COMMENT:

Asylum seekers in the Australian camps on Manus Island in PNG and on Nauru are said to be living in chambers of horrors. In fact they are not just safe from the persecution they fled back home, they have gone from being just another asylum seeker in a UN refugee camp in Southeast Asia or the Middle East, to having the entire resources of the Australian Government seeking to place them in a third nation.

Nauru and Manus Island asylum seekers receive free room and board, healthcare and an army of activist lawyers to stand up for them if they are in any way mistreated or must appeal their application.

It is repeatedly claimed the asylum seekers are prisoners on Manus and Nauru. Fake news from the NGOs. The PNG Supreme Court quickly ruled the Manus Island asylum seekers were free to travel anywhere in PNG. That judgment is online.

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The original Manus Island camp was closed by a PNG court order to make sure the freedom of travel and lack of fences around asylum seekers was guaranteed.

There was a $56 million settlement in 2017 of a class action by 2000 Manus asylum seekers against the Australian Government over the legality of their detention between 2012 and the 2014 PNG court order.

The next level of NGO fake news is PNG is a sh**hole country to live in. Certainly not the nicest of failing states but I do not know how bad the developing country was from which each asylum seeker fled.

If you read the travel warnings for PNG and the Philippines, where I often travel, the Philippines travel warning is much longer, far scarier and has many provinces where all travel is advised against for any reason. That means no travel insurance and you are likely to be kidnapped.

Nauru is such a placid place that it does not even have a travel advice notice at the safe travel websites. Like most developing countries from which the asylum seekers come, it is just damn hot and poor.

The regional politics of boat people is Machiavellian. Indonesia condones boat people departures because sticking it to Australia is popular in Indonesian electoral politics.

There are no boat people departures from PNG despite the possibility of almost wading from PNG to the Torres Strait Islands in Queensland at low tide. Look at the map. PNG doesn't risk annoying its biggest aid donor, Australia.

Over 1600 people have drowned trying to enter Australia by boat since 2001. The 353 who died when the overcrowded boat SIEV-X capsized during the 2001 Australian Federal election included a mother drowning while in labour. One of the alleged people smugglers involved is still fighting extradition in New Zealand.

In 2010, another boat foundered on cliffs off Christmas Island on live TV, 50 drowned.
Tony Abbott stopped the boats with maritime interdiction and removing all possibility of settlement onshore.

He stopped the drownings. That is all that matters. If 50-100 bodies washed up on Northland beaches annually, equally stern measures would be needed to stop those boat people drownings too.

Entering Australia by boat does not increase the Australian refugee quota; 13,750 refugees are taken in annually but with boat people jumping the queue when there was onshore processing.

Maybe boat arrivals are in greater danger than everyone else queuing up at UN refugee camps, but many are not.

New Zealand lectures Australia about its meanness towards boat people but never once increased its refugee quota from 750, which is one-quarter of Australia's 13,750 on a per capita basis. Australia accepted 18,000 refugees last year because of an emergency quota increase for Syrians and Iraqis.

Charity and self-righteousness begin at home. Jacinda Ardern should put up our refugee quota to 1500 or shut up. Australia increased its 2018/19 quota to 18,750; the last three digits are ironic. J'accuse.

• Jim Rose is an Australian who has lived in Wellington for 20 years.