Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has attempted to justify his use of the term “illegals” for asylum seekers arriving by boat, by referring to the wording of Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on Refugees.
This is what the Convention actually says:
The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence. (Article 31, (1) )
There is no record of any asylum seeker attempting to enter this country by boat who has not first presented him or herself to the authorities, without delay, and attempted to show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
No asylum seeker arriving by boat has ever been found to have attempted to enter this country without contacting the authorities.
There are, however, abundant examples of people entering this country by plane, neglecting to present themselves to authorities, and neglecting to show good cause for their illegal over-stay and presence.
Commentary on Article 31 from the Refugee Council of Australia:
Article 31: Refugees unlawfully in the country of refuge
This Article recognises that refugees have a lawful right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. As such, what otherwise be considered illegal actions (eg. entering a country without a visa) should not be treated as such if a person is seeking asylum. This means that it is incorrect to refer to asylum seekers who arrive without authorisation as “illegal”, as they in fact have a lawful right to do so if they are seeking asylum.