"...For those who've come across the seas,
We've boundless plains to share..."
[Advance Australia Fair]
No countries in the world have gone to such lengths to close their borders to those fleeing repression and terror. No countries turn back leaky fishing boats packed with hundreds of asylum seekers and refuse to take responsibility for the consequences. And no countries so openly violate their international obligations to refugees... That is to say, no countries except Australia.
There are over 14 million refugees worldwide*. In 2001, 13545 people applied for refugee status in Australia. The sad truth is that only 15% were successful. That's approximately 2000 people, or 0.01% of the world's refugees. So what happened to the other 11000 desperate applicants? These people were sent back to the countries they feared most- the countries they had to flee for fear of persecution. Who knows what became of these people? Who even knows if they're alive or dead?
In 2002, Australia had 0.3%
of the world's population living on 5% of the world's land mass. It had the world's third-lowest population density at 2.6 people per square kilometre, with the global average being 45 people/sq km. It is, however, a dry continent with fragile ecology, yet with a 60,000km coastline, Australia could accommodate 50 new cities, each with an average population of 1.5 million and spaced 1200km apart, which still doesn't exceed 45 people/sq km.
Under international law, the word 'refugee' has a very precise meaning: an individual who has a well-founded fear of persecution, is outside the country they normally reside in, and is unable or unwilling to return home for fear of persecution. These people rarely have the chance to make plans for their departure and often they have little idea about where they are going. Refugees who come to...