Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stop the Boats........then what?

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?


  1. There's no doubt the condition of many of these people are as described, but it's also a fact that many of them, especially amongst the boat people from Asia, are financial migrants who have no other way to get here. These certainly are queue jumpers.

  2. Well, nomooremike, isn't that what processing requirements are aimed at stopping? Surely the procedures involved in gaining refugee status are stringent enough to separate the true refugees from the 'queue jumpers'?

  3. Part of the solution is actually the problem in the first place. there are 2 groups here and the media or politic's seem unwilling to diverse themselves from putting all the people in the same boat. Processing should be onshore, although centres in naru and PNG also see jobs created in those area's where very few jobs are created. The problem we have at present is that the "queue jumpers" are clogging the system, all the ones rioting, hunger striking, etc are ones who have had there cases found to be that of people who are not legit refugee,s seeking assylum. The policy should be that if your claim is not correct, you get one appeal if that appeal fails and you are found again to be found at appeal not to be a refugee then you are deported back to whatever country you came from. this will not stop the boats but it will stop the "queue jumpers" quickly so then we will have less boat's.
    If you are found to be a refugee then you should be skill assessed, quickly and efficiently and housed in area's of this countries needs. As we have become a very multicultural country in a very short time we need funding for english schools so that these people have a better chance of working in our country. The first policy should be giving immigration the resources to speed up the processing of these people. Politic's and media have now so blurred agenda's on this issue most people are over the whole thing.

  4. Another problem with those who arrive by boat is assessing where they come from, many throw their passports away and claim they are from a country whose people are granted refugee status.

    This isn't the case with those arriving by air as they can't get on the flight without a passport.

    What do you do if refugee status is turned down and no-one knows where you are from?

    If they are illegal, or if they don't qualify as refugees, they should be sent back, no arguing and no more appeals.

  5. Many of the people who fled Hungary when it was invaded by Russia had money to bribe Soviet guards and authorities. I know personally of one Hungarian family in Cairns who were able to bribe their way to safety with cigarettes! Having money is in fact the only way to get out of these countries for these people. I don't think that should be used to guage whether they are "genuine" or "not genuine".

  6. A seriously weird post from Andrew Bolt today backing down on the seriousness of the boat arrivals after only one has arrived in the last five weeks it seems, while fervour reigns in the mejia:


    Oh, and Dribble: "If you are found to be a refugee then you should be skill assessed" Ummm, no Paul, and this would in fact contravene refrugee conventions.Do you understand what a refugee is?

    Stephen Kirchners market proposal to auction the process and create revenue while destroying the business model of people smugglers is not as stupid as it may seem to many ......