Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bugger thy neighbour

The situation of the 72 Sri Lankans recently recognised as refugees on Nauru has scarcely raised a ripple of concern in the Australian mainstream media. Nor has it approached becoming an issue in the forthcoming federal poll.

How strange is this?

It’s apparent that the ALP won’t make an issue of it because they fear John Howard playing the fear card as he did in 2001 with the Tampa affair. This fear is rooted deep in our national psyche, and has been used by both sides of politics.

The situation that these people are in is intolerable. Their refugee status has been recognised, but because their method of entry was “illegal”, they aren’t allowed on the Australian mainland, and they have no idea how much longer they will need to stay in detention in Nauru. Apart from the considerable cost to the Australian taxpayer of this ongoing detention, the ethics of this practice don’t stand scrutiny.

It is as well that the Vietnamese boat people weren’t treated in this fashion, and it is interesting to reflect that the governments of the time left fear and ideology out of their approach to refugees.

This statement from Peter Arndt (Executive Officer - Catholic Justice and Peace Commission), provides clarity –

“Australia should accept its responsibility to process people who seek asylum in our country and give them protection in our land if they are legitimate refugees”.

Obviously, political expediency has triumphed over compassion – it’s shameful policy.

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