John Menadue. . Come by air – no problem!

Aug 7, 2014

Many newspapers this morning are full of stories about fraud and bureaucratic negligence over air arrivals. The integrity of the visa system is being called into question.

One June 20, last year, I posted an article ‘Come by air – no problem!’ It is reposted below. This blog highlighted the widespread preoccupation with boat arrivals.

Other major issues have been overlooked,including the 50,000 plus in our community, who having overstayed their visa have ‘disappeared’


Repost: Come by air – no problem!

There is an easy way to solve the boat people “problem”. It is simply to get as many asylum seekers as possible to come by air. It would be a win/win for everyone. There are many reasons for proposing this.

  • The politicians and the media show no interest whatsoever in the asylum seekers who come by air. (In the last 10 years, over 78% of asylum seekers have come by air, although in the last two to three years, the proportions have changed in favour of boat arrivals.) But the fact remains, we are not concerned at all about air arrivals.
  •  This would solve the political problem We could also ignore the media misinformation
  • We don’t put many air arrivals into detention as we do boat people. So this could potentially save us up to $2 billion in detention costs.
  • Asylum seekers who come by air live freely in the community, and  are allowed to work. Boat people are not. So allowing more air arrivals to work saves the taxpayer and there is no need for asylum seekers to break the law and work in the grey economy.

There are also good business opportunities here  for Qantas and other airlines. They need to set up joint ventures or appoint good agents to help as many asylum seekers to get visas to enter Australia  by air with Qantas or others. How can this be done?

  • Most asylum seekers who come by air promise that they are coming to Australia as a visitor, student or working holiday maker. Having got into Australia they then apply for refugee status and live happily in the community until their status is resolved.
  • So entrepreneurial agents can perform a personal and national service in helping asylum seekers come by air. We know there are some very efficient “agents” in southern China. China always tops the list for the number of asylum seekers who come by air. What a boon for both airlines and agents!
  • Clive Palmer has proposed that asylum seekers should fly to Australia. He said recently ‘All that needs to happen is that the government needs to stop telling airlines and other people not to give [asylum seekers] safe transport. If they come down here by air and if they are refugees that’s one thing. If they haven’t got a legitimate claim they can go right back on the plane the next day.’

Clive Palmer clearly sees it as a win/win for everyone. As would other people.

  • Tony Abbott would surely applaud as it is an even better solution than his Pacific Solution to control our borders.  People smugglers would be put out of business
  • The media would obviously think it was good policy because it has shown very clearly that it is only concerned about boat people. Air arrivals are quite un-newsworthy.
  • Taxpayer money would be saved and airlines could make more money.

But to disappoint Tony Abbott and the media, I must admit that some of the above is nonsense. You probably detected my tongue in cheek a few paragraphs ago!

  • Agents would need to encourage visa applicants to make false declarations about the reason for them coming to Australia.
  • It would be unfair to persons who genuinely faced persecution and who would have no way of getting a visa.
  • Asylum seekers who come by air, although many are quite deserving, have a success rate in refugee determination of just over 40%. For boat arrivals it is over 90%.

Put simply, our preoccupation with boat people is a dishonest and misleading ploy. It is done deliberately to incite fear. For some reason boat people are a special threat. And Tony Abbott and the media play it for all it is worth. As reported by the SMH on 10 December 2010 “a key Liberal Party strategist told the US Embassy in 2009 that the more boats that come the better”

The important issue is the total number of asylum seekers who come to Australia and not their mode of arrival. As an island continent we should not be surprised that really desperate people try to come by sea without a visa.

The Coalition and the media have performed dishonestly over boat people. Following in John Howard’s footsteps, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison are deliberately inciting fear about boat people, yet show no interest at all in air arrivals. Where is the consistency in this?  For the media it is partly political partisanship, as with The Australian, but for most others it is laziness.  Pictures of unkempt bearded men on boats are so much more newsworthy. It is much harder to get pictures and stories of asylum seekers dressed in suits who come by air every day and all day through our airports. And no group exhibits more laziness  on this issue than the ABC, particularly its Canberra correspondents.

Why do we continue to beat ourselves up only about asylum seekers who come by boat but ignore those who come by air and treat the latter much more generously particularly as the have a much lower success rate in refugee determination?

John Menadue





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