Asylum Seekers, Boat People, Illegal Immigrants or Refugees. Whichever label you choose, the people involved remain the same. I am going to address this issue from a different viewpoint than has been previously entertained.
We have argued for and against the treatment of asylum seekers. We have formed views and opinions based on fear, mothering comments, anger, human rights, racism and fairness. At this point it appears not to matter much what we really think.
Both major parties are determined to reject these people and continue to marginalise them. The numbers arriving remain low and the chances of an asylum seeker moving in next door to you is very slim and even if they did, you probably wouldn't notice. The fact is, there are only a few thousand every year coming here. Not the great big hoards the media and politicians would have you perceive. Still, I digress. My opinion is fairly clear....but that's not what I want to talk about.
Julia Gillard is disappointed today in Tony Abbott's apparent 'political games'. She claims that he should support the amended bill proposed to change immigration laws and not doing so makes a mockery of his party's interest in Nauru as a processing centre.
In an article read this morning it stated that the Government was informed that Malaysia was the ideal solution as it would deter the boats. The advice was as follows; That those sent to Malaysia would never be sent back to Australia and would spend up to 8 years trying to be processed over there, without jobs or adequate housing. This information would filter back to the countries they came from and stop any more from making the potentially deadly journey.
That this reasoning had any affect on policy at all is abhorrent but even if we take for granted that this is the best option for our country there remains one HUGE question which nobody seems inclined to address.
What are the alternatives for these people?
Let's say that this so called solution actually works the way it's designed and no more boats come. What we are not talking about is who these people are. They are not queue jumpers. They are not rich people who are bored with their own country. They are not criminals.
They are men, women and children who are running (yes, it really is that urgent) away from all they have ever known, leaving family and friends behind, leaving schooling, jobs and homes......because they are afraid. They are so afraid that they climb aboard boats that are far from sea-worthy and make the treacherous journey across the ocean in an attempt to find a home where they can live in peace. The countries they are fleeing have no adequate refugee camps. Nowhere to go for protection.
We should not fear these innocents. They live in fear every single day. Some have done so for years. They will tell you that it is no way to live. They could also probably tell you what real fear is and would laugh at ours.
Our lives have never been threatened. Our homes are not burned down, shot at or bombed. Our schools are pretty safe places for our children. Our jobs are reasonably secure and we have opportunity and hope for our future. We also have clean water and food. Seriously, how lucky are we.
If we are so hell bent on treating asylum seekers as criminals and the scourge of society, we have got to address the issue of other options available to them.
The reason the Malaysia Solution is not popular is because, even with the negative connotations of boat arrivals, at our core we are still humane. We can't fight to stop live exports of animals if we are not willing to do the same for humanity.
We care. It's just that our caring only extends itself so far. Mine has no limit. My first question when people say they want the boats to stop is always...."Then what?"
If the boats stop will that end the suffering in war torn countries? No. Will it keep the persecuted safe by making them stay and live in fear? No. Will we sleep better at night secure in the knowledge that it doesn't directly affect us so it's not our problem? Some will, but for the majority...No.
So, I ask my question today of all of you.......If the boats stopped tomorrow, what alternatives would you suggest for those trying to escape a life lived in fear?