Thursday, August 12, 2010

You know what?? I don't care about the boat people...

Or more to the point, I refuse to submit to the scare campaign Gillard and Abbott are trying to turn this issue into during their election campaigns.

The way they carry on, you would think we were being inundated by a maruading hoard of "illegals", constantly streaming over our coastline.

It's rubbish, of course.

The human element has been completely lost on this issue, we are encouraged to think of these poor souls not as fellow humans beings; men, women and children fleeing unimaginable horror, taking a chance on a new life in what must seem like Paradise to them, but as a threat. A threat to what exactly is never made clear, but it's always easy to play on people's basic fear of the unknown and xenophobia. Plus there is always the vague allusion that every 'boat person' is a terrorist. The reality is that due to having one of the most stringent check procedures in the world, this is actually the most risky way for a terrorist to enter our country.

Let me be clear. When I say I don't care about the boat people, what I mean is I don't care about stopping them. Let them come. When I think about the conditions these tragic souls have come from, the pain, fear and horror they have seen, I want to get down on my knees and thank God I was born in 'the lucky country'.

The facts are, Australia accepts one of the lowest amounts of refugees and asylum seekers per capita in the developed world. In the last 34 years (1st January 1976 - 30th April 2010), Australia has received a total of 23,024 people. In 2008, Australia received 2,496 refugees onshore, and allows only 13,750 spaces in it's combined offshore refugee programs (run in conjunction with the UNHRC). In 2009, Australia received 6,170 asylum applications, just 1.6% of the applications received across 44 developed nations.

As reported in The Australian's article, "Whose afraid of 4,500 boat people?",  Australians shouldn't be afraid of refugees coming here, because with our geographic location, the numbers will always be small in relation to those of the rest of the world.

Graph from Chas Liccardello's tweet.
Chas is of The Chaser fame, and can currently be seen
on the political commentary/sketch show Yes We Canberra 

To put it in simple terms, at the current arrival rate, it would take 20 years to fill an MCG crowd with refugees.

And I can't believe how so many of the myths surrounding asylum seekers are allowed to persist.

Firstly, that they are illegal. Wrong. It is not illegal to turn up to a country and ask for asylum. It is not illegal to turn up without documentation and passports etc. As the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 explains, many of these people have no means of obtaining these, so how on Earth can we expect them to arrive like a tourist? These people are not queue jumpers - there is no queue! These people are poor, desperate and fleeing war, persecution and horrendous living conditions. I don't know about you, but if it were me, and my children, I would do whatever it took to get out, I'd hijack a damn plane myself, let alone fly here without a passport, or take a risky journey on a leaky boat made out of mainly rusty tin and duct tape.

And I am so sick of the phrase 'boat people'. For a start, over 90% of Australia's refugees arrive by plane. Of these arriving by plane, about half are granted refugee status. Of the remaining 10% who do arrive by boat, 85-98% are given refugee status. So it would seem that 'turning back the boats' would be sending true refugees back to their deaths Mr Abbott. Great plan.

 As for a lot of the other myths out there about refugees, check out this Mythbuster fact sheet from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

So enough with the scare tactics and talk about 'turning back the boats'. Why don't you try running the country effectively, and give this magnificent country a chance to provide a new home and new life to some of those who most desperately need it?



  1. Posted something similar just now! Only you've been far more factual and relevant! :)

  2. Oh yes, agree 100%. I have never understood the whole 'boat people' debacle. Well, I do, it's pure and simple racism with a dash of fear thrown in.

    The fact the vast majority of immigrants to Australia are from the UK and (second largest group from NZ) seems to escape a lot of the fear mongers.

    My sister-in-law is Vietnamese, she has been married to my brother for 8 years, she has two children who are Australian citizens. The hoops she has to jump through to get a holiday visa is incredible. It often takes more than 3 months for her to get a simple holiday visa. When she came out for my wedding we had to provide letters of evidence from the wedding venue.
    So for those who say it's easy to get into Australia (for a non-white) person, think again.

  3. Absolutely agree. Many Australian's (and politicians) seem to forget that the many of the worlds people live in fear, face war, torture and other atrocities on a daily basis. If a few have the courage to escape then we should welcome them with open arms.

  4. When I heard a couple of weeks ago that the boat people were less than one percent of the migrants, I was astounded that the pollies were making such a big deal of it!!! The thing is, I reckon the media made a big deal of it to start off with and well, the opposition caught on and now it's just a mountain out of a mole hill. Especially when there's other more important issues like health, education and climate to worry about...

    The problem is, most people don't think beyond what the media says...they take it for the golden truth and the pollies are pandering to that. And making it sound like it's the biggest catastrophe that boat people come to our shores...

  5. Well written and thought provoking. Well done.


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