Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Australia - Asylum for Political Lunatics

This is the first time I've linked to a Catholic Newspaper, but The Catholic Leader today features the best article on refugee policy I've seen in a long time.

I don't know about anyone else, but I've had a gutful of shock jocks, drop-kick bloggers and tabloid newspapers stirring up fear and resentment of vulnerable and desperate people who have been dispossessed of every skerrick of security and live in fear of their lives. I'm also heartily sick of politicians, both Labor and Coalition, attempting to score brownie points for toughness by beating their chests about "border protection".

I saw enough of the disruption caused by war in Vietnam in 1970 to understand something of what these families are going through. Many years ago I looked into the eyes of some women and children who were in a restricted area near Binh Ba and saw the fear created by being confronted by men with weapons. I can only imagine how it would feel if my family were in a similar situation, and the lengths I would go to in an effort to keep them safe.

As a nation, we've grown so smug and complacent that many of us are more concerned about insignificant issues in the quality of our own lifestyles than about matters of life of death for others. Australian values are rapidly becoming as inward-looking as those of some of our more vapid friends across the Pacific.

The Leader article very clearly exposes the media and political race to the bottom that has characterised the issue in this country since John Howard's cynical exploitation of those on board the MV Tampa in 2001, by making the following points -

Only a quarter of unauthorised arrivals come by boat. The largest majority come by plane, and the majority of these are from mainland China.

There has actually been a reduction (12%) during 2008 - 2009 in the number of people held in detention centres.

Refugee centres for Hazaras, the largest Afghani group seeking asylum in Australia, are no longer available in Afghanistan. Those seeking safety in Quetta in Pakistan, long the traditional destination of Hazaras escaping the Taliban, are being snatched off the street by Iranian agents.

Australia is a signatory to international conventions recognising the right of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek refuge.

To quote the Leader article -

Brisbane archdiocese's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission made the call following a recent front-page story in The Sunday Mail that the commission's executive officer Peter Arndt said had the effect of "de-humanising asylum seekers and robbing them of their God-given dignity".
Mr Arndt appealed to Catholics to defend the right of people to seek asylum in Australia and to be treated as human beings - "not as demons to be feared or as objects to be used for political or commercial benefit".
"Both major (political) parties are trying to show that they are tough with boat arrivals and they are causing a lot of suffering and unfairness for people seeking asylum," he said.

And -

"There is a potent mix of sensationalised media reporting, political point scoring, xenophobia and resentment", Mr Ferguson wrote.
"The consequence is that the circumstances and need of people who are in desperate situations is forgotten.
"At worst, they are being demonised and portrayed as a threat to our way of life."
Mr Ferguson urged a different response than that taken by politicians.
"Imagine a nation encouraged to be proud that we are one of only a few in the region to have signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees," he said.
Mr Arndt called on Catholics to reject "the attempts by fear mongers in politics and the media to foster resentment towards our fellow human beings".
"As Christians, we see asylum seekers as our sisters and brothers," he said.
"It is our responsibility to defend their human dignity and to encourage our politicians and the community to treat them with compassion and fairness."

How right he is.

Yes - it's all there.

The lunatics are taking over the asylum


Boy on a bike said...

My father-in-law was a refugee. He spent two years in Austria waiting for a place to go. He arrived with no English, no money and only the shoes on his feet and the clothes on his back. Once he had settled and learnt the lingo and started a business, he spent a lot of his free time helping other refugees (he was a mad Mick).

However, he got in line, waited his turn, put up with all the bureaucracy and paperwork etc, learned the language and assimilated. I think we should have a generous refugee intake - but it has to be managed.

Richard Sharpe said...

Here’s the trick, the people coming over on the boats are not the poor and huddled masses. Here’s why:

I just did a quick search. Sri Lankan Airways will do a one-way flight from Colombo to KL for just over USD $230. That is using their cheapest flight option, booking 6 months in advance, and only going as far as KL. To catch a boat, I would then need to get to Indonesia. Malaysian Airlines will do that for USD $70. To get this far, I’d need to own a passport.

