of others are not enough to deny someone refugee status?
We have a problem here. Let me start by telling you something.
Some years ago now I was asked to help a refugee family. They knew someone I knew. I was asked to make contact and help them through the first few months of their life in a new country.
Their English was limited. They had little more than the clothes they stood up in and the husband bore visible scars of horrendous torture.
He was a doctor. The regime he lived under disapproved strongly of the way he treated everyone who came to see him - regardless of their faith or other beliefs. I won't go into further details except to say that it led to a series of well documented and horrific events. When things spiralled completely out of control they fled from where they were living and claimed refugee status in one country. It was granted but the regime located them and they had to flee again. On the second occasion they were put on a plane here and granted asylum on arrival.
It was all done in the proper, accepted way. I was happy to help and they have repaid the help they were given by many people over and over again.
But I remember the first time I went to the place they were living in. The husband was watching the news and called out to his wife.
She went gray. I followed her into the next room at a glance from her.
All I could see was a story about someone who was calling himself a "refugee" being interviewed. He was telling a story about how he had been tortured and had to flee.
The husband zapped the set off and sat there looking as distressed as his wife. After a moment though they tried to explain with their limited English. The man being interviewed was one of the people who had tortured the husband. He was also a known murderer and had also brutally raped a number of women. He wasn't a member of the armed services because he had a medical issue but it hadn't stopped him from participating. Nothing had happened to him while he was in favour with the regime. It seemed likely that he was now out of favour and had fled in fear of his own life. He was claiming refugee status.
And he would almost certainly have been granted it because, in his own country, he would have been put to death. This man had travelled across more than one country to evade justice. The other family had to flee twice simply because the husband, a doctor, had treated "the enemy" and saved lives.
There is legislation that will go before parliament again next year which might make it even easier for people like the torturer to gain asylum. Unless someone is a member of a terrorist organisation it is going to be difficult to deny them the right to seek asylum. We, rightly, don't have the death penalty in this country.
So what do we do with those who have committed crimes and would face it in their own country?