The question of immigration and refugees

The immigration of refugees, especially into my country – Australia, is a subject on which I have not previously written. I have not written because I have not been able to decide what stance is right and what wrong.

By July 2015 I had come to some sort of a conclusion, although a very unsatisfactory one; there is no solution that is both humane and practical, it is truly a dilemma.

Written 2011/01/13, last edited 2020/10/18
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Google search Ramblings


I happen to live in a country that is an attractive place in which to live. Consequently many people from less happy countries – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka for example – would prefer to live in Australia than in their own countries.

Do people have a moral right to move from where they are unhappy to where they have a greater chance of happiness? Do the people already in the happier places have a right to keep others out, for fear of lessening their own happiness, or even lessening the happiness of all in their land? What constitutes a 'right' in questions such as these?

A point that concerns me in particular, is whether immigrants from an unhappy country might bring with them a contagion that spreads unhappiness. Is it possible that immigrants from Afghanistan, for example, will bring with them the brand of Islam that many seem to want to practice in that country and that seems to be the cause of much misery, discrimination, cruelty and ignorance in Afghanistan and other places where Islam is practiced?

It is tempting to think that in a perfect world everyone would have the right to move anywhere they liked at any time they liked. But some thought will show that this is naïve. Aggressive people, those who want to prey on others rather than making an honest and harmless living, will alway be advantaged by moving to where peaceful people have built up good lives. Personal freedom must be limited where it infringes on the rights of others.

Why fear immigration?


A traditional Chinese painting on a marble slab in front of a hotel in Georgetown, Malaysia. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation, but is so far, in most places, tolerant of diverse beliefs. As this painting depicts birds it is not acceptable to strict Muslims.
The world is over-populated, Australia is relatively less over-populated than is the world as a whole, but still has too many people and will suffer as problems such as climate change exacerbate. Our present way of life is unsustainable and every extra migrant will add a little more difficulty in the transition to a more sustainable civilisation.

Immigrants who are suffering from a harmful religious delusion such as Islam

I fear the spreading of contagious and contaminating memes such as Islam.

Art is one of the noblest of human achievements; the depiction of any living thing in art is discouraged or disallowed to a Muslim.

The understanding of the Universe that has come from the advancement of science is, in my mind, the greatest of all human achievements. The loss of science, rationality and reason is possible should Muslims ever become the dominant group in Australia; decent into ignorance and superstition could follow. (In general Muslims are one of the greatest groups that do not accept the reality of organic evolution, for example.)

Perhaps my fears are misplaced or greater than is justified; I hope they are.

What right to keep people out?

Historically, people who live in a region have effectively had some form of 'ownership' over their region; it has been generally accepted that they had some sort of right to keep invaders out. Immigrants could well be considered to be peaceful invaders. More recently, and more humanely, it has been accepted that people have a right to flee from a region where they are in some sort of danger at least into nearby, safer, areas. There is obviously a clash between the two ideas: the right of a people to hold onto what they have and the right of other people to seek a safe refuge.

The concept of Land-ownership is involved and the idea of a treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is also related.

'Economic' refugees

'Boat people', the so-called illegal immigrants, do not come to Australia from a country where their lives are in danger. While they might have originally come from places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Mianmar and Sri Lanka, where their lives may well have been endangered, they almost always come to Australia from Indonesia. While they are probably in no danger in Indonesia, I believe they are treated badly and may well have miserable lives.

By the time they get to Australia, can they truly be called refugees, or rather are they migrants seeking a better life? Surely everyone has the right to seek a better life?

Australian governments' treatment of 'boat people'

The two dominant political parties in Australia (Liberal Coalition and Labor) have almost identical policies on refugees who attempt to come to Australia by boat.

Basically the policies are, do not let them in, lock them up until they are willing to go back to where they came from or until some other country can be found to take them; keep their treatment secret so that the great majority of the Australian people will not be disturbed and object.

This is excused by 'avoiding deaths at sea' and 'stopping the nasty people smugglers profiting at the expense of the refugees'.

Australia's treatment of people who attempt to get here by boat is terribly inhumane and unethical. Its real purpose and aim seems to be 'if the refugees who have attempted to come to Australia by boat are treated with sufficient cruelty others will not be tempted to follow'.

People who get to Australia legally and then overstay their visas are treated very differently.