Are asylum seekers illegal? > Check the facts

Are asylum seekers illegal? > Check the facts

Who: “..more people illegally arrive in Australia on another boat.” Scott Morrison.

The Claim: That the people who arrive on boats seeking asylum are breaking the law.

The Facts: Asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia are not illegal. Under the UN Refugee Convention, which Australia has signed, they have the right to seek asylum in Australia.

Discussion of evidence: Under the UN Refugee Convention, to which Australia is party, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries, regardless of their method of arrival.

Article 31 of the UN Convention states that asylum seekers cannot be punished for entering a country without authorisation. It is recognised that refugees do not have to obtain travel documentation or travel through authorised channels because it is not always safe or practical to do so.

The Refugee Council of Australia states that asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws by arriving on boats without proper documentation. In a 2002 Federal Court decision Justice Merkel stated that asylum seekers have a “lawful entitlement” under international and domestic law to seek asylum in Australia.

The use of the term ‘illegal’ when referring to asylum seekers has also been recognised by the Australian Press Council as incorrect. They have warned the press that the use of this term is a breach of journalistic ethics and complaints can be brought against them.

* An earlier version of this fact incorrectly reported that it was a High Court Judge which stated that asylum seekers have a “lawful entitlement” under international and domestic law to seek asylum in Australia.

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