I’d hate to be an asylum seeker coming to Australia by boat

asylum cartoon 1
This is a departure from the usual tone of this blog.  But asylum is an important subject and I feel strongly about it.   The asylum issue in Australia has become highly politicised; namely the arrival of asylum seekers by boat.  The amount of discussion in the media and in the political arena, has made it a hugely contentious issue, and is spoken about with great drama by Australians in general.  According to Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Australian politicians are to blame for pandering to the lowest common electoral denominator: “There has been a real lack of moral leadership over this issue for a considerable amount of time,” she says. “Both major parties have simply pandered to our fear of immigration and refugees to push increasingly harsher policies.” [http://world.time.com/2013/07/23/australias-message-to-asylum-seekers-go-away/#ixzz2ghuH5VOA]

It seems that the same conversation has been going on for many years now.  If one takes a moment to Google the asylum issue, it appears that there are a huge number of articles and forums debating this hot topic.  Much of the discussion is regurgitated slogans and headlines, policies and opinions but rarely is any of it couched in any real evidence and most of it entirely overlooks the reality of the asylum seeker’s predicament.  Asylum seekers are dehumanised.  The voting public has virtually no contact with them, as they’re hidden away in detention centres and their faces barely make it into the news.  We are rarely exposed to their plight.  To really get to grips with the issues, we either need to immerse ourselves in a refugee community to see for ourselves how these people have come to be here, or we need to dig a little deeper for some genuine information; some facts and figures.  As a mum of two small sprogs, I don’t have a huge amount of time to research this.  However, it really did not take me long to source some government facts and figures from the past five or so years, which paint a very interesting picture indeed about the actual numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat as opposed to those who arrive by air, about their countries of origin, and the percentages of those who have been granted protection visas.  I am aware that my spurious and slightly haphazard referencing might not stand up to an academic panel but I don’t much care, as I just want to get this down.  The facts and numbers speak for themselves.

–  IMA stands for Irregular Maritime Arrival, otherwise known as boat arrivals.

–  Non-IMA refers to those who have arrived into Australia by other means, namely by air.

–  UNHCR stands for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

1. Asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are not the same thing.

Let’s understand this first: an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.

The Convention defines a ‘refugee’ as any person who:

“… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it …”
[UNHCR, Convention relating to the status of refugees, UNHCR, Geneva, 2007, p. 16 http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.pdf]

The definition of ‘refugee’ does not cover other individuals or groups of people who leave their country only because of war or other civil disturbance, famine, natural disasters or in order to seek a better life.  The UNHCR explains:

“Economic migrants normally leave a country voluntarily to seek a better life. Should they elect to return home, they would continue to receive the protection of their government. Refugees flee because of the threat of persecution and cannot return safely to their homes in the prevailing circumstances.”
[UNHCR, ‘Protecting refugees’, UNHCR website.]

In summary: A migrant is someone who chooses to leave their country to seek a better life. They make a conscious choice to leave and they can return whenever they like. Refugees are forced to leave their country and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves. Some are forced to flee with no warning; significant numbers of them have suffered torture and trauma. The concerns of refugees are human rights and safety, not economic advantage.  This seems very simple to understand, but the confusion is common.

2. Asylum seekers who come by boat to Australia without the necessary paperwork, are not behaving unlawfully

Article 14 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

This first point needs to be hammered home.  Politicians refer to IMAs as “illegals” which is both erroneous and creates unnecessary hype.  The term ‘illegal’ may more appropriately apply to those without a valid visa (‘unlawful non-citizens’) who are not seeking protection, such as visa overstayers.  There are plenty of those.  Janet Phillips in her article “Asylum seekers and refugees. What are the facts?” in the Social Policy Section of the Parliament of Australia website says: As at 30 June 2011, it was estimated that there were about 58,400 visa overstayers residing in Australia.”  I think this is worth noting as the figure is considerable.

So the UN Refugee Convention (Australia is a signatory) stipulates that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purpose of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents.  If a refugee is a genuine asylum seeker (which obviously needs to stand up to the relevant checks), arriving into Australia without prior authorisation and without the necessary paperwork IS NOT ILLEGAL.   Neither do they break any Australian law by arriving without prior authorisation or the relevant documentation.

