Friday, 8 January 2010

Boat People Got No Reason to Live

An American friend of mine has recently provided me with her feedback after watching Australia: “You [Australian] people need to work on your problem of racism”. The problem is she’s absolutely right.
Check out what the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, a guy representing roughly half of Australians, has to say about asylum seeker boats if/when he is in charge. Allow me to quote from The Age: “Asylum seekers travelling on boats to Australia could be turned around at sea by the navy or coastguard in the future, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.” And if that’s not racism I don’t know what is, because otherwise I’m unable to explain what the agitation about those few thousands of boat people per year is all about.
And the scary thing? The scary thing is that Abbott is proud of what he’s saying and he’s saying it out loud, because he knows that this hidden (or not so hidden) ticket of racism can win him the elections. To him, these asylum seekers are a ticket with which he can draw more voted. He knows fully well that most Australians do not want these bloody foreign darkish people around.
The sad thing is that Australians fail to learn from their own recent history.

A few decades ago Australia was going through similar debates. That time it was to do with the influx of Vietnamese refugees knocking on Australia’s door following the end of that war.
The records show that public sentiments towards the Vietnamese were similar to what they currently are towards the boat people. Time went by, though, and Australia absorbed tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. And did it make much of a difference to the fabric of society? As far as I can tell the only difference is that now we have a wider variety of good food to choose from.
So would taking in the boats of asylum seekers do much damage to the fabric of Australian society? I suspect the only damage their taking would do is save the Aussie tax payer the hundreds of millions of dollars currently spent each year to keep those boat people away and to keep them in detention (i.e., behind bars) when they do come close enough. That money could then be spent on better education and health. Say, building several new hospitals.
How horrible! We should definitely keep those boat people away!


Moshe Reuveni said...

I stand corrected: According to an editorial from The Age, Australia ended up accommodating Vietnamese in the hundreds of thousands. I guess this only further proves my point.

Anonymous said...

Personally, my issue with people attempting to get into Australia illegally is that they are "jumping the queue". Australia has laws which determine who can enter this country, when and for how long. It is unfair that people feel that they can circumvent these laws by simply turning up on our door step.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I would have agreed with you if it wasn't for the fact the refugees arriving at Australia by boat are not illegals at all. Australia has signed a UN agreement saying it would accept refugees, and these boat people are mostly made of refugees; hence they are not illegal and they fully comply with your statement saying "Australia has laws which determine who can enter this country, when and for how long".
As for jumping the queue: These are refugees, not people sitting on sofa in an air-conditioned room while sipping wine. Where would you expect them to queue up, exactly? At the local concentration camp?
Think of it another way. Imagine it's the 1930's and you're a Jew trying to get out of Nazi Germany. Would you wait in some queue or would you get the hell out of there and then worry about formalities? Especially when international law acknowledges your right to do so?

What I find sad is that people, people like you, actually fall for the rhetoric coming from politicians who want to use Australians' inherent xenophobia to their advantage by declaring boat people refugees to be illegal and then suggest they're able to solve this "problem" they've just created.
There is a refugee problem: there are more refugees then we would care to take. But let's look at the problem together with other nations and try to find a constructive solution, not play silly political games while other people are suffering. Even if those suffering people are not white Christians.