"boat arrivals" since the present government came to power. By "boat arrivals" I mean people who have boarded a boat in another country in order to come here as "refugees".
They are those who succeeded. There are others who have not. A few have been turned back and others have lost their lives. Nobody knows how many people have lost their lives. Those who attempt to smuggle them to Australia are not going to admit it and those who endeavour to come this way are often lost forever to family and friends. They have no way of finding out what has happened.
Nobody seems to know what the answer to the problem is. The present government certainly does not want to acknowledge the dramatic rise in people attempting to come here might have anything to do with its policies. Reports that there are many more boats than usual planning to leave Indonesia before the September poll are viewed with resignation rather than determination to do something that might genuinely help.
Argument rages - and will continue to rage - about what should be done. Yes, the problem is an immensely complex one and the answer has to be complex too but there are things that could be done.
Someone who works in the area was talking to me yesterday. He came to see me about a particular individual. Like many other "refugees" who reach our shores this young man was sent out as the advance party. His family paid the exorbitant amount demanded by people smugglers, put him on a boat and sent him to Australia with the idea in mind that he would work here and bring out the rest of his family. It is a very common scenario. Families try to migrate in this way.
This time things are a little different. He was granted refugee status about six years ago. He spoke a little English on arrival. He caught the eye of one of the many members of the community who try to assist refugees. This time it was someone with the power to make things happen. He was given the chance to learn more English and made the most of it. He was then offered the chance to do more study - and took it. The terms of his arrival meant he was able to work part-time and study. He has worked and he has studied. He has skills his country can use.
Things have quietened down considerably in his home country. He's going back to help. One of the organisations I work for is interested in using his skills to help some of the professionals who volunteer their time. He is interested in helping them. What he needs is to know that he will be able to support himself when he gets there. The person I was talking to thinks that is going to be possible. The last negotiations are taking place.
It will almost certainly happen and I hope it does. I think this is the sort of thing which should be happening - and happening often. I believe it is the sort of outcome we should be aiming for. We should welcome those who are prepared to learn English as well as their first language. We should train them if they have no skills or upgrade their skills if they already have them. When the situation has changed for the better - as it almost always will - then they should be given assistance to return and do something for their own country.
His family is, I am told, not happy with the situation. They believe he should stay here and bring them out. It is what they had planned. It is not going to happen. It worries the young man but, even if he stayed, his family would not be granted permission to come.
I have been looking at the paperwork. There are documents in just two languages this time. His home country is not making it easy for him to go back or for his new qualifications to be recognised. This happens frequently. Paying some bribes might help, almost certainly would help, but this will be done "by the book".
I think we need much more of this. We should be offering much more education to those who claim refugee status. We should be saying to people "we will train you in skills your country needs and when things calm down we will repatriate you and help you use those skills to rebuild your own country".
Because yes, things almost always do quieten down to the point where it is "safe" to return. If we simply allow the young men, and they are almost always young men, to come and settle here then we deprive other countries of one of their most valuable resources. It will simply increase the problems they are experiencing. It is a good way of providing assistance to other countries inside our own and getting more people involved.
And yet I am being told over and over again that it cannot be done.
I hope you get there Sefu - your country needs you.