Sympathy and scepticism on refugees

Previous posts have suggested that though most people want strong border protection against refugees who arrive by boat, attitudes to refugees coming to Australia by official means are more positive.

A couple of surveys I am just catching up on confirm this finding. In an ANU Poll question assuming that Australia’s population was to grow via migration, respondents were asked about ‘humanitarian migrants, that is refugees’. About 60% of respondents in this context support more such migrants.

The latest Mapping Social Cohesion Survey, while finding the usual negative attitudes to boat arrivals (27% turn back boats, 13% detain and send back, 37% temporary residence only), also found that most people have positive views of refugees as such:

The difficulty seems to be that few believe that persecution is the main reason boat arrival asylum seekers come to Australia:

9 thoughts on “Sympathy and scepticism on refugees

  1. My understanding is that when you look at both groups, those coming through official means and those arriving by boat, the boat arrivals are skewed toward nationalities that are geographically closer and who come from countries with more sophisticated economies (or “less unsophisticated”) that allow them to acquire the financial means to travel here and those that arrive here through the official program are far more representative of the overall world refugee demographics as ‘wealth’ and geography are not components of the assessment process. I took the time to look at the relative proportions of different nationalities and races in each group a few years ago so and that’s what caused me to come to this conclusion but maybe things have changed since.

    Should this remain to be the case today, then those supporting the official process over self selection, whilst commonly presented as having racist tendencies, are actually supporting the least discriminatory process whilst those advocating fewer restrictions on self selecting refugees, whilst presented as the most compassionate and humane, are in fact supporting a process that is, in consequence, the most discriminatory in terms of race and wealth i.e. they are essentially supporting a process that advantages some races (born in Asia or Middle East) over others (mainly borns in Africa.) Of course, this only matters if you accept a consequence-based definition of racial discrimination rather than an intent-based one. I only mention it because many of those criticising people who support policies to minimise boat arrivals use a consequence-based definition of racism to attack their ideological foes.

    So technically, those opposing boat arrivals are supporting a process that is far less racially discriminatory (in effect) than those who say let the boats arrive.

    My personal view, though, is that consequence-based definitions of ‘racism’ are wrong and that neither those opposing boat arrivals or those supporting less restrictions are racist in the slightest (well maybe some hicks but not most).


  2. Of course the habit of badmouthing anyone as ‘racist ‘ who doesn’t want to live amongst a mob of foreigners means you will not get truthful answers.
    But white flight is real as is racial housing groupings.
    And mixed marriages are uncommon. Should tell you something.


  3. I wonder why we are so much more sympathetic to those fleeing direct political persecution than those fleeing political/legal systems that reduce them to penury. Both poverty and repression are unpleasant, and repression is certainly not always worse.


  4. Because nobody has seriously questioned the refugee convention? Because it has been over-emphasised because it is the only way many ‘suffering’ people will be admitted?

    When you institutionalise something it can surround itself in principle and can outlast its original main purpose and take precedence over alternative principles that might trump it now, if we were starting from a blank sheet of paper.


  5. Yes probably that. I think it’s also because dealing with political refugees seems like a more manageable task than dealing with poverty. If we believed we had an equal responsibility to deal with poverty we would have to take far more people than we would like.


  6. Indeed. And Australia would never have signed if the policymakers of the time had realised that it could mean thousands of people arriving by boat. The occasional defection of someone from communist Europe was more what they probably had in mind.


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