Australian Government’s Decision to Publish “Asylum Guide” Slammed by Opposition
Boatpeople are a divisive political issue in Australia, with successive governments attempting to crack down on people-smuggling rings bringing would-be refugees to its shores.
With seaborne arrivals on the increase the conservative opposition accused Canberra of establishing "a 'how to guide' website to be used in people smugglers' travel brochures".
"The government is supposed to be trying to stop people coming on illegal boats, not facilitating the process," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.
. "The only thing missing from this website is the phone contact for the people-smugglers and an introductory web video from Captain Emad," he said in reference to an Iraqi man accused of people-smuggling.
A new government webpage headed "irregular maritime arrivals" contains general information for people who arrive on a boat without a visa and explains assessment processes and options available to asylum-seekers.
"Not everyone is entitled to Australia's protection, even if you come from a country where there is violence or a lack of security," it says.
"It is important that you assist the (immigration) department in its assessment and fully consider the decisions you will need to make along the way."
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government was merely providing the facts to would-be refugees.
"This information is not new and has always been publicly available on the immigration website," he said. "It's important to counter the false promises people-smugglers are peddling to get asylum-seekers on boats."
Boatpeople come to Australia in relatively small numbers by global standards, but the country is on track to exceed the 2010 record of 6,555 asylum-seekers this year.
Canberra planned to transfer hundreds of boatpeople to Malaysia to try to break the people-smugglers business model, but the scheme was thwarted by a legal challenge and the opposition blocking legal changes to allow it.