Few issues irk Australians more than that of asylum seekers — specifically the idea that wealthy, peaceable countries like Australia owe a duty of care to those tired, poor wretches arriving in rickety boats from Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma and beyond.
A report out Monday — that that nearly 60,000 foreigners are in Australia unlawfully — should give pause for thought.
We're not talking the 4,700-odd "boat people" accepted by Canberra each year. These illegals are (mainly) Americans, Britons, Chinese, Malaysians and South Koreans who arrived in Australia by plane and overstayed their visas, according to the Herald Sun newspaper.
In fact, the paper reports, Australia has enough visa overstayers "to populate a large regional city." Not huge by American standards, granted, but significant enough in a country of 22 million odd people.
One in three visa overstayers have been in the country 10 years or more.
The paper quotes Australian Human Rights Commission president Catherine Branson, QC, as pointing out that many more would-be immigrants to Australia overstayed visas, or arrived by plane and sought asylum, than arrived by boat.
"Another misconception is that people who arrive by boat are illegal immigrants. Australia is obliged to assess asylum seekers' claims."
Are Australians outraged? Not nearly enough, the paper writes — despite the fact that illegal immigrants are taking Australian jobs, occupy in-demand Australian housing, using Australian taxpayer funded public services and do not themselves pay tax, and in some cases draw heavily on Australian welfare.
Worse, the paper reports:
Illegal immigrants have also been involved in drug cartels, sexual slavery, and fraud. Illegals accused of guarding marijuana crops in Melbourne and regional Victoria were among 43 people arrested last year in raids focusing on a $400 million crime syndicate.
The paper finds an appropriate case study in jailed "terrorist cell leader Abdul Benbrika," who it says lived illegally for years after arriving on a visitor's visa in 1989.
Three months after marrying in 1992, while still an illegal, he successfully applied to stay, living on welfare with his wife and seven children until his arrest in 2005.