SYDNEY, (AFP): A Facebook post has been shared tens of thousands of times which claims that people who cross the Australian border “illegally” are eligible to receive a job, a driver’s license, a $70,000 grant, and numerous other benefits. The claim is false; Australian immigration laws and government policy ban people who cross the border illegally from settling in Australia.
This Facebook post was published in February 2019. It has been shared more than 49,000 times. The post makes comparison references to purported immigration practices in several other countries and claims that people who cross the Australian border illegally are entitled to a range of generous benefits. It reads in part:
“IF YOU CROSS THE AUSTRALIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, YOU GET:
A JOB, A DRIVERS LICENSE, HEALTH CARE CARD, WELFARE, FOOD VOUCHERS, $70,000 GRANT, RENT ASSISTANCE, FREE HEALTH CARE, FREE EDUCATION, A LOCAL MEMBER CHAMPIONING YOUR CAUSE, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS PRINTED IN YOUR LANGUAGE, THE RIGHT TO CARRY YOUR COUNTRY’S FLAG WHILE YOU PROTEST YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH RESPECT, A PLACE OF WORSHIP BUILT EXCLUSIVELY FOR YOUR RELIGION,
I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE I HAD A FIRM GRASP ON THE SITUATION !!!
PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING.
IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AUSTRALIA!!!!”
Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:
Posts with similar claims have circulated on Facebook since at least 2018 here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The claim is false; Australian immigration laws and current government policy ban people who cross the border illegally from ever settling in Australia.
It is against the law for non-citizens without a visa to enter Australia’s migration zone under the 1958 Migration Act. Since 1992 under the Migration Amendment Act, non-citizens who enter the country illegally have been subject to mandatory detention.
The migration zone is defined in the Migration Act as “the area consisting of the States, the Territories, Australian resource installations and Australian sea installations.”
“The Australian Government’s policy is very clear – anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will never settle in Australia,” a Home Office spokesperson told AFP via email on November 21. “Anyone who arrives illegally will immediately be returned to their home country or transferred to a third country for regional processing.”
In an effort to curb illegal migration by sea, the government of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd instituted an offshore processing program in July 2013. The policy — formally the Australia and Papua New Guinea Regional Settlement Arrangement — meant that migrants who entered Australia without a visa would be deported to Papua New Guinea for processing.
Asylum seekers with legitimate claims could potentially resettle in Papua New Guinea, but the arrangement meant that those who attempted to enter Australia prior to processing would be barred from ever settling in Australia.
“As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia,” Rudd said when announcing the agreement in 2013.
The Australian government also signed similar arrangements for processing illegal migrants abroad with Nauru in August 2013.
Arrangements were also signed with Cambodia in September 2014 and the United States in November 2016, but only for resettlement of people deemed to be legitimate asylum seekers.
The program, however, has been criticized. In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said “circumstances and conditions for refugees under Australia’s ‘offshore processing’ policy have had severely negative impacts on health, and particularly significantly mental health.”
Comparable misleading immigration claims have also been shared in the United States. Fact-checking website Snopes, for instance, debunked a similar claim regarding illegal immigration here.