Boat People Myths

What is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to dangerous conditions like war, famine, extreme climate change or fear of persecution.

Here’s the official international definition of an asylum seeker, as described by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees:

Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country. 

Australia is a signatory to this Convention, which means Australia agrees with this definition.


What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have his/her claim assessed. A refugee is someone who has been found to be in urgent need of protection – that is, their claims of potential persecution in their home country are found to be true.

If an asylum seeker who has reached Australia is found to be a refugee, Australia is obliged under international law to offer protection and to ensure that the person is not sent back unwillingly to a country in which they risk being harmed, wrongfully imprisoned or even killed.  


4 Common Myths about Asylum seekers, according to Get Up:

Myth 1. Asylum seekers are ‘illegal’
It is not against the law to seek asylum in Australia – even if they arrive by boat. Every person has the right to seek asylum in Australia under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read more about human rights here.

Myth 2. We are being flooded by ‘boat people’.
Over 90% of asylum seekers arrive in Australia via plane – not boat.

Myth 3. Most ‘boat people’ are not genuine refugees.
90% of asylum seekers who arrive via boat are later found to be genuine refugees fleeing countries torn apart by war, natural disaster or social oppression.

Myth 4. ‘Boat people’ will harm our economy
In Australia, we spend more than a million dollars a day on off-shore processing. We could more than quarter our costs, by processing asylum seekers more humanely.

What you can to help raise awareness:

Take part in National Refugee Week
In 2018, Refugee Week was held from Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June. The theme for Refugee Week in 2018 was #WithRefugees. Read more about the theme here.

Sign a Petition
Get Up and highlight issues in our community and provide a means of peaceful protest.

Go Back to Where You Came From is an award-winning Australian reality TV series, which exploring common misconceptions and asylum seeker myths by placing ordinary Australians in the shoes of asylum seekers. Highly recommended.

Get Connected
Find out what asylum seeker advocacy groups are operating in your area and how you can help the cause.

You can read the video transcript here.