Should we call asylum seekers ‘illegals’? > Check the facts

Who: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has instructed staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘illegal arrivals’.

The Claim: The people who arrive on boats seeking asylum are doing so illegally.

The Facts: Under the UN Refugee Convention, which Australia has signed, it is not illegal to arrive by boat and seek asylum in Australia. The Convention states that everyone has the right to seek asylum in Australia.

Discussion of evidence: A previous fact published in June this year outlined why arriving on boat and seeking asylum is not illegal. This evidence has been republished below in light of the change in government rhetoric surrounding asylum seekers.

Under the UN Refugee Convention, which Australia has signed, 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 formal 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.

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