A possie in Aussie

May 19, 2009

ABC style guide to asylum seeekers: it’s as simple as

I thought that the following internal Memo from the ABC was worth reprinting in full: it was “leaked” to Project SafeCom:

Friday 17 April, 2009

The relevant section of our Style Guide says:

asylum seekers

We use the term “asylum seekers” for people who arrive in Australia (or Australian waters) without travel documents, claiming (or apparently claiming) refugee status. If the Australian authorities decide they have a valid claim for protection, they would become “refugees”. Don’t use inappropriate modifiers with the term “asylum seeker”, such as “unlawful asylum seeker”. There’s no such thing as an “unlawful” asylum seeker because under international law anyone can apply for asylum.

We use the term “illegal immigrant” for anyone arriving in Australia without proper papers who is not claiming refugee status or whose claim for protection has been rejected; or anyone whose visa has expired and who is therefore not legally entitled to stay in Australia.

We do not use the term “boat people” and we do not refer to “illegal refugees”.

[Extracted from Style Guide (August 2006), News & Current Affairs Style Guide]

The only other point of clarification is that some programs and stories in recent days have referred to “suspected asylum seekers”. This is not our preferred nomenclature, for two reasons. Firstly, there are negative connotations attached to a word like “suspected” (see the Macquarie Dictionary) and secondly, given the nature of their arrival, it is not in any way an unreasonable conclusion to reach that they are, in fact, seeking asylum.

So a simple “asylum seekers” is the way to go.

Alan Sunderland
Head of National ProgramsFor some positive takes on asylum seekers see People smugglers are heroes, boat people are Australians of the year and  J Bishop gets the right stuff from P.J. O’Rourke


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