Bob Carr, the Australian foreign minister when I originally wrote this, had at that time recently taken to informing us (before any official judgment) that an increasing fraction, perhaps even a majority of people desperate enough to try a leaky boat to Christmas Island are “economic” refugees. (Especially Tamils from Sri Lanka, even though one recently self-immolated in Sydney rather than be sent back.)
Of course, Carr (and his successors in the Abbott-led government) vilified such forms of “boat people” because Australia can then lawfully deport them without breaking its obligations under the refugee convention. Since almost all migrants who arrive by plane do not seek asylum their motivation to move here must be mainly economic, so this is surely ok to Australians and their leaders (or do we pretend they move here to increase our standard of living?)
Although Carr and his class will not remind us, to be an economically-driven migrant -- to aspire for a higher standard of living -- is to follow the path of virtually every person who has moved to Australia without being transported as a convict.