The federal government's new asylum policy may not be a response to racism and xenophobia, but the concerns it is based on are being fuelled by ignorance and a dismal political debate about refugees, writes Associate Professor Jane McAdam in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"More than 10 million refugees are waiting in camps for a durable solution," writes McAdam, who is director of UNSW's international refugee and migration law project.

"Providing asylum is underscored by the basic notion of human dignity. Yet in Australia this has been overwhelmed by hostility and scapegoating. Compared with the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in countries such as the US, Canada, France, Germany and Britain, Australia receives a minute number of claimants.

"True leadership on this issue is not about pandering to insecurities based on ill informed assumptions and fears, lurching from poll to poll. It is about transcending the chatter to educate, enlighten and take the nation forward through meaningful, informed conversation."

To read the full opinion piece visit the SMH website