Due to our constant engagement with media, many values and ideas expressed through these forums become engrained as part of our own belief systems. We have a tendency to trust the media when perhaps we shouldn’t – particularly when it comes to mainstream media (*cough*cough* Today Tonight/ACA) who seem particularly inclined to present sensationalist viewpoints with little regard for the truth in many cases.
Due to this, many Australians believe things about refugees and asylum seekers that simply are not true. Let’s get a few things straight.
Myth #1 – It is illegal for a refugee to arrive in Australia by boat.
In accordance with the UN Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory), refugees have the right to enter a country for the purpose of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or what travel documents they may or may not have.
Myth #2 – Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are ‘queue-jumpers’.
By definition, a refugee is someone who is outside of their country of origin. You therefore cannot apply for refugee status whilst still residing in your country. This means applying on shore is the standard process for refugee status. There is no ‘queue’ that asylum seekers who arrive by boat are trying to avoid. They are seeking asylum in the only way possible.
Myth #3 – Asylum seekers who arrive by boat present a threat to Australian security.
Almost 90% of asylum seekers who have arrived by boat have been found to be genuine refugees. Interestingly, of asylum seekers who arrive in another way, with some sort of documentation, only 40-45% are found to be genuine refugees. This means asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat are twice as likely than those who come by plane with documentation to be genuine refugees. On top of this, the UN Refugee Convention excludes individuals who have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious crimes from achieving refugee status. This means serious criminals are not able to seek asylum in Australia.