The Refugee Council says:  Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels. Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an Australian Embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk. Refugees may also be forced to flee with little notice due to rapidly deteriorating situations and do not have time to apply for travel documents or arrange travel through authorised channels. Permitting asylum seekers to enter a country without travel documents is similar to allowing ambulance drivers to exceed the speed limit in an emergency – the action would ordinarily be considered illegal, but the circumstances warrant an exception” [http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/myth-long.php]

To further emphasise this point, let me paste yet another chunk from the Phillips article (I have no intention of writing this article myself, just to pull from well-informed and intelligent sources):

“The UNHCR emphasises that a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not be labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’ as the very nature of persecution means that their only means of escape may be via illegal entry and/or the use of false documentation.

Asylum seekers irrespective of their mode of arrival, like others that arrive in Australia without a valid visa, are classified by Australian law to be ‘unlawful non-citizens’. However, the term ‘unlawful’ does not mean that asylum seekers have committed a criminal offence. There is no offence under Australian law that criminalises the act of arriving in Australia or the seeking of asylum without a valid visa.”

3. There appears to be some misconception that refugees who arrive by plane into Australia are somehow kow-towing to some fictional queue, and by virtue of their arrival by plane, they are more likely to be the real deal asylum seeker. 

OK this is rubbish.  The grant of refugee protection visas and the percentage of final determinations are higher for IMAs than for non-IMAs.  You don’t read that often in the political propaganda.  In other words, a higher percentage of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are granted refugee status in Australia, than those who arrive by air.  The progressive protection visa grant rate for asylum seekers from the top country of citizenship for boat arrivals (Afghanistan) has varied between about 80 and 95 per cent since 2009; while the final protection visa grant rate for those applying for asylum from the top country of citizenship for air arrivals (China) is usually only around 20 to 30 per cent.
[ DIAC, Asylum statistics–Australia, Quarterly tables, September quarter 2012, Canberra, 2012, pp. 10 and 16–17]

Dr Khalid Koser (Lowy Institute for International Policy) notes that:

“The reason this … point is important is that it means that arguably Australia is worrying about the wrong asylum seekers. Whereas the majority of those arriving by boat are refugees, the majority of those arriving by air are not.”
[K Koser, Responding to boat arrivals in Australia: time for a reality check, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, 2010, p. 6]

Take a moment to digest this.  And then let’s carry on.

Government figures speak volumes.  Let’s take a further look. Candace Sutton, in her article “Ten myths around asylum seekers arriving on boats in Australian waters” on news.com.au (8 July, 2013) says this:

Statistics from 2008 showed at least 13 asylum seekers arrive through Australian airports daily, more than 32 times the number of boat people supposedly ”flooding” across our maritime borders in that year. A total of 4768 ”plane people”, more than 96 per cent of applicants for refugee status, arrived in that year on legitimate tourist, business and other visas – compared with 161 who arrived by boat during the same period. While boat numbers have increased, Australian Government statistics from the first quarter of 2013 showed more than 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrived by boat were found to be genuine refugees. In comparison, those who arrived by plane – despite being eligible for release into the community and not having to face years of detention – were almost twice as likely to be rejected as refugees. The figure continued a long-term trend of high approval rates for people arriving by boat, with 93.5 per cent being found to be refugees in 2010-11 and 91 per cent in 2011-12.”

Let’s see if she’s right.  A quick glance at the Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Asylum statistics for Australia, Quarterly tables  – March Quarter 2013, reveals the following:

Numbers of people seeking Australia’s protection in the past few quarters

No. of people seeking Aust. protection Non-IMA (air) % of final determination grants* IMA (boat) % of final determination grants*
Sept. Quarter 1896 59.6% 2513 95.4%
Dec. Quarter 2053 49.2% 1622 82.4%
March Quarter 2150 54.7% 7464 90.5%

* This represents the number of finalised cases during this period in absolute terms and as a percentage.

