Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Australia does not have a people smuggling problem

The dictionary defines that to smuggle people is to convey people somewhere secretly and illicitly.

Think about it; by definition Australia does not have a people smuggling problem. The people smuggling problem faced by Australia does not fit into this definition. The so-called "people smugglers" operate out of Indonesia with impunity. When they reach Australian shore, they signal to the border patrol and ask to be taken into Australia. On the Australian side, the asylum seekers are routinely "processed": housed, fed, given a health checkup, and free legal service.

I remember a time when things were different. The Vietnamese boat people arrived in Australia after braving an odyssey, literally. Stories abound of life-threatening dangers from pirates, storm, and leaky boats that were not fit for the journey. These people had to bribe corrupt officials with their life savings, just to exit their country. Young women had to disguise themselves to avoid attention and rape. Many were taken by pirates to a life far worse than that they left behind, and permanently devastating those of their family members.

The present day boat arrivals fly to Indonesia in safety and comfort. They exit their countries properly and they hire a boat operator to sail to Christmas Island. All these things things are done under the nose of the authorities. There is nothing secretive about it. The move is not illicit, as perpetrators are treated as house guests. They just need to bide their time for their application to be processed. Meanwhile, just sit back and relax.

As I said, Australia does not have a people smuggling problem. We just have a problem of trying to accommodate too many house guests and we are running out of rooms. The only thing that puzzles me  is why do the asylum seekers bother to use a boat? Their asylum claim would have been processed the same way if they had flown into the country. And they would not have to stay on Christmas Island.

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