Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

IF you’d thought that so much of this talk about des­per­ate asy­lum seek­ers on Nauru and Manus is just cover for a racket, you’d be right, at least for some of them. This week it tran­spired that 71 of the boat peo­ple on Nauru have re­fused an of­fer of re­set­tle­ment in the United States.

These are peo­ple who have been found to be refugees with a “well­founded fear of per­se­cu­tion” in their home­land, and they’ve been on Nauru for five years al­ready. Yet they’ve knocked back Amer­ica. If Nauru is the hell­hole of ram­pant, sui­cide-in­duc­ing men­tal ill­ness, that the refugee ac­tivists claim, why would 71 boat peo­ple refuse to go to the “land of the free”?

Here are refugees who sup­pos­edly can’t go back home. They’ve been stuck on this sup­posed prison is­land for five years (although I’ve been there, and I dis­pute it’s any­thing like how it gets de­scribed in the me­dia here), yet they say no to the US? For peo­ple who are al­legedly des­per­ate, they’re in­cred­i­bly picky about which safe, new, first world coun­try they’ll ac­cept. There are mil­lions of peo­ple lan­guish­ing in refugee camps, par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble women and chil­dren, who would grab the chance of a life in Amer­ica — but not these 71.

Ap­par­ently, these refugees knocked back the United States when they heard they would have to work and would not re­ceive wel­fare. They’re not even eco­nomic mi­grants; they’re wel­fare mi­grants, fo­rum shop­ping for best tax­payer­funded life­style. And this is pre­cisely why the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment needs to be very care­ful about giv­ing in to the bleed­ing-heart lobby and bring­ing all the boat peo­ple with chil­dren to Aus­tralia. Once they’re here, refugee ac­tivists and their lawyers will make it im­pos­si­ble for them to go back to Nauru. Sort out med­i­cal is­sues, of course; al­low it to be a back-door en­try ruse, no way!

To date, 46 ba­bies have been born in Nauru and what you don’t want is the un­in­tended con­se­quence of chil­dren be­ing used as an im­mi­gra­tion bar­gain­ing chip, or loaded on to leaky boats in the first place.

This week we had an­other glimpse into how courts and tri­bunals are be­ing ma­nip­u­lated to get around our im­mi­gra­tion rules, but it wasn’t for peo­ple who’d risked their lives to come to Aus­tralia in leaky boats.

In­stead, it was con­firmed that more than 200 Com­mon­wealth Games ath­letes and of­fi­cials (mostly from African coun­tries) have ap­plied for asy­lum in Aus­tralia. Their coun­try thought highly enough of them to send them abroad as sports am­bas­sadors, but now they’re say­ing that they can’t go back be­cause of fear of per­se­cu­tion. And as usual, our sys­tem is ac­com­mo­dat­ing them.

Af­ter their ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tions were re­fused, 184 of them are ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion and — like the boat peo­ple on Nauru and Manus — they’re largely be­ing sus­tained by you, the tax­payer. So far $300,000 has been spent on le­gal aid and $1.3 mil­lion keep­ing them in de­ten­tion or sup­port­ing them in the com­mu­nity. And there’ll be mil­lions more spent, be­fore these cases are dealt with.

Our sys­tem is ab­surdly gen­er­ous. Yes, we are a de­cent coun­try where peo­ple are given a fair go. But when boat peo­ple in Aus­tralia’s care knock back Amer­ica be­cause they can’t go on wel­fare and Com­mon­wealth Games ath­letes milk the sys­tem to stay in Aus­tralia, we are be­ing taken for a ride.

At least Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Peter Dut­ton and At­tor­neyGen­eral Chris­tian Porter have now com­mis­sioned ex-High Court judge Ian Cal­li­nan to review the ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­peals sys­tem to stop it from be­ing gamed.

The ba­sic prob­lem, though, is that all of our sys­tems are set up to give the bad guy the ben­e­fit of the doubt. No one wants Aus­tralia to stop be­ing Aus­tralian, and to lose that easy­go­ing gen­eros­ity of spirit and wel­come for peo­ple who come here to have a go and join the team. But we re­ally must get bet­ter at sort­ing out the sheep from the goats. And it shouldn’t take small armies of tax­payer-funded lawyers to do it.

Right now, our court sys­tem has im­mi­gra­tion ap­peals listed right out un­til 2021. It’s not good that peo­ple won’t have their cases heard for three years; but it’s even worse that im­mi­gra­tion ap­pli­cants don’t mind, be­cause they’re looked af­ter by the tax­payer in the mean­time, and have op­por­tu­ni­ties to get mar­ried, have chil­dren and oth­er­wise make it harder and harder for them to be sent back.

If it’s time to clear the off­shore pro­cess­ing cen­tres, it’s also time to change the def­i­ni­tion of who can claim asy­lum and who is a refugee. At the very least, if you’ve come here un­der false pre­tences, or if you’ve skipped through sev­eral coun­tries be­fore land­ing in Aus­tralia, you’re not an asy­lum seeker and you can’t be a refugee and should be sent straight back home. It is fair enough to want to live here, who wouldn’t? But ap­ply like thou­sands of other peo­ple do and come through the front door. PETA CREDLIN IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST

Pro­test­ers at a Mel­bourne rally for Nauru refugees.

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