For the March quarter, there is a helpful breakdown of this total percentage (90.5%) for IMAs according to primary countries of citizenship, in case you’re interested in knowing from whence these refugees have come:

Afghanistan: 95.4% (of applications by Afghanis were granted)

Iran: 86.5%

Iraq: 91.5%

Pakistan: 92.3%

Sri Lanka: 75%

Stateless: 97%

It ought to be noted that the Asylum Statistics documents state the following:

“For the IMA caseload, the number of visa grants and the associated visa grant rates in the tables do not necessarily reflect underlying recognition rates. This is because of the uneven time profile of the caseload, including the passage of time following a finding that a person is a refugee while awaiting health, security or character checks.”

So we need to bear this in mind when considering the numbers. However, this document helps us a little further by showing the outcomes as at the end of March 2013 for people who arrived in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively.

Status of IMAs who arrived in 2009-10 as at end March 2013 – Finally determined grant rate = 92.7%

Status of IMAs who arrived in 2010-11 as at end March 2013 –Finally determined grant rate = 90.9%

Status of IMAs who arrived in 2011-12 as at end March 2013 – Finally determined grant rate = 93.4%

It’s all in the numbers.

4. There is an erroneous presumption that the majority of people who arrive by boat, are found to be queue-jumpers.

There is a view that IMAs are jumping some imagined queue, and pushing ahead of other refugees who have gone through the niceties of registering with the UNHCR and are awaiting resettlement in a refugee camp.  But it doesn’t take much to quit with the headline bashing to think for a moment about the reality of the asylum seeker. As Phillips says:

“The concept of an orderly queue does not accord with the reality of the asylum process. Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) notes that:

 Implicit in this view is that Australia should not be bothered by people seeking protection under the Refugee Convention and that genuine refugees should go to other countries and wait patiently in the hope that Australia may choose to resettle them. [P Power, ‘Speech to ALP National Conference fringe event: which way forward? Refugee, security and the Asia-Pacific’, 31 July 2009, RCOA website.]  

The reality is that only a small proportion of asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR and only 11 per cent of asylum claims were registered with the UNHCR in 2011.

Once registered with the UNHCR, many refugees seek resettlement to a country such as Australia. Refugees do not have a right to be resettled, and states are not obliged under the 1951 Refugee Convention or any other instrument to accept refugees for resettlement. It is a voluntary scheme co-ordinated by the UNHCR which, amongst other things, facilitates burden-sharing amongst signatory states. Resettlement therefore complements and is not a substitute for the provision of protection to people who apply for asylum under the Convention.”

I need add nothing to this.  But I will.  The Refugee Council addresses the ‘queue’ issue very succinctly:

“Applying for protection onshore is not a means of “jumping the queue” or bypassing the “proper” process of applying for protection. In fact, applying onshore is the standard procedure for seeking protection.  According to the definition in the UN Refugee Convention, refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin. This means that you cannot apply for refugee status if you are inside your own country. In order to be recognised as a refugee, you must leave your country and apply for refugee status in another country. Every refugee in the world – including those who Australia resettles from overseas – has, at some point, entered another country to seek asylum…

The UN resettlement system does not work like a queue. The term “queue” implies that resettlement is an orderly process and, if you join the end, you are guaranteed to reach the front within a certain amount of time. In reality, the UN resettlement system works more like a lottery than a queue. Many refugees lack access to UNHCR’s resettlement processes altogether and therefore simply do not have resettlement available to them as an option. Furthermore, refugees are prioritised for resettlement according to need, not according to how long they have been waiting. These needs fluctuate and are continuously reassessed.” [http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/myth-long.php#queue]

5.  Approximately 50% of Australia’s asylum seekers arrive by boat

Despite increases in the number of boats arriving in Australia recently, IMAs still only comprise about half of Australia’s onshore asylum seekers.  These are the figures according to DIAC, Asylum Trends Australia 2010-11 Annual Publication, Canberra, 2011, p. 2; and Asylum statistics–Australia, Quarterly tables, September quarter 2012, Canberra, 2012:

Program Year Non-IMA protection visa applications lodged IMA refugee status determination requests received Total
2008-9 5072 690 5762
2009-10 5987 4591 10578
2010-11 6316 5175 11491
2011-12 7036 7379 14415

6. Is Australia being swamped with boat arrivals and asylum claims?

aylum cartoon 3
“…in the context of our migration program, the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia is very, very minor. It is less than 1.5 per cent of new migrants.” 
[Julia Gillard (Prime Minister, ‘Moving Australia forward: address to the Lowy Institute’,  Sydney, 6 July 2010, viewed 4 February 2013.]

