18 April, 2010

Australians: Redneck or reasonable?

The asylum seeker debate has reared its ugly head again. Why? Because it is election time and it is a political hot potato. But again, why? Why is it that Labor will dip in the polls the second they even utter the term ‘asylum seeker’???

Well, let’s start with the basics.

What is an asylum seeker?
'An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection. In countries with individualized procedures, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which he or she submitted it. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.’


Why are they coming to Australia?
They are not coming here for the sandy beaches and the sweet number of public holidays. They are fleeing their country of massive persecution and death for a democratic country that signed a UN treaty stating it would accept them.

What happens when they get here?
If they can make it to the mainland of Australia, they will be detained and processed, and possibly released into the community to await the outcome of their application for refugee status. However, with no guaranteed right to work, or financial assistance through government pensions, or health schemes, asylum seekers become the most vulnerable group of people in the country. Almost all asylum seekers rely on charities for 100% of their welfare; from food to housing to legal and medical care.
If they don't make it to the mainland, they will be taken to Christmas Island to be housed in an overcrowed detention centre.

Why are they suddenly flooding into Australia?
The rate of people arriving here by boat has always been tiny. The largest number to arrive in any 12-month period over the past three decades is 4100. Compare that with about 200,000 new permanent migrants every year. Boat arrivals so far this year amount to less than three days' worth of ordinary migration. Even at the current arrival rate, it would take 30 years of boat arrivals to fill the MCG. Almost all of them are fleeing real and terrible persecution. (info from Julian Burnside)

Why does Tony Abbott dislike asylum seekers so much?
Abbott claims that floods of asylum seekers are coming here by boat (which is exaggerated); they pass through other countries to get here (fun and safe countries like Burma and Indonesia!); they can and should stay in those other countries but they come here because, after all, Australia is such a great country who wouldn't want to come here (Indonesia, population 230 million, never promised the world they would…Australia population 21 million, did!)
I am not certain Mr Abbot dislikes asylum seekers as people, but he really like the votes he can win off them.

What would Jesus do?
Mr Abbot has answered this with the following:
"Jesus didn't say yes to everyone," (Hmmm...except for that little chestnut of ‘knock and the border, I mean door, will be open)
"Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it's not necessarily everyone's place to come to Australia." (Actually, I’m not sure whether the itinerant evangelist who had ‘nowhere to rest his head’ would have thought this. What was the advice to his disciples…”And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." That sounds more like Jesus.)
"Don't forget, Jesus drove the traders from the temple as well." (eh???)
"This idea that Jesus would say to every person who wanted to come to Australia, 'Fine, the door's open', I just don't think is necessarily right," (Jesus literally used the phrase, ‘the door will be open’!)
"(But) let's not verbal Jesus, he is not here to defend himself." (Did someone not tell Tony about that whole Easter Sunday thing??)

Those of us that are Christian do know what is required of us.

Leviticus 19:34 says “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” And let’s not forget the story of the good Samaritan. Our neighbour is not the fellow Australian born. It is any one of God’s children.

Is Rudd a better alternative?
As much as I would like to say that the Rudd Government is the more humane party, the government’s plan to suspended asylum applications causes me to doubt. The decision on April 9 means that Sri Lankans will not be processed for at least three months while Afghans will face a wait of at least six months. The government flagged that people from these countries will face a much tougher battle for entry and suggested that the reason for this move is the increased security and stability within these countries. (google The Age for more details)

However, the latest information from key agencies, including the UNHCR, is at odds with the government's statements. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a Geneva-based group that monitors movements of people uprooted by conflict states that ''efforts to strengthen the rule of law in Afghanistan have so far been unsuccessful in ensuring access to justice for the vast majority of Afghans''.

More than 2.5 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and Iran, with just 54,000 returning last year. The biggest factor deterring them was worsening security. From this we can conclude two things. Afghanistan is not a safe place and it’s people are justified in seeking asylum. And second, Iran and Pakistan accept 2.5 million Afghan refugees, and yet we are having a ‘crisis’ over a couple of thousand???!!!

It boils down to this
Asylum seekers are political fodder for both parties, and neither are prepared to accept their obligation to help. They cannot be allowed to destroy hope and opportunity because their potentially racist and ignorant constituents are willing to decide their election votes on the tough handling of asylum seekers.

Just Salvos Live!
To hear this issue discussed in more detail, and to find out what you can do to help, tune into isalvos.net for Just Salvos Live, from Wednesday 21st April at 10am, and listen to the thoughts of Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.

Gen Peterson

1 comment:

Sean said...

Good entry.


That link will take you to a page with a few pdf's with cutely presented but important messages about refugees.