The 2011 UNHCR Asylum Trends no Australian reporter could interpret correctly

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The 2011 UNHCR Asylum Trends no Australian reporter could interpret correctly

Media Release
Wednesday March 28, 2012 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"ABC Radio Current Affairs Reporters, Fairfax writers and News Ltd Reporters all jumped too keenly to assume a direct correlation between an increase in asylum levels in industrialised countries and the number of boats arriving in Australia from Indonesia - and all of them got it wrong," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"There is almost never a relationship between the number of boat arrivals and an increase in asylum outflows around the world in almost any year, because asylum seekers do not go to Indonesia to jump on boats to Australia," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"The UNHCR Statistics show a 34% increase in European asylum applications from Afghanistan, but in pointing to a discrepancy, in that no increase in boat arrivals to Australia took place in 2011, the reporters simply failed to ask themselves whether that it a reasonable assumption. No reporter asked whether this 34% increase is reflected in a jump in arrivals in Indonesia. This question comes first - and only Indonesian immigration officials, not UNHCR, can answer that question."

"Asylum seekers who arrive in Indonesia seek to register with UNHCR in Jakarta - which can take more than a year because UNHCR is disturbingly under-resourced in Indonesia. Next, they wait for an interview with a UNHCR officer, which can take another 18 months. Then they wait for an answer from UNHCR which confirms to them that UNHCR declares them as persons in need of protection - confirming their refugee status."

"As Australian refugee advocates who interviewed hundreds of asylum seekers Indonesia in 2009 convincingly showed in a comprehensive report [1], asylum claimants from Afghanistan only take to boats to try to reach Australia as a last resort, and they do so only when they have discovered - in a torturous way - that UNHCR is not helping them, that UNHCR cannot find a country for them and that Australia most certainly is not part of this Indonesian process in assisting them."

"The report showed that people "stuck" in Indonesia in this way, only seek to pay for boats taking them to Australia as a measure of last resort, and some of them do so after waiting for up to NINE years. Therefore, last year's 34% jump in European asylum applications from Afghanistan might reflect in an increase in boat arrivals in Australia in a couple of years - starting from 2014 to 2018."

[1] Jessie Taylor, Behind Australian Doors: Examining the Conditions of Detention of Asylum Seekers in Indonesia. Asylum Seekers in Indonesia.
See http://www.law.monash.edu.au/castancentre/news/behind-australian-doors-report.pdf

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
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