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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Truth, Lies and Refugee Entitlements

There are numerous emails being circulated about what refugees are entitled to.  Most of the emails are full of blatant lies.

They claim that refugees are entitled to far more than any Australian is.  The truth is that refugees (that is those asylum seekers who have been assessed as being a genuine refugee and granted residency in Australia) are entitled to the same benefits as any other Australian resident or citizen.  No more, no less.

However, asylum seekers who are yet to be assessed, receive nothing. Zero dollars! No allowances at all.  So certainly cannot be accused of receiving more benefits than Australians.

This fact sheet from the Australian Government answers many of the claims in these emails:

A further refutation of these claims is also available at the following website:

The only advantage that is applied to refugees over other immigrants is the waiting period for benefits.  This waiting period is waived on humanitarian grounds, as refugees do not normally arrive cashed up or sponsored by an Australian citizen.  

Some of these emails claim that Australia only accepts refugees from North Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim.  The emails asks why does Australia bring in Muslim Sudanese instead of Christian Sudanese who live mainly in southern Sudan.   The Department of Immigration advises that 83% of Sudanese refugees are Christian, whilst only 12% are muslim. Refer to the below fact sheet from the Department:

Another claim is that refugees are given $50,000 either to settle or per year.  This is another false accusation.  It is possible that this figure is a perversion of the actual cost to detain a refugee under Prime Minister Howard's mandatory detention policy, as explained in a speech given in May 2001 by the Hon Marcus Enfield: "We are now the only developed country in the world which practises indiscriminate indeterminate incommunicado detention of asylum seekers. Alone of all countries in the world, including Canada, the United States and the nations of Europe and Scandanavia, we have indiscriminately detained all of them - the elderly, the children, the sick and the pregnant - at a cost by the way of around $50,000 per person per year ...".   May 2001, Hon Justice Marcus Enfield (AO, QC, PhD) in a speech at the Jessie Street Trust Annual Gathering, Parliament House, NSW.

Many of these emails will claim that Muslims don't have Christian values and therefore will not assimilate and are not welcome.  Yet the emails are full of hate, intolerance, racism and blatant lies which are far removed from values that Christians should embrace.

These emails appeal to people's fear of those who are different, to the fear that people will lose their way of life.  So they are circulated at a prolific rate.  They may be lies but the proliferation of them results in people believing they are true, further reinforcing hatred, fear, racism and xenophobia in Australian society. 

"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if  you repeat it frequently enough, people will sooner or later believe it".  United States Office of Strategic Services describing Adolph Hitler's psychological profile in a report entitled "Hitler as his Associates Know Him", page 51.

In late 2011, another email circulated which was also full of blatant lies and demonising of asylum seekers.  Some of the claims in this email include:

1. "Federal police are making fewer drug busts because they are spending resources policing asylum seekers".  This is wrong.  Australian Federal Police drug busts have increased 300% in 2011.

2. "Asylum seekers are given mobile phones to call anywhere in the world and have incurred a combined bill of $5,000,000".  The federal government does not provide asylum seekers in detention with mobile phones.  They have access to land-lines to seek legal advice. Some asylum seekers are given mobile phones with limited credit whilst in community detention for safety reasons. Some refugee advocacy groups have sent mobile phones to detainees but these are not paid for by the government.

3. "As the boat sank off Christmas Island in 2010, rescuers threw life jackets to the people in the water".  The email alleges that the adults pushed their children out the way so they could save themselves. This is wrong as can be seen on video footage of the tragedy.

4. "Asylum seekers in detention tell their guards that 'they are there to serve the asylum seekers' and when they don't, the asylum seekers attack the guards".   Another falsehood. Much of the violence in detention centres has been caused by asylum seekers whose claims are denied and have not yet returned home, or by people frustrated by the length of time taken to process their claims.

5. "Asylum seekers print out their welfare entitlements from the net".  This is false. Asylum seekers are not entitled to welfare until their claims have been approved and they have been granted residency.

6. "After 12 months, the asylum seekers have saved $10,000 which they send to their families in their country of origin for the use of bringing them out to Australia".  Again a falsehood.  Even after being granted residency, refugees are only entitled to the same welfare entitlements as other Australians.  It would be quite an achievement for anyone to save $10,000 a year whilst on the dole. (If they can achieve this, then they should be working as a financial counsellor).

7. "Asylum seekers on Christmas Island have access to broadband internet whilst the locals only have dial-up". This is false, asylum seekers have access to the same internet connection that Christmas Island locals have.

There have been articles in the media reporting the abhorrent practice of giving refugees "plasma televisions".  In this day and age, television is considered almost a basic human right.  Refugees are provided with a start-up pack to assist them in furnishing their accommodation.  After all, they have fled persecution and generally arrive with nothing.  The furniture start-up pack has basic necessities; beds, dining table, lounge and the much demonised "big screen plasma television".  Firstly, they left their own TVs at home in their rush to avoid being raped and murdered.  Secondly, the two most common types of televisions available in Australia are LCD or plasma.  As for big-screen, refugees may be provided with a 52cm television, hardly big-screen, but then who would put a smaller television into a lounge room?

The prolific circulation of emails and criticism such as these demonise refugees, blame them for our economic ills and accuse them of destroying our way of life. 

Debate over refugees needs to be framed rationally and based on truth.  Emails such as these contribute nothing constructive to discussions and often incite further hatred and fear against asylum seekers and refugees.  Opinions either for or against Australia's refugee intake should be based on facts, not lies, not fear, not racism. 

(Image by Barry Deutsch,, licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence)


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