Thursday, June 21, 2007

Refugees in Australia - Q & A (v) - If someone can pay people smugglers, can they be a refugee?

It has been alleged that people who have the resources to pay people smugglers could not possibly be genuine refugees. The UNHCR disputes claims about 'cashed up' refugees saying that payments made to people smugglers in fact range from AUD $4000 - $5000. In reality, many families and communities pool their resources in an attempt to send their relatives to safety, so great is the desperation to escape certain persecution.

Amnesty International acknowledges and upholds the right of nation states to maintain border integrity, and recognises that organised people smuggling undermines policing who may or may not enter Australia.

However, punitive policies imposed by the Australian government in an effort to stop people smuggling deliberately punish the refugees who entered Australia without documents for the crimes of the people smugglers.

People smuggling is a crime that the international community needs to combat. Yet at all times this must not undermine the legitimate right of those fleeing persecution to seek refuge. The international community, in eradicating people smuggling, is also required to address the growing numbers of asylum seekers throughout the world. Australia has a role to play in this.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also think it's worth pointing out the obvious - 'refugees' as a group, are not a subset of 'poor people'. Wealth has nothing to do with political persecution. Paying smugglers is faster and safer than obtaining a legitimate passport and fleeing 'legally'. In Burma, at least, a person can make arrangements to flee and be in another country in a matter of days or less. I guarantee there are more than a few lives that have been saved by this situation. When a friend calls you and tells you the police are at your house, and you need to leave as quick as possible, you really need to leave as quick as possible.

Mark Thomson said...

Spot on. Quite a few refugees I have met have been highly educated, middle class people who have fallen foul of their repressive government.