Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, believes that most of those arriving by boat in Australia are economic migrants rather than refugees. He is therefore concerned that 90% are being granted refugee status:
Up to 90 per cent of people who arrive by boat are considered genuine refugees, but Senator Carr said his "impression" was that now, as arrivals spiked, most were economic migrants.
"They're people seeking an improvement in their economic circumstances, and therefore they've got to get into the regular migration stream," he said.
Senator Carr said immigrants who were not part of any ethnic or religious minority could not argue they were being persecuted in their home country.
"There have been boats where 100 per cent of them have been people who are fleeing countries where they're the majority ethnic and religious group," he said.
"I think it's unarguable that if someone is leaving a country and they are part of the majority religious and ethnic group, then they're not being persecuted in the way that the Refugee Convention describes."
So why are so many accepted as refugees? Part of the answer is that those on the refugee tribunals have been threatened with the sack if they reject too many claims. Also, refugee activists with a clear bias have been appointed to the tribunals. From 2010:
The two members of the Rudd Government’s Refugee Review Tribunal say they operate under a “culture of fear”, with their jobs under threat if they reject too many claims.
They believe two members have already lost their jobs for being too tough, and more could follow when the next round of appointments (and dumpings) are announced next month…
...the four-man panel which decides on RRT appointments includes a refugee activist with a conflict of interest.
John Gibson is also president of the Refugee Council of Australia and works as a lawyer for asylum seekers who are turned down by the RRT.
Here are some appointments from 2010 to the Refugee Review Tribunal:
There’s Charlie Powles, a Refugee and Immigration Law Centre solicitor, and Anthony Krohn, a Melbourne barrister who has worked for many asylum seekers and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.
Add to them the director of the Brisbane Catholic Archdiocese’s Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care; a solicitor for the refugee advocacy group Southern Communities Advocacy Legal Education Service; and a solicitor for Sydney’s Immigration Advice and Rights Centre.
Samantha Whybrow, who was recently a visa officer in Sri Lanka, was told in 2012 by a Regional Director not to worry if 90% of humanitarian applications were false "because the numbers are so small".
She believes that many visas were being granted on the basis of false information:
In my interviews with family members of people granted humanitarian visas (who were then applying for visas themselves) I asked why their family member had gone to Australia.
In a large number of cases I was provided with responses such as, “the gem business was not good”, “I don’t know”, “business was not good”, “our children are in Australia”, “Australia is giving visas for Sri Lankans”.
When I compared these statements with the statements the humanitarian visa recipient had made to officials in Australia I found extraordinary contradictions that lead me to strongly believe the (humanitarian) claim had been fabricated.
Let me repeat here what I think should happen with the refugee system. The current system, in which refugee applicants are resettled in Western countries, encourages economic migration. A better system would be for the wealthier nations in the world (and not just Western nations) to contribute to a central fund for refugees. This fund would be used to resettle refugees in those areas which are most similar to the refugees' country of origin in both ethnicity and living standard.
That would remove the incentive for economic migrants to claim refugee status and it would also avoid cultural dislocation for both the refugees and the members of the host society.