Denying trafficking not the way to protect the Asylum system

Nov 18, 2022
Queue refugee. Waiting people line, migration.

Hannah Dickinson from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has penned an article in this Journal that is full of distraction and denial of the massive labour trafficking scam that started in 2014-15. That approach does nothing to help genuine asylum seekers nor help the over 70,500 unsuccessful asylum seekers currently living in Australia with no rights and no protections.

The headline of Dickinson’s article is itself misleading. Nowhere has the Nine Network pursued a ‘tired, politicised, militaristic discourse on refugees’. There is no negative comment whatsoever in any of the Nine coverage about asylum seekers who are securing permanent protection. That is an entirely appropriate outcome for those found to be refugees.

There is also no criticism of the unsuccessful asylum seekers themselves. They are mostly victims of a foul trafficking scam who have had ‘bogus’ asylum applications lodged on their behalf by people who are trying to hide their involvement with these applications. Dickinson would well know labour trafficking is one of the biggest criminal industries on the planet and that the people themselves would know little about the asylum applications being made on their behalf.

There is implied criticism of Peter Dutton for allowing the massive labour trafficking scam out of Malaysia and then China to flourish. I have been highly critical of Dutton’s management of that in this Journal and elsewhere for many years. The ASRC has largely avoided commenting on these scams.

The Nine Network has revealed detailed evidence of the asylum system being extensively used by criminals under the Coalition Government (and no doubt now under the Labor Government). But these are simply factual matters, not politicisation.

Rather than commend the Nine Network for bringing this level of criminality to the public’s and the Government’s attention, the ASRC has decided it will attack and bully relevant journalists at the Nine Network.

The ‘militaristic’ reference is a pure figment of Dickinson’s imagination. Nowhere has the Nine Network suggested anything like a ‘militaristic’ approach to the issue. The vast majority of asylum seekers, including unsuccessful asylum seekers, continue to live in the community. Neither the Nine Network nor I have suggested anything else in how they are managed. Certainly, there has been no suggestion of detaining these people which is presumably what Dickinson is thinking about.

Indeed it was the Kaldor Centre, a strong advocate for asylum seekers, that suggested rapid removal of unsuccessful asylum seekers not the Nine Network. Once unsuccessful asylum seeker numbers are into tens of thousands, mass removal is impossible. Both the Kaldor Centre and the ASRC desperately don’t want to talk about this.

In a recent tweet, Dickinson has suggested the Nine Network is promulgating avoidance of ‘due process’ in dealing with asylum seekers. Nowhere has that suggestion been made by either the Nine Network nor myself. Once again, Dickinson is just trying to set up a straw man to attack.

Dickinson says she knows of cases of Malaysian nationals who have been recognised as refugees. That is entirely true but she very carefully avoids mentioning the fact that over 42,000 Malaysian nationals have applied for asylum since 2014-15 with a refusal rate at the primary level of over 98 percent.

Dickinson proudly states that the AAT sets aside departmental asylum refusals at very high rates for nationals from Ethiopia, Iran and Iraq. But she fails to mention that caseloads from these nations are comparatively tiny and monthly approval rates for asylum seekers from these nations at the Departmental level are very high, often 100 percent.

She very carefully avoids making any mention of the tiny set aside rates at both Departmental and AAT levels for the much, much larger caseloads from Malaysia, China and India. Why? Because that would be far too inconvenient to her argument.

In a separate post targeted at me, Dickinson says it is impossible for me to know how many of the over 26,000 primary asylum cases that are currently with the Department and growing rapidly will be refused. It is true I cannot know this with any precision but I can clearly see the very high refusal rates since 2014-15.

There is no reason why these high refusal rates will not continue while the major source nations remain as they now are. Dickinson well knows there is no reason for refusal rates for asylum seekers from our major source nations to change, either at the Departmental level or at the AAT.

Dickinson does make a case for more funding for faster decision-making at the primary and review levels and more funding for lawyers like herself. That is fine although she should not assume the Government or the public has a limitless appetite for this.

Most tellingly, she makes no mention of what should now happen to the over 70,500 unsuccessful asylum seekers currently living in the country with no work rights or means of survival other than to work illegally or rely on charity.

This is a number she knows will keep growing as the 26,000 asylum cases at the Department are processed (and predominantly refused) and as the primary application rate continues to steadily rise. It is already back up to 1,400 in October after falling to around 600 at the low point when international borders were closed.

Trying to bully journalists or retirees like myself from reporting the facts is not a solution. The ASRC should try and be part of the solution and not hide key facts. That will only result in Australia emulating what has happened to unsuccessful asylum seekers in North America and Europe where the number of unsuccessful asylum seekers living hand to mouth in the community continues to grow to eye-watering levels.

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