According to Gabrielle Easter in her article “10 Countries and how they deal with asylum seekers compared to Australia”:

“There are 45.2 million people who were forcibly displaced by 2012, most from Afghanistan, with more people fleeing their homes on a daily basis than those who seek asylum in Australia every year. Australia receives 3% of asylum seeker applications across the globe.”

Sure the number of boat arrivals to Australia has significantly increased in recent years (just check out world news and do the maths), but when compared to numbers of unauthorised arrivals in other parts of the world, the figures are small.  This can only truly be assessed in comparison with trends happening in the other 43 industrialised countries in Europe and other non-European countries which the UNHCR keeps track of.  The UNHCR summaries show that in 2011 these countries received an estimated 441,300 asylum applications. [UNHCR,  Asylum levels and trends in industrialized countries 2011, UNHCR, Geneva, 2012, p. 2 ]  Europe receives most asylum claims, predominantly in France and Germany, followed by the USA and Canada, with a 19% jump in asylum claims in Europe in 2011, with 327,200 asylum claims in 2011, 269,900 in 2010, 286,700 in 2009; 283,700 in 2008; and 249,600 in 2007.[ibid]

In 2011, the USA processed the largest number of asylum claims for an industrialised country with 74,000 claims, followed by France with 51,900, Germany 45,700 and Italy with 34,100 claims.[ibid]

In comparison, 11,500 claims were lodged in Australia in 2011.

The Refugee Council notes that:

“In 2010, Australia received 8,250 onshore asylum applications, just 2.2 per cent of the 358,840 applications received across 44 industrialised nations.”

And if you’re quietly thinking, “yeah but what about per capita?”  In first place for the highest number of asylum seekers per 1,000 habitants is Malta.  Malta has 1,500 North Africans arriving by boat every year and Sweden comes in second.

Australia comes in at 62nd.  [Gabrielle Easter op cit]

Per capita, the US takes twice as many refugees as Australia. [Edmund Rice Centre]

I hope these figures put things in perspective a little.

7. So why don’t asylum seekers just stay in Indonesia?

“So why can’t those dastardly refugees just stay put in Indonesia? Apart from not being a signatory to the UN Convention, there’s a pretty spark absence of legislation protecting refugee rights. That so called ‘queue’ so many people want refugees to wait patiently in is not only non-existent, but there are limited resettlement spots for refugees, no guarantee of basic human rights being granted in Indonesia and under the Convention that Australia abides by (apparently), refugees are entitled to seek protection, no matter where they are or how they arrive, whether they apply off or on-shore. So Australia, do you really need to turn back boats so refugees can face persecution in Indonesia when “boat people” make up less than three per cent of Australia’s annual immigration and the majority are granted refugee status?” [Gabrielle Easter op cit]

The Easter article is well worth a read if you’re wondering how other countries deal with asylum seekers.

Furthermore, Paul Power of the Refugee Council says that “There are many obstacles to refugees being adequately protected in various parts of Asia, the small number of Refugee Convention signatories in the region being just one of many.” [http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/Its-time-to-rock-the-boat-on-offshore-processing/]

8. Detention centres are inhumane and unnecessary

They are and it is.  Wear this hat:  you have fled your country of origin because you have been persecuted, tortured, seen your family members killed, raped and so on.  Somehow you make it to Australia where you seek protection.  You are desperate.  The journey has been horrendous.  Some people died on the way.  Your mental health is in shreds and you require medical attention.  Your children are in pieces.  No-one asks how you are feeling.  No-one seems to give a shit.  You need understanding, compassion, empathy, and medical and psychological support.  You are thrown into a detention centre where the conditions are much like a prison.  You have no access to lawyers, doctors, psychologists, media and so on.  You are treated like a criminal. It must be so appalling; I can barely make myself imagine it.  But we have to wear the hat if we are to properly understand the asylum seeker’s predicament.

