Refugees who can pay

Refugees are getting a lot of press recently with an increase in boat activity between Indonesia and Australia. Whilst it is perfectly legal for a refugee to come to Australia and claim asylum we continue with political solutions that entail imprisoning those refugees who lawfully arrive by boat. Or else we try to offshore the problem with the help of third parties be it John Howards pacific solution or now Kevin Rudds somewhat similar Indonesian solution. 

There are a lot of aspects to this problem including both moral and political concerns. The key political argument in simplistic terms seems to be that if refugees who arrive by boat are allowed easy entry (even after extensive mandatory detention most do get to stay) then the other 9 or so million refugees in the world will see a green light and all decend on Australian shores. Obviously there is some fallacy in this simplification purely because there are other nations besides Australia into which at least some of those 9 or so million refugees might seek to go irrespective of Australian policy. However on the face of it there is enough of a grain of truth in the claim for the Australian government to continue to pursue the same political solution as the last government (dressed up differently of course).

In seeking a political solution it seems to me worth noting that the refugees that pay people smugglers to come to Australia are not like a lot of other refugees. What sets them apart is a capacity to pay. A lot of the worlds 9 million people avoid travelling to Australia simply because of the costs imposed by our policies and the cost imposed by geographic factors. To solve the politicial problem (ie to take images of boat people off TV) this distinction is worth noting. A recent article in The Australian indicated that people smugglers are able to charge $15000 to smuggle people to Australia from Indonesia. Presumably many of them pay additional costs to get to Indonesia in the first place. Lets presume for the sake of the argument that the total financial cost is $30,000.

At the moment our policy amounts to creating costs for refugees via a tough policy, allowing people smugglers to profit from those costs by selling smuggling services, and then ultimately letting the vast majority of boat people to stay anyway. The smugglers appear to be winners from this approach.

A solution the government ought to consider would be to introduce a new permanent residency visa that refugees with the capacity to pay can purchase whilst abroad. For a fee of say $30,000 they can be expeditiously processed as refugees and then enter Australia via cheap travel means such as aeroplane. The net result is much the same except;

  • smugglers suddenly lose a lot of customers
  • there are a lot less boats on TV
  • less people die in the ocean
  • Australia makes a buck
  • less innocent people end up in prisons
  • the government can keep it’s tough border protection policy

13 thoughts on “Refugees who can pay

  1. JC – another question would be how many refugees can afford to be smuggled to Australia. Clearly the number isn’t zero.

  2. LOL, they can pay for carbon mitigation like nuke and solar power plants and the mass planting of trees. We don’t need no stinking carbon tax or ETS!

    What if we just take the tree approach?

    Trees have a cost anywhere between $0.05 and $0.45 (fully costed for planting and land use). A single tree can absorb 0.7 tonnes p/a.

    We have 372 000 000 tonnes p.a output.

    Assuming the high end, we only need to plant 532 000 000 trees per year, at a cost of $240 mln (assuming high end costs).

    We only need 8000 paying refugees per year this to be viable.

  3. We could stop a lot of the illegal immigration by relaxing a lot of the dumb protectionist immigration laws. Cut down the bureaucratic overhead and make it cheaper and faster to get in legally. It’ll stop the dangerous operations that currently take place dead in its tracks

  4. On Q&A this week there was a long discussion on the issue of boat people. One audience member asked why we don’t sell immigration tickets to refugees in Indonesia and in the process rob the smugglers of their income. Tony Jones seemed to view the question as not serious and moved on to the next question without having the panel consider it.

  5. lol this is the last place i thought i’d see arguments for the government to take more of people’s money

  6. Zing.

    I kind of agree. I think the proposal is better than the current rules, but nothing really justifies restrictions on immigration other than some security and quarantine checks.

Comments are closed.