Latest in the media on asylum seekers

David Marr writes in the Herald.

The living dead were out strutting their stuff. “Ruddock predicts flood of 10,000 boat people”, read the headline on The Australian. The old immigration minister loves that figure. He plucked it out of the air in 1999 to pressure Labor into supporting new interception powers and tough visa restrictions on boat people: “As many as 10,000 people could be packing up now in the Middle East with a view to trying to access Australia.”

But they never showed. The fear of invasion by boat people is never far below the political surface in Australia. The puny numbers who actually make the journey – less than 2000 in the last 13 months – count for nothing against the deep fear this nation has that somewhere up there masses of people are poised to come down.

The issue is control. We don’t despise asylum seekers. The great majority who arrive by plane don’t trouble us at all, even though the claims of these “onshore” applicants tend to be bogus while boat people are found overwhelmingly to be refugees. Our fears are focused not on the people but the way they come: by boat.

Yet in all those years of political sturm und drang Australia there have only been 19,500 “irregular maritime arrivals” to Australia. Italy had nearly twice that number last year alone. The impact of boat people on the make up of Australia has been nil. Since that first boat turned up in Darwin harbour 33 years ago, we have taken in 3.5 million new settlers. The percentage of the once-unlawful boat people in that figure is undetectable.

SMH has an article on the children on the boat. Good. Good on Judy Moylan too.

Amid this spiralling rhetoric, a Liberal MP and outspoken refugee advocate, Judi Moylan, called on her party to stop generating hysteria over boat people and avoid creating havoc.

”It grieves me to see us going back to this hardline debate which is highly politicised and counterproductive,” she told the Herald. ”This hysterical debate politicises the issues and demonises asylum seekers. It has gone off the rails.”

Meanwhile, Turnbull says “the plea from a nine-year-old Sri Lankan asylum seeker was ”heartbreaking” but blamed the Government’s approach to border protection.” What a crook. He calls her plea heartbreaking, and then complains that Labor isn’t being cruel enough to people like her.

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