Refugees are dying while they wait in the queue
I missed the last week of Parliament during the ongoing debate concerning boat people.
I was in Uganda at a board meeting of my favorite charity Watoto, a charity that rescues abandoned children and babies and gives them hope and a future.
I’ve been going to Africa every year for many years working with some of the poorest people on earth.
To abandon your own child in a pit latrine because you can’t afford to care for them says much about the overwhelming circumstances of the parent as it does for the lot of the child.
It was in such an environment that I kept abreast of the continuing debate.
Different circumstances always cause you to reflect, as does 24 hours flying at the back of a crowded aircraft. I thought anew about the now 45 boats and over 2000 people that have flocked to our shores since August 2008. I pondered why so many of my countrymen and women take a tough line, shake their head and ask why the influx of boats now?
Australians have much to be proud of in our humanitarian spirit.
We resettle over 11,000 refugees annually in Australia making us the most generous resettlement nation per capita on earth.
We were one of the original signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and as a nation of immigrants; Australia continues to bat above our weight in support of UN Peace Keeping and humanitarian work overseas.
We are a generous, compassionate and fair minded people. So why do Australians hold such mixed views towards boat people?
Whilst reasons differ, a common thread running through all arguments is that Australians think it’s just not fair, and the fair go is one of our most unique and beloved of unwritten virtues.
It’s displayed in our ANZAC tradition, in our response to disasters, in our regard for errant footy umpires and in our verse and rhyme with such phrases as ‘an Aussie battler having a go’ and ‘fair crack of the whip’.
Australians don’t like it when it’s not fair. We’re happy to all suffer together, but woe betide the self indulgent who think they’re above all else!
This is the boat people issue, desperate souls who pay abhorrent people smugglers upwards to US$20,000 a head to take them to Australia.
These poor people are seeking a better life, better economic conditions, a better freedom.
The problem, as many Australians know, is that before they arrived on our shores, these people were already free. When they left their homes and travelled through multiple countries like Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia they were free in each country.
The persecution from which they fled had ceased when they crossed the border out of their country. The problem was that freedom of itself was not enough. They want economic freedom of the kind offered by Australia.
Yet in Africa, there are thousands of people that can’t flee to different countries to secure freedom, that can’t afford upward to US$20,000 to board a boat.
They would starve to death or be raped and killed if they left the refugee camp that offers scant if any protection and they are truly desperate people who need asylum. It is a similar story in numerous countries across the world.
For every boat person Australia accepts, a truly deserving refugee is shunted further down the list. Our humanitarian programs will only stretch so far, at present they are the most generous in the world but are at capacity. This is where it is so unfair.
When I was asked by a Zimbabwean refugee who had lost everything and is a pariah in every country they have trudged to, why Australia is so difficult to get into when those on boats are accepted, the only answer I had was to say it is unfair.
It’s unfair that processes can be jumped or ignored because you can pay modern day slave traders called people smugglers, to get you to Australia. It’s unfair that people will die in refugee camps waiting for their application to be processed whilst others pay to get a head start.
This is how many Australians view the current boat people question.
There is no question our processes must be compassionate and humane, yet watering down our border protection laws is neither if it leads to a flood of human misery, which it has.
This is the irony of what the Prime Minister has done. In fundamentally altering the laws that were responsible for reducing boat arrivals to zero, he has opened the flood gates. The push factors haven’t changed, as Scott Morrison’s recent article testifies. The pull factors of watered down policy has caused the surge.
As the surge continues, whilst the Prime Minister so ironically seeks Indonesian assistance, refugees seeking actual freedom continue to wait, pushed further down the line because of those seeking economic freedom. Because freedom of itself is not enough.
It’s just not fair!
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…