What are the goals of CRAG Geelong?
Please click here for CRAG brochure
What is the current situation for people seeking asylum in Australia?
Please click here for Refugees they could be you - Current situation info sheet 2018
Is it illegal to seek asylum by boat?
It is perfectly legal to seek asylum in Australia by boat. The Australian Parliament House website contains the following information:
It is not a crime to enter Australia without authorisation for the purpose of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Article 31 of the Refugee Convention clearly states that refugees should not be penalised for arriving without valid travel documents. What may be considered an illegal action under normal circumstances (e.g. entering a country without a visa) should not, according to the Convention, be considered illegal if a person is seeking asylum. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or even possible for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels. Refugees are, by definition, people fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own governments. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an Australian Embassy for a visa, as this 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. In other cases, refugees may be unable to obtain travel documents because they do not have identity documentation or because they cannot meet the necessary visa requirements. Australia has very restrictive policies which work to prevent citizens of countries where persecution is widespread from getting access to temporary visas of any kind. These policies leave many people seeking to flee to Australia with no way of entering in an authorised manner. 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 may ordinarily be illegal but, in order to protect lives at risk, an exception is made. (https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1415/AsylumFacts#_Toc413067441)
Australia has held people in offshore camps for almost 5 years because they did not arrive with visas. This is complete disregard for the international human rights law Australia has agreed to.
Why don’t people stay in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand?
These countries are not UN Convention signatory countries. They do not accept refugees for resettlement. Refugees caught in these places without visas are often jailed and/or deported back to persecution. The do not have work rights or access to healthcare and education for their children. They have no means to support themselves and their families there long term.
Why don’t Muslim Countries assist Muslim refugees?
They do! Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon and Turkey are among the top refugee hosting countries. UNHCR statistics show that Turkey was hosting 2,869,421 refugees at the end of 2016. (http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html) . Most of these people have fled there from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. However, not all these countries are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. Only signatory countries provide resettlement.
While Qatar is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention it has provided extended working visas for many people who have had to leave their homelands due to persecution. Qatar has also partnered with the UNHCR through Qatar Charity, to deliver essential humanitarian assistance to more than 209,000 refugees and internally displaced persons in Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Bangladesh. (http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/news/press/2017/10/59d37da24/unhcr-qatar-charity-formalize-cooperation-agreement-support-global-refugee.html)
Saudi Arabia is not a Refugee Convention signatory country, so people are not provided with official refugee resettlement there either. However, Saudi continues to host people who have fled from Syria (reports estimate over 500,000), but does not assess them for refugee status or register them with the UNHCR. Saudi just calls them “Arab brothers and sisters in distress.” This is why they do not appear in UNHCR figures for refugee hosting. (http://www.newsweek.com/gulf-states-are-taking-syrian-refugees-401131)
Some Refugee Convention signatory countries have problems of their own, which make certain groups of people unsafe. Just as Jewish people wanted to get completely away from Europe during the spread of the Nazis in the 1930s, many people want to get completely away from the Middle East in order to feel safe.
CRAG believes that Australia, as part of the globe, needs to do more to alleviate the global humanitarian crisis by offering more places for refugees here. We also believe that Australia’s refugee intake should be non-discriminatory and open to people of all religions. People who have sought asylum in Geelong have different faiths, including Christian, Muslim and Hindu, or no particular religion at all.
Are people who come by boat ‘genuine refugees’?
Almost always. People who arrive in Australia seeking safety must undergo a strict assessment and screening process to determine that they are actually fleeing persecution. Over the years, around 80 - 90% of people seeking asylum in Australia by boat have been found to be refugees in genuine need of protection. (https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1415/AsylumFacts#_Toc413067445)
The same rates have occurred in Australia's offshore camps. (https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/most-people-sent-to-manus-island-are-genuine-refugees-new-figures-show-20160630-gpv5ns.html)
The idea that people coming by boat are mostly 'economic migrants' is a myth created by certain politicians in order to get the public to support their harsh policies and breaches of international law.
Do people seeking asylum integrate into Australian life and contribute to our communities?
Yes! The Geelong region is home to around 300 people who are seeking asylum or who have recently been granted temporary protection visas. Almost everyone who has work rights is working and/or studying, paying taxes and providing for their families. They have worked very hard to learn English and are participating in community events and activities like sport, art, camping, bushwalking, picnics, surfing and swimming. There are many others who have arrived in earlier years who have established businesses and successful careers in the Geelong region, are raising their families here, and are contributing to the vibrancy of local communities.