The US takes in the highest number of asylum seekers per year, just under 80,000, with 17 per cent of asylum application being made to the US in 2011. Yet asylum seekers are rarely detained in the US, and most claims are processed within 21 days for an interview, and 60 days from the final application, decisions are made. [Paul Power, ibid]  It is possible to deal with these asylum claims quickly, efficiently and effectively.  Sweden doesn’t use detention centres and asylum seekers are granted health checks, financial assistance, accommodation assistance and if their claims take more than four months, they’re also entitled to work.  (What, please tell me, is the logic behind Australia not permitting asylum seekers to work once they have been granted their bridging visas??  It would build morale, encourage mental health, assist with integration, allow refugees to contribute to their communities, boost our economy…)

The UN states:

“The 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits states from imposing penalties on those entering ‘illegally’ who come directly from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened.” [UN, The universal declaration of human rights, 1948, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/]  [Phillips op cit]

The language is clear.  So how is it possible for these people to be detained year after year after year in prison-like detention camps?  Incarceration is, by its very nature, punitive.

The UNHCR says in their paper titled “UNHCR urges states to avoid detaining asylum-seekers”:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to liberty and to protection from arbitrary detention. Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention specifies that states should not impose penalties or unnecessary restrictions on movements of refugees entering their territory without authorization.

It is not a crime to seek asylum. Detention must therefore be a last resort, and its necessity and proportionality must be assessed on an individual basis,” said Alice Edwards, a senior legal coordinator for UNHCR. “The failure of many governments to provide for or systematize alternatives to detention can put their detention policies and practices into direct conflict with international law.

In addition to the human rights and legal implications, detention also incurs health, social and financial costs. Incarceration, especially when prolonged, can cause severe psychological and physical health problems, and even lead to self-harm or suicide.”

Read the above article for a discussion of alternatives to detention.  For example, in Canada asylum seekers are released on bail to a government-funded NGO; less than 4% abscond. [ibid]

The Greens’ Hanson-Young argues that it would only cost $35 a day for each asylum seeker if they were allowed to live in an Australian community while their claim is assessed: “Our tagline on this is that doing things in a humanitarian way onshore, through direct settlement, is 90% cheaper and 100% fairer.” [http://world.time.com/2013/07/23/australias-message-to-asylum-seekers-go-away/]

9.  We need to stop the boats because people are dying at sea

asylum cartoon 2This is a seriously difficult issue.  Paul Power has been Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the national umbrella body for 150 agencies working with refugees and asylum seekers, since 2006.  In his article “It’s time to rock the boat on offshore processing” for thepunch.com.au he addresses this precise issue.  I urge you to read it, but I will do my best to summarise.

Mr Power says that if we genuinely want to reduce the risks associated with boat journeys to Australia, “we need to address the issues at the heart of the movement of refugees in our region” [ibid].  He says that deterrence, detention and interception will not resolve the issue and neither will a focus on “border protection” which fails to acknowledge the deep humanitarian issues at stake; namely that a large proportion of those who arrive by boat, have serious claims for protection from persecution.  Can we try not to forget that?

He talks about Australia exercising positive regional leadership and setting an example for the Asia-Pacific region, and mentions some small steps forward which have been happening in Thailand, Malaysia, India, the Philippines and South Korea.  He says that countries in the region can be encouraged to offer greater assistance to asylum seekers if they in turn are given greater international support.  Power lists some incremental steps, which would need to be taken if any sort of meaningful regional dialogue on refugee needs is to happen:

“• Removing barriers to refugee determination processes – Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in the region are denied access to either UNHCR or domestic asylum systems, including many on the Thai-Burma border and in Bangladesh.

• Supporting non-government organisations – Host governments should be encouraged to allow organisations to provide emergency assistance, health care, education and legal help.

