Asylum Seekers in Australia: more of the same
I have previously published articles outlining how asylum seekers have become a political football in this country, something that saddens me personally and many other asylum seeker/refugee advocates. Yesterday I came across the following graphic on Twitter and received permission to reproduce it here.
Amnesty International documented visits to detention centres on their site in November 2010 and are undergoing follow-up visits at the moment. Please visit these links and read their findings. I quote from the current visits:
How do you maintain hope when, despite not committing any crime, you are denied their freedom for so long and no one can even tell you when your ordeal will end? As one young Afghan said:
“I am not a criminal, I am not a thief. So why do they lock me up for so long? They have no reason”.
No, we have no reason.
Still the debate over “off-shore processing” persists between our political parties. Makes for great media coverage but doesn’t actually achieve anything. Both parties magnanimously offered to give up their Christmas Day to sort out the issue. Good media stories in a slow news festive season. Each accuses the other party of refusing to compromise. I am sorry to speak like this of mature adults elected to manage our country, but it seems awfully like spoilt children fighting for Mummy’s attention while the children down the road are starving.
In past articles I have drawn attention to the words and work of such people as Julian Burnside and Michael Brull (I am not a scary guy), Louise Newman and Patrick McGorry (Detention centres dysfunctional) and Michael Pearce (Asylum Seekers in Australia). These people are not insignificant voters such as I, these are people with a voice. Hear them.
Our opposition leader claims he can stop the boats. Can he change the world back to the way it was before the latest increase in asylum seekers? No, he can’t. Therefore he cannot stop the boats. He can cause more needless deaths but not he nor anyone else in this country can “stop the boats”. Most do not come by boat anyway: it is merely an emotive media play at the expense of vulnerable people.
People who arrive on our shores without prior authorisation from Australia, with no documents, or false documents are not illegal. They are asylum seekers – a legal status under International Law. Many Asylum Seekers are forced to leave their countries in haste and are unable to access appropriate documentation. In many cases oppressive authorities actively prevent normal migration processes from occurring. ‘Illegals’ are people who overstay their visas. The vast majority of these in Australia are from western countries, including 5,000 British tourists.
Take another look at the graphic above. Does anything strike you as slightly unbalanced? Admittedly we have a much smaller population than the USA – we can’t be expected to take a similar ratio (per head of population) of refugees. The poorest countries in the world take the most refugees, according to the Edmund Rice Centre (link above). Why we have the longest dentention time is a mystery and a misery to the incarcerated.
We can accept our responsibility as citizens of the world without using vulnerable people as political footballs to further our own personal agendas.