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Asylum seekers not illegal immigrants

October 19, 2009

SMH : Remember the law on refugees

Your editorial ”Boat people far from an open or shut case” (October 17-18) was sloppy, confused and incorrect. You refer to asylum seekers as illegal immigrants. Under Australian law they are not.

Australia incorporated key elements of the UN Convention on Refugees into the Migration Act and these provisions have not been repealed. People arriving by boat or by plane and making a claim for protection as a refugee are to be treated as such until it has been demonstrated otherwise through established legal procedures. If you want the law to be suspended on this issue, do not complain when your right to publish is withdrawn.

What has border security to do with the claims of refugees? You imply a concern about the security of coastal landings, but mention nothing about the security found wanting at airports. You confuse Australia’s immigration program with the need for protection of refugees. Under Australian law they are not interchangeable.

Finally, no information or understanding is conveyed about the plight of Tamil people in Sri Lanka to assist the reader to put your editorial into context.

Bruce Haigh former diplomat and member of the Refugee Review Tribunal, Mudgee

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