I now need to engage the services of a people smuggler. This is where it will start to sting. A one way trip in a dangerously unseaworthy vessel will set me back somewhere in the vicinity of USD $10000.

Having duly paid my people smuggler, I then discard my passport and any other documentation that I may have had that would be of use to immigration officials and board the boat. The boat then makes the hazardous journey from Indonesia to the extremities of Australian territory, usually Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island. On current form, I would then wait for the RAN shuttle service, or even better, land and ring 000 to let them know we’ve arrived. If things go pear-shaped and we are intercepted in dubious coordinates, the crew will set fire to the boat obligating the RAN to take us on board.

After a much safer ride to Christmas Island aboard the RAN shuttle, I then spin a tale of woe to anyone who will listen, wait out the processing time being housed and fed at Australian taxpayer’s expense, and wait for my resettlement with all the appropriate starter assistance a grateful Australian people will give me.

I earn more than the average wage in a reasonably prosperous first world country. It would take some time and scrimping to come up with USD $ 10000. If I really was an impoverished goat-herder from Afghanistan, I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of being able to fly to Indonesia and pay for a people smuggler. I would turn up at a refugee camp, scrape a miserable existence until the UNHCR processed my claim and sent me to whatever country I was allocated. I would then be damned grateful that my kids could grow up without some medieval religious nut blowing them up at school.

If I was in fact a genuine candidate for political asylum with a lazy 10 large in my pocket, I would fly to Australia on whatever visa was in the offing, and then apply for asylum once I got here. I certainly wouldn’t risk a voyage in a leaky tub followed by a period of quasi incarceration while immigration tried to determine who I was......unless there was a damned good reason.

That’s the rub. If I arrive on a boat from Indonesia, and I’m not Indonesian, it means I have at some stage owned a passport. If I can afford to pay a people smuggler, I can afford an airfare. Why then would I arrive in Australia with no passport having paid several yearly salaries in my home country for the privilege?

1735099 said...

I'd be surprised if your father-in-law was used as political fodder back then. Our political atmosphere has degenerated since that time.
I've got no problem with managing our intake - it's demonising them that I object to.

1735099 said...

Richard Sharpe

Here's another trick.

I'm a Tamil (or an Hazara). I don't have a passport. I belong to a minority out of favour with the authorities - the same authorities who issue passports and visas. For my sake, and if I have a family, their sake, I can't put my hand up to apply for a passport without risking possibly life-threatening consequences. I opt for a slightly less dangerous method of securing a future, and risk the services of a people-smuggler.

This extract from your post neatly explains another reason why some (about a quarter of unauthorised arrivals based on ABS figures) resort to people smugglers and boats -

"If I really was an impoverished goat-herder from Afghanistan, I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of being able to fly to Indonesia and pay for a people smuggler. I would turn up at a refugee camp, scrape a miserable existence until the UNHCR processed my claim and sent me to whatever country I was allocated. I would then be damned grateful that my kids could grow up without some medieval religious nut blowing them up at school."

You seem resentful that this minority are able to get their hands on enough readies to use people smugglers.

In any case, whether these people fit the clich├ęd "poor and huddled" is not the issue. What I object to is the cowardly demonising of unauthorised arrivals by politicians on both sides and the MSM.

This process of identifying a group of people, and then demonising them for base political reasons has been used by unscrupulous political leaders down through the years. Whether the perpetrator is a Hitler (the Jews), a Mugabe (Westerners in general) or someone with less notoriety such as Howard (refugees) or Rudd (refugees/people smugglers), the process is unacceptable in a modern democracy.

As a Vietnam veteran I had personal experience of this returning to Australia at the height of the Moratorium and being called a "baby-killer" by a teaching colleague. This is lower-brain politics, yet it captures the support of the ignorant and bigoted in this country to the extent that it becomes an electoral issue.

Asylum, anyone?

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