The New York Times Magazine has a long adventure story by reporter Luke Mogelson about his infiltrating a group of mostly Iranian economic illegal immigrants in Indonesia who are trying to sneak into Australia by boat.
Of course, in the article the Iranians are called "refugees" and "asylum-seekers" as if they were Niels Bohr in his sailboat slipping away from the Nazi occupation of Denmark. If you read the article closely, however, the Iranians mostly seem to be seeking refuge from the general cruddiness of life in a country chock full of Iranians:
A majority, I was surprised to discover, were not Afghan but Iranian. Most were from cities and the lower middle class. They were builders, drivers, shopkeepers, barbers. One man claimed to be a mullah; another, an accomplished engineer. Their reasons for leaving varied. They all complained about the government and its chokehold on their freedoms. A few said they had been targeted for political persecution. They bemoaned the economy. International sanctions — imposed on Iran for refusing to abandon its nuclear program in 2006 and later tightened — had crippled their ability to support their families. They were fathers who despaired of their children’s futures, or they wanted children but refused to have them in Iran. The most common word they used to describe their lives back home was na-aomid — hopeless. [New York Times Magazine, November 15, 2013 ]
The strong desire of Australian voters to avoid a slow-motion Camp of the Saints on their shores has been a major factor in elections in this century, one that the American national media have mostly professed bafflement about.
What never gets brought up in this long article is: "Why Australia?" I mean, aren't there other countries closer to Iran than Australia for Iranians to take "refuge" in?
The handy website Air Miles Calculator shows that the distance from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran to the airport of Australia's largest metropolis, Sydney, is 8037 air miles.
How many countries are less than 8,000 miles from Tehran?
As its ancient history of civilization suggests, Iran is more or less in the center of the world, with the vast majority of all countries closer to it than the major immigrant destination cities of Australia. So, it would make more sense to ask how many national metropolises are more distant from Tehran than Sydney is.
The answer is just a small number of countries in the western or southern parts of Latin America and in the Pacific. Even Sao Paulo in southern Brazil is closer to Tehran than Sydney is.
Below is a sample of Great Circle distances from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport to the airports of:
Baku, Azerbaijan: 355 air miles
Grozny, Chechnya: 622
Tel Aviv: 964
Tashkent, Uzbekistan: 1,061
Nuuk, Greenland: 4,407
Dakar, Senegal: 4,444
Cape Town, 5,240
Anchorage, Alaska: 5,664
New York: 6,133
Sao Paulo: 7,557
Los Angeles: 7,606
Monterrey, Mexico: 7,820
Mexico City: 8,184
Stanley, Falkland Islands: 8,869
Santiago, Chile: 9,183
Auckland, NZ: 9,350
Easter Island: 11,172
Whether Pitcairn Island is nearer or farther than Easter Island is hard to tell because it doesn't have an airport.
Every single one of the more than 40 Muslim-run countries in the world is closer than Australia. Of course, Iranians aren't terribly welcome in the Persian Gulf due to worries that they'd undermine the country. Here in Los Angeles, which is closer to Tehran than Sydney is, there are large numbers of Iranians. And while they are constantly striving to get their in-laws and second cousins into America, I've never noticed much desire among L.A.'s Persians for the gates to be flung open for the Iranian masses to follow in their footsteps.
At the very end of the article is a single sentence that, perhaps, sheds some light on one technical reason for why Iranians want to go to Australia:
Moreover, unlike with Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, no agreement exists between Iran and Australia allowing for the forcible repatriation of asylum seekers whose applications are unsuccessful.
But, the main reasons are that Australia is lightly populated, and set up by and still (mostly) run by Northern Europeans.