In the news: Illegal boat people

Over the last few months, the newspapers have been full of stories on the arrival of the latest boat people — illegal persons coming to Australia by boat (many in un-seaworthy vessels) from Indonesia and wanting to claim refugee status in Australia.   It has been become a political football with both sides of politics saying the other is wrong and no one is solving this complex issue. Comments, such as the one below, by the Opposition Leader don't help in any way.

"I don't think it's a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door. ... I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way. ... If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that's doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn't encourage it." (source)

I doubt there is any easy solution to this problem and I doubt one solution will be the fix-all.  The current government wants to proceed with off-shore processing in a country such as Malaysia and if anyone arrives in Australia, they will be sent to Malaysia to be processed.  This is aimed at discouraging people traveling by boat in dangerous conditions to Australia as they will just be send back. The Opposition strongly believes in “turning back the boats” which means the Australian Navy will be asked to tow the boats back into Indonesia waters and make sure they don’t head back to Australia. I am not sure what will happen if the boat people burn their boat or jump overboard (as has happened in the past) but we are told not to worry about these possibilities as the Navy will deal with them. Both solutions are messy, put lives at risk, costly and may not work.

Here are some facts that are often brushed to one side in this political fight (with the public being fed propaganda in an attempt to persuade us to support one side or the other).  In 2010-11
  • 113 725 visas were granted to those applying to the Skilled migration scheme  (those people with the skills that Australia currently have a shortage of, many are sponsored by employers).
  • 54 543 visas were granted to those in the family migration scheme.
  • Of those in the migration programme (as mentioned above) – 62 199 are from New Zealand, UK or Ireland, 29 547 are from China and 21 768 are from India.
  • As to the humanitarian program—each year this is set number of persons (and is not an open-ended number of refugees)—in 2010-11 it was set at 13 750 and of those, 6 000 places were primarily for those who have been referred to Australia for resettlement by the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 7 750 places catering for people overseas subject to substantial discrimination and human rights abuses in their home country, and people who have sought protection after arrival in Australia who are subsequently found to be refugees.
Whilst there is a fear of being overrun for “foreigners” (who might be terrorists and aren't the same as us), who will take our jobs and sponge off the government (as portrayed by political parties) this isn’t completely true.   According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald “Australia's refugee intake is not only small compared to its total migration intake, but also compared to the number of people who would like to seek asylum here. Australia received 54,396 offshore applications for humanitarian visas last year, meaning for every successful one, five others went unanswered.”.  Obtaining a visa in Australia as a refugee is very difficult, which is why we are seeing this influx of refugees (primarily from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Pakistan) but coming in by boat doesn't guarantee of the right to stay.

I don’t know what the solution is, but fighting isn't going to solve anything. Should we as Christian open our arms to these people who are willing to risk anything to make a better life for themselves (as in Leviticus 19:33-34) or should we be supporting the view of "turning back the boats"? This isn't a problem that will go away anytime soon, in fact it is likely to become a greater problem in coming years as areas of the world become overcrowded and political tensions increase.  We are told that we live in the "lucky" country, should we share with others?

Where do you stand on this issuse? This will be a major issue at our next election in Australia.

'And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34


  1. This is a really tough one Jo! I always know there are two sides to a story. Having worked for a Govt dept and heard some stories of how people claim refugee status (who are not genuine refugees or may have actually jumped the queue to the detriment of others) makes me agree with the opposition but then I've also softened since leaving that job and can see the other side. I really don't know the answer and just pray for our leaders as the Bible asks us to.

  2. No easy answers here.
    (I wrote a longish reply and then wasn't happy with my own thoughts so I have abridged :-)

  3. In Europe it is this same problem. We in Poland haven't so big problems with immigrants like in Western countries, but there is also important issue with people, who illegaly come across our border from the East, like Russians, Ukrainians, Vietnamese... Sometimes they smuggle drugs, sometimes they search simply "promised land".
    I believe in the Word of God, which ordered Israel to take care about strangers among choosen nation. We live in the time of New Convenient and Jesus ordered us to love everyone, it doesn't matter if this person is white, black or yellow. But for our governments it is real problem - and I don't think it is easy to solve.

    1. Zim, your problem is far greater than ours and will be much harder to control (as it will never end). You have the added problem of many countries involved at a time when you can least afford it.

  4. We have the same kind of problem right here in America. They are coming in from Cuba and Mexico. Not sure what the answer is. But our current president is an idiot and our country is spiraling downhill as we speak but I'm hoping our voices will be heard loud and clear in November. All I know is, something needs to change.

    1. Sadly I don't think any government knows what to do with this movement of humans looking for a better home. No one seems to have any answers unfortunately .

  5. Like Kim, I'm in the US and it's crazy around here. I know some people are well-intentioned but I truly wish they would use the system set in place to get here legally. I hope you don't get into the situation we are in where illegal families are mooching off of our welfare system and not paying into it (since they aren't citizens). I am all for the welfare system being a nice temporary fix for those in need, but too many people here live on it - for generations. That's just wrong. Sorry...wrong soapbox but quite related.

    I don't mind welcoming people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, but I'm not sure why we think they are going to obey the laws while they are living here if they didn't obey the laws to get here in the first place.

    1. I don't know how many can go on welfare when they first arrive as most of our payments require you to have lived in Australia for a certain number of years. However, they are entitled to other settlement payments and assistances.

      Sadly the Indonesian government (where many of the boats leave from) don't do anything to stop the boats from departing - they turn a blind eye. It is very corrupt there and are probably paid bribes. It isn't a right to arrive at another country and expect to be taken in no matter what the circumstances is. The process is in place for a reason.


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