PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2009, 12:00am

Rise in asylum seekers is a global problem

The article by Luke Hunt ('Policy shift 'led to surge in boat people Down Under',' August 14) creates the misleading impression that Australia's domestic immigration policies are the driving factors behind the current increase in irregular maritime arrivals to Australia.

The increase in people seeking asylum in Australia is part of a worldwide trend driven by insecurity, persecution and conflict, not because of the more humanitarian approach adopted by the current government.

The facts are that there has been a global spike in people-smuggling around the world - not just in Australian waters. The conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have forced millions of people to flee and seek safety elsewhere around the world.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees 2008 Global Trends Report shows there were 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of last year, which included 15.2 million refugees. Further, it shows that asylum claims increased worldwide by 28 per cent in 2008.

The number of people-smuggling ventures to Australia, however, remains relatively low compared to what is happening in Europe, where last year 36,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat in Italy, 13,000 arrived in Spain and 15,000 in Greece.

To combat people-smuggling, Australia under the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has one of the toughest and most sophisticated border security regimes in the world.

We have a system of excision of offshore places and the mandatory detention and processing on Christmas Island of all irregular maritime arrivals.

All such arrivals undergo rigorous health, security and identity assessments by immigration and health staff, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies on Christmas Island. No one is granted a protection visa unless all those assessments are done.

The Australian government committed A$654 million (HK$4.2 billion) in the 2009-10 budget to further strengthen Australia's borders with increased maritime and aerial patrols, enhanced co-operation with regional neighbours and a boost to Australian Federal Police resources to investigate and stamp out people-smuggling syndicates.

It is true that the Rudd government has discarded the punitive and shameful policies of the John Howard government years that saw children locked up behind razor wire and people languishing in detention centres for years on end.

The Rudd government believes in treating asylum seekers humanely and is committed to meeting our international obligations under the UN Refugee Convention while maintaining Australia's strong border-protection measures.

People found to be owed protection will be allowed to apply for a protection visa. If they are found not to be owed Australia's protection, they will be removed.

Senator Chris Evans, Australian minister for immigration and citizenship

So many missed opportunities

For years, we have heard Hong Kong's film industry complaining about how tough it is in the international film business.

Part of the reason is possibly the lack of imagination on the part of those involved in the industry.

They should have been the driving force behind getting a site in the city for Jackie Chan's historic houses. They should have ensured a Bruce Lee museum was established 20 years ago.

There should be a cinema showing old and classic movies, reflecting the many years of moviemaking in this part of the world.

Their biggest failure has been their inability to work with international production companies to ensure Hong Kong is used as a location for films.

The makers of the Sex and the City sequel have been refused permission to film in Dubai. Surely Hong Kong would be a perfect location for a film about four women who love to shop and eat out?

If our film industry wants to prosper, it must try harder and not simply demand help from the government.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Is government well prepared?

I wonder if the government has contingency plans for any extreme weather conditions, such as three or four days of continuous rain.

Have officials earmarked the most vulnerable areas if we faced such a downpour?

We have not had a really serious typhoon in the past 30 years.

However, we should not forget the strength of such storms and the damage they can do.

C. T. Chu, Pok Fu Lam

Time to target the traffickers

Privacy Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun has raised concerns about the voluntary drug tests to be implemented in schools in Tai Po with regard to not seeking consent from students.

Some groups have said the test system will put some young people under a cloud of suspicion.

The main purpose of the tests is to deter young people from taking drugs. If they do not have a drug habit, students should not be afraid of the tests.

However, the government must do more to promote the importance of the tests to all interested parties.

Groups should also be encouraged to suggest other ways to curb the increase in drug use.

If students test positive, the police should not punish them.

It is more important to find out where the teenagers got the drugs and who was involved in selling them.

I would like to see the government doing more to combat the serious trafficking problem and increasing penalties for people found guilty of this offence.

R. Hau, Kowloon Bay

Tests will help problem pupils

Increasing numbers of youngsters are abusing drugs, which is a cause of public concern. This harms them, their families and society.

Because the problem is getting worse, the government is introducing drug tests in some schools and I support this move.

A student who has tested positive can get immediate help from social workers and teachers. The results will not be made public, therefore, I do not see this as an invasion of their privacy, as some people have argued.

I believe the drug-testing scheme should be introduced as soon as possible.

Florence Wong, Mong Kok

Chinese themes

I have not yet been to Hong Kong Disneyland, so perhaps I am not qualified to comment. Your leader, however, does make fair comment ('Disneyland needs to be more than just different', August 17). Why would anyone want to visit a Disneyland here which is a mere clone of its US parent?

Locals and visitors alike seek something different and the emphasis should surely be on Chinese culture and should be educational as well as entertaining and fun. China is not short of fabulous myths and fables, most of which would make fascinating themes for new attractions.

As a de facto shareholder, courtesy of our government, I hope to see some imaginative proposals turned into reality by the time my grandchildren are old enough to appreciate them.

Guy Shirra, Sai Kung