Cruel treatment of refugees

Shame on you, immigration minister Chris Bowen. Shame on you, expert panellist Paris Aristotle. And shame on the entire pantheon of Australian politicians from all sides who support our current inhumane policy on asylum seekers and refugees.

Do you really think the measures we have adopted - from holding people indefinitely in vile onshore detention centres and calling them not by names but by numbers, to sending them to a tent in Nauru or PNG - will deter desperate people from embarking on the hazardous journey that just might, and often will, end in their acceptance as bona fide refugees?

Do you think they're watching Australian news and current affairs TV over a beer and a hot dinner, and weighing up the pros and cons of their journey as if they were sitting with a travel agent?

"Oh, the Australian government is planning to fly us to Nauru if they catch us before we reach Christmas Island," they're saying to each other between mouthfuls. "So what do you reckon? Should we still go?"

"Look it up on the net, dear - Nauru might be a very nice place too, like Australia."

Oh, come on, Aussie, come on. Offshore processing is going to be even more cruel and inhumane than what we're doing now.

The pretence that by increasing (by just a little) the numbers accepted through Australian consulates overseas and border refugee camps, we will be meeting our international obligations, is a joke.

There are no embassies or consulates in many of the places where desperate people gather, having fled from war, terror or persecution with nothing but what they can carry, and no documents.

Those who give all they have to embark on a dangerous journey by boat are not queue-jumpers. There is no queue to be jumped. There are simply helpless people in many places on this earth more terrified of staying than of leaving.

And they are not "illegals". It is completely legal for anyone to arrive in Australia, by any means, and ask for asylum. Immigration figures show the real "illegals" come here on tourist visas and don't go home: 7930 Chinese, 5090 Americans, 4640 Malaysians and 3650 British are on the loose right now, maybe swapping yarns with the 3500 Indians, 2760 Koreans, 2620 Indonesians, 2410 Filipinos, 1860 Thais, 1690 Vietnamese, 1460 Germans, 1280 Japanese, 1260 French, 1240 Irish and 1090 Fijians who are also at large.

And we splutter and finger-point at a few hundred desperate boat people. Get used to it, Australia. We're only getting those poor souls fleeing war, persecution and the intolerable conditions of refugee camps now.

Wait till the climate refugees start coming.

As the quote that's all over Facebook puts it so perfectly, under the image of a broadly smiling Aboriginal face: "Having trouble with boat people?

"So did we."

Topics:  opinion

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