The British Commissioner for Racial Equality recently said, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in light of opposing acceptance rates and press reports, that “the vast majority” of asylum seekers in the UK are genuine. (52) Like ecclesiastical groups and other support groups in Australia, he describes as “regrettable” the way in which asylum seekers have been publicly denigrated as “sponges”, forgeries or even criminals and used in the domestic policy arena. The Convention and the asylum system are now more relevant than ever. The weaknesses and problems highlighted by the system are not political, the fault of governments is not conceptual. Standards for refugee determination should be set by international law, not by a responsive public or parliament. Courts must be “courageous” in respecting human rights. (53) Pressure must be put on governments to respond with generosity and compassion. (54) UNHCR has recognized the need for restrictive measures and has accelerated investigation procedures, while criticizing governments for blocking access to potentially real refugees. In a 1998 white paper, the British government promised a “fairer, faster and firmer” definition of refugee status. (30) The backlog of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom in July 2000 was more than 100,000 and the system was described by the British press as shaken by the crisis.
Supporters of the asylum system in Australia have called for more funding for refugee determination, particularly the Refugee Review Tribunal, to improve the ability to detect increasingly sophisticated fraudulent claims. (31) Each year, Australia already spends as much on the RRT ($14 million) as it spends, through UNHCR, on the international refugee effort. The resolution of the problem of irregular migration may be incompatible with compliance with the Convention`s obligations at present. There are no practical obstacles to leaving the convention. Paragraph 2 of Article 44 states that any State Party may terminate or resign within one year. Such an approach would be unprecedented – no state has ever withdrawn. However, the threat of immediate pariah international status is less compelling at a time when the asylum system is widely regarded as a “broke”. Australia`s references to refugees and controlled migration are unmatched, and have exceeded its demographic weight in international migration and refugee forums.