Subjects: Deadline for illegal maritime arrivals to lodge protection claims.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton is in Canberra and joins us now. Minister, most people want a stringent process for anyone seeking asylum here, but how can you call them fake when they haven't even applied yet?
So Carrie, just to go back to some of the facts; what we're asking for is people to engage in the process. So for example some people have been contacted over a long period of time on multiple occasions, we've been asking them to provide information to verify their claims and they've refused to engage in that process.
Now, there are thousands of people, as you point out in the promo package, who have engaged, who have submitted their claims. Some of them have been found to be refugees, others not, but we pay welfare to people for the time that they are in limbo and really what we want is a certainty for them, for us, so that we can concentrate our support on those refugees who are found to be refugees and those people who are economic migrants, we can help them settle back in their own country. That's the basis of what we're trying to do here.
But those ones that you haven't been able to make contact with, saying that they're fake, they haven't completed the process yet – how do you know that?
No, we've made contact with people, and as I say, over the last couple of years on multiple occasions people have either refused to provide answers to questions that have been put to them or they haven't submitted a claim at all.
Just to clear up one fact; there's about $5 million over a two year period where we're providing legal support, financial support to people to help them answer some of those legal questions and as I say, there are well over 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people before them who have submitted claims. We brought in the 12,000 Syrian refugees recently and went through all of the detail that they needed to provide before they arrived.
So it's about trying to put in place an orderly migration process. But having people refuse to answer questions and provide information – in some cases even about their identity – we can't run a migration programme like that and the small number that we're left with, we've put in place a deadline to say we need your information by the 1st of October…
SARRAH LE MARQUAND:
…Minister, I'm sure everyone would agree that we all want an orderly process in place. All Australians would agree we need checks and balances, but isn't this really a case of trying to wear people down by paperwork? You look at the size of this document; over 60 pages, extremely high level of detail. We're told it would take a lawyer a day to fill out this form. Now, I'm a born and bred Australian. I have the luxury of enjoying a good education, English is my first language. How can we seriously expect people to fill this out without any resources?
I just point you to the facts, as I said before, I mean there are literally thousands of people who have filled this form out, they've provided information and we know from the United Nations that around the world there are 65 million people who are economic migrants, would want to come to a country like Australia tomorrow – you can understand that, anybody with kids would want a better life for their children – but we have an orderly migration programme. We settle more people on a per capita basis through the refugee and humanitarian programme than any other country in the world except Canada.
Minister, you're not answering the question. The point here is that we've set now a deadline in place – so this is a handful of months, three or four months, whatever it might be – to go through a process that for this number of people will simply take longer than that because they need lawyers to do it. And so I guess what Sarrah is getting at here is the idea that you're setting in motion a process, so you can say you have a process, that's more or less impossible for all of these people to fulfil, so that you can then turn them away when they haven't had the chance to apply properly.
Just not the case at all, Waleed. I mean just go to the earlier point; a lawyer to fill out this form in a day, some people we've been engaging with over the last couple of years, not days, not weeks or months, we've been engaging with people over a long period of time and all we're saying is, look, if you're claiming to be persecuted, if you claim to have a case to put, let us hear that information, let us assess the application like the thousands before you that have filled out the form, have engaged in the process…
…Minister, they would love to have you assess the application, I'm sure they would love that, but it is misleading to say it's as simple as just writing your story down. It's not that. This is a legal process and they need to address legal criteria and if they don't have the help of a lawyer then they're going into this process completely unarmed when there are limited rights for appeal anyway. So they can just be turned away and now we've put a time limit on it for no discernible reason without the resources for them to meet that time limit.
Well again, just sticking to the facts Waleed. I mean we've got a cost in this programme of about $1.9 billion a year, at a time when we're trying to fund education and health and national security and the rest of it, and we've got people who for years are refusing to engage in the process. We're providing $5 million worth of legal support. We're providing a lot of support in terms of interpretive services, a lot of support through the settlement services. There's an enormous amount of pro bono legal support in this space and, as I say, you have got the precedent of people before in their thousands who have completed the process.
If people don't have a claim to make, if they're not here with a legitimate claim, then we need to work that out, but just refusing to engage in the process is not acceptable.
So what we're saying is, okay, you've had a couple of years, we'll continue to work with you, you've not answered the questions that we've put to you, you've not submitted the application, you haven't provided even identity questions or answers to those identity questions in some cases, so we are setting a deadline in relation to some of those cases and we'll work with those people. We want to engage with them. We want to have the matters either finalised positively or negatively, but we want not the endless sort of process to continue on because there's a lot of cost associated with it.
Frankly, the other aspect to it is that we only have a defined number of places in the refugee and humanitarian programme each year and we want those people who are legitimate refugees, who can make a claim of persecution, who are fleeing violence in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan for example at the moment, we want those people to fill the vacancies within the programme. We don't want them being taken up by people who might want to come here – you can understand it, as I say – but don't fit the UN definition of being a refugee.
Alright Minister, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your time tonight.
Thanks guys, thank you.