• Granting legal permission to stay – Promoting legal recognition of asylum seekers and refugees in countries across the region will allow people to remain in the country while their asylum process progresses.

• Developing alternatives to detention – Freedom from arrest and detention is crucial to building a sense of safety and security for a refugee living in an unfamiliar country.

• Granting the right to work – Having legal permission to work is fundamental for survival and living in fear.

• Access to health and education – Countries could be encouraged to provide access to government services such as education and health care to reduce pressure on UNHCR and NGOs who fill gaps in service delivery.

• Access to durable solutions – As the process builds, host states, UNHCR and others could work together to assist refugees in finding voluntary repatriation, integration into the host country or resettlement.” [ibid]

It is not about stopping the boats.  It is about positive leadership.  It is about positive dialogue. Recognising the humanitarian need.  Understanding the validity of the majority of IMAs’ claims.  Engaging nations in serious discussions about developing national asylum legislation and encouraging nations to sign the Refugee Convention.

So I’m done with this.

You know, I find I’m just quoting sources now, who have really done their homework and have already researched and collated the figures and know their thing way better than I.  Anyone can just read these articles for themselves.  I can’t put it any more plainly.  I haven’t even hit upon a really important part of the discussion; what these asylum seekers will contribute to Australian society, industry, culture, food, art, music, literature, language, diversity and outlook.  That is a whole different dialogue we need to have.  As for what I have written above, it is all desperately obvious from a quick scan of some of the real figures that Australia’s politicians and media have seriously overstated the numbers and have misled the public about the precise nature of the people seeking refuge here by boat, and indeed about Australia’s responsibility to treat them with respect, dignity and to assess and process their asylum claims conscientiously and expediently.

It is abundantly clear to me that Australia, Europe, America…we have a moral and social responsibility to help these hundreds and thousands of desperate people who come to us, any bloody way they can, to help them, house them, protect them, assist them to get back on their feet, to become productive contributors to this country, to let them work and share in the vibrant economy and this land of plenty.  The figures show that the vast majority of the people who arrive by boat to Australia are found to be genuine refugees.  This means they genuinely and justifiably fear for their lives in their homeland.  They have been to hell and back.  We cannot begin to imagine the extent of their trauma and suffering.  They don’t want to risk their lives in a tugboat to make the slog to Australia?  Why would they when they know the frosty reception they will inevitably receive from the welcoming party and when they hear of the prisons they will be detained in indefinitely?  But politicans realise that there are votes to be gained by pandering to an inherently xenophobic and racist Australian voting public,  who will warm to a policy which would rather send the problem elsewhere.  It’s a huge inconvenience isn’t it?  All these people needing our help.  The public are intimidated by sharing this vast land with people who they have had little or no actual contact with, who don’t speak their language, don’t share their culture, don’t understand their ways, don’t enjoy their food, don’t celebrate the same festivals and holidays, don’t necessarily share all of the same values and let’s face it, are tainted by war and violence and dark histories we would prefer not to have to grapple with.

asylum mum
But Australia is wealthy.  Australia is huge.  We should be ashamed of the international reputation we have garnered for ourselves over our harsh line towards these vulnerable people.  Australia needs to step up to the mark, set an example, get an international conversation going to make lives better, because we care and because we can.  So I’m done with writing this.  It’s loose around the edges and requires work and editing but it has got me in a mood and I need a break. I feel I’ve just copied and pasted stuff everywhere because it just made sense to pool some of the facts into one little document.  But it’s strangely unsatisfying.  However, I’ve provided the links in the hope that someone may go and read my sources for themselves.  Empathy doesn’t hurt.  It opens the doors to greater understanding, and if the shoe were on the other foot, by christ you’d be doing the same to protect your families.

