We should not tolerate fear-mongering over asylum seekers

Is it possible to have a rational, respectful and mature debate in Australia over refugees, considering the actual numbers of those arriving (by plane or boat) is so low? We are a country of asylum seekers and surely benefit from a well-managed program of immigration:

[A] United Nations report revealed Australia received 6,170 asylum applications in 2009 – 30 per cent more than in the previous year.

That is 1.6 per cent of the total around the world, where 50,000 applications were made to the United States and 42,000 to France.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the Government’s softened stance on border protection is behind the rise.

“Clearly we have an Australian problem here and it’s a product of Australian policy forces,” he said.

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans has rejected the Opposition’s claims.

Senator Evans says Australia is getting more people because more people are fleeing Afghanistan.

But he says Australia’s proportion of the world total is still very low.

“We’re getting less than 2 per cent of those fleeing to industrialised countries, but we are seeing increased arrivals from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka,” he said.

“While the situation in those countries remains difficult, we’ll continue to see people arrive.”

Australia is ranked 16th out of 44 industrialised nations in terms of how many asylum seeker applications are received.

The Refugee Council of Australia released today this very sensible statement:

Last night’s release by UNHCR of 2009 statistics on asylum applications in industrialised countries emphasises that Australia’s share of global asylum applications remains very small, the Refugee Council of Australia says.

“In 2009, Australia received 6170 asylum applications, just 1.6% of the 377,160 applications received across 44 industrialised nations,” Refugee Council CEO, Paul Power, said. “Of the 44 nations, Australia was ranked 16th overall and was 21st on a per capita basis.

“No doubt some politicians will try to make political capital out of an increase in asylum applications in Australia of 1400 on the previous year. However, the applications received in Australia must be viewed in light of the numbers of the 286,680 applications received in Europe and the 82,270 applications received in North America.

“The industrialised countries with the largest number of asylum applications in 2009 were the United States (49,020), France (41,980), Canada (33,250), United Kingdom (29,840), Germany (27,650) and Sweden (24,190).

“Afghanistan was the single largest source country of people making asylum applications in industrialised countries. The 940 applications lodged in Australia by Afghans made up only 3.5% of the international total of 26,803. Afghans were four times more likely to lodge an application in Norway than in Australia.
“These figures should put to rest any claims that Australia is being ”˜flooded’ by asylum seekers. The only flood we are seeing is of self-serving political rhetoric.

“It is clear that refugees continue to seek protection in stable democracies which respect international law and human rights. Even though Australia’s share of asylum seekers is small, Australia should still be proud to be included among those receiving countries.

“Our country is making a modest but valuable contribution to protecting people from persecution, a practical demonstration of Australians’ strong opposition to oppression.”

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