The leader of the opposition is demanding answers.

Mr Turnbull said the Government’s approach to asylum seekers “simply wasn’t working”, with people smugglers “testing the envelope”. He said Australia should aim to have no unauthorised boat arrivals. “We don’t want them, it’s bad in terms of the integrity of our borders and it also poses enormous danger to life and limb on the high seas.”

This debate is turning increasingly to the ridiculous. Boat arrivals are, sorry, a drop in the ocean of illegal entries to this country. Most enter, as previously discussed, through the somewhat less dramatic and politically charged medium of the international airport.

Just to lift again from Mike Steketee in The Australian, because it seems you can’t say this often enough:

The latest report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says asylum applications in Australia increased by 19 per cent last year, from 3980 to 4750. How many came by boat? Actually, 179 or fewer than 4 per cent.

People smuggling is a despicable trade. Death at sea is a tragedy. But fixating on boat people as a representation of the issue of illegal immigration is disingenuous and liable — designed? — to excite the darker extremities of our political culture.

Why do we not discuss what might be done to run tighter immigration control at airports, to better police, say, the s-x industry for illegal entrants. Why do we not have temporary embassy offices in Indonesia and in other key sources of asylum seekers so applications for both asylum and non-asylum migration can be made in an ordered environment? Couldn’t “economic” refugees be assessed on the same basis as other applicants across the world who want to come to Australia? Where is our diplomatic representation in Kabul?

It is obvious that illegal entry into numerous destination countries is an issue of growing international concern. It demands a serious examination of the issues, and reasoned policy responses. We are getting neither.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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