In London, I once taught singing to a girl from Serbia.  Her brother went missing.  Her father went missing.  She fled with her mother and sister and found her way to the UK by truck, by boat, by car…any way they could.  She sobbed as she told me her story.  My theatre company worked with refugees in London as we recorded their stories to use verbatim in our show.  They had been tortured.  They had watched members of their families being tortured, raped and killed.  They came to the UK in the back of trucks, vans, car boots, boats…any way they could.  ANY WAY THEY COULD.  It doesn’t take a huge leap to understand this does it?  Does it?  My baby has woken from his day sleep and there is a whole world of domesticity which I must attend to from the comfort of my very easy life free from fear, free from persecution, free from detention, free…

“All human beings have a right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, which makes refugee protection a universal and global responsibility. As a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and as a member of the international community, Australia shares in this responsibility. There is no reason why Australia should be exempt from receiving and processing onshore asylum claims while expecting other nations to fulfil this responsibility. As a developed nation with well-established systems for refugee status determination and strong settlement support infrastructure, Australia is well-placed to play a leading role in refugee protection, both within our region and at a global level.” [http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/myth-long.php#queue]

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12 Responses to I’d hate to be an asylum seeker coming to Australia by boat

  1. Ali says:

    Miranda, I share your outrage. It is so easy to be blinkered, thanks for this which takes the blinkers off.

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Thanks for reading this darling lady. And I’m so pleased it was received well! All my love, M x

  2. Amity says:

    It is an utter disgrace. When I was in Melbourne 10 years ago it was the leading news issue and I was appalled then by the detention centre concept and I am appalled that it continues in a civilized nation. I have rarely experienced quite such tangible xenophobia and extrovert racism in any other country towards all kinds of outsiders as I did in Australia (sorry) and the management of boat people takes the biscuit. We see similar here in the bvi with Haitians arriving on literal home made rafts and drowning in droves or being left to fester washed up on beaches of smaller islands than they aimed for while the government watch. It is grotesque anywhere to let humans be so neglected and trivialized. Miranda, it looks like a calling for you. Well done for researching this and sharing it.

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Amity thanks. Yes it is an appalling situation here. The mind boggles at how the majority of folk are prepared to be fed whatever information hits the headlines without actually looking into it at all for themselves…which of itself stinks of some form of innate racism as if one is not inherently racist, one is propelled to investigate the facts on the grounds that these people are merely people and are being desperately mistreated. Infuriating. M

  3. Stoff says:

    wow Miranda! Beautifully written….how do you get the time? Glad you did though…… Will have to share this. Too good not to. xo

  4. Joanna Cooper says:

    I worked on the Refugee Campaign about 10 years ago with Amnesty International. I spoke at numerous venues to try my best to educate the audiences I stood in front of, what an asylum seeker was and how we as Australian’s should be more compassionate, empathetic and to try and help asylum seekers in every way we can. I tried hard to explain that asylum seekers are ordinary people who go to extraordinary lengths to save themselves and their families from persecution. No one wants to live in fear. And if you have children, your gut instinct is to do EVERYTHING imaginable to save them. To give them a better life. The way AUSTRALIA treat asylum seekers is a bloody disgrace and makes me ashamed and embarrassed to be an Australian. Thank you for reminding me of this important issue. It is too easy to become numb to the crisis faced by those seeking asylum in this country. The media and politicians have a lot to answer for. They are scum and it makes me sick that they publicly refer to asylum seekers as “boat people”.

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Jo thanks and hats off to you for the work you used to do. I would love to become involved with amnesty when the sprogs allow for a little more spare time. The entire issue drives me insane, and despite the very clear statistics which I have sourced and printed, I have still had people say to me “I support your view, but I can abide these economic migrants coming in from Iran by boat….etc etc etc”…if you look at the stats, over 90% of Iranians arriving by boat in the first quarter were found to be legit. READ THE BLOODY FACTS PEOPLE!!! x

  5. Jen Scott says:

    An amazing article…. thank you!

  6. kalpnik says:

    i was serching for asylum seeker issue for my class presentation and i found your article……….what a fantastic job you did.. when i was reading te last paragraph, honestly i was crying i could not stop it. thanks you so much from bottom of my heart. i will never forget it……………….

    thanks a lot again…

    • Sweet Mother says:

      It is my absolute pleasure. I’m so pleased that this has helped you out and perhaps you might spread some of the truth. Miranda

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