.

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