06 June 2011

Get them off the boats -- put them on planes

Here are some interesting statistics. In 2009-10 some 5609 people arrived in Australia as "boat people" asylum seekers:


In the same financial year, 5978 people who had not arrived on boats applied for asylum (protection visas) in Australia:


The figure for boat arrivals was a significant increase on the previous year's figure of 1033, while the non-boat number for 2008-09 was 5074.

Hardly anyone mentions the non-boat arrivals. They come in with visitor, student or other temporary visas and are allowed to live freely in the community, usually with permission to work, while their cases are considered. The boat arrivals are the hottest potato in Australian politics.

So here's an idea. Why not give the boat people visas and let them fly in? No more boats, no more detention centres, no more tragedies like SIEV 221 at Christmas Island (this is the real attraction, as far as I'm concerned), no more headlines, no more ranting and raving by shock jocks (ok, that might be a bit optimistic).

If the only difference between "illegal" and "legal" asylum seekers is having a visa, then why not create an Asylum Seeker visa? It would certainly achieve the government's stated objective of smashing the people smugglers' business model.

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