Sunday, 3 August 2014

I am going to stick my neck out

this morning and say that not everyone who claims to be a refugee is one.
Yes, I know that is a very unpopular point of view and that I should not be saying it. I know it will make me appear racist and selfish and lacking in compassion.
I know that a certain Senator here would tear strips off me. How dare I say that not everyone who claims to be a refugee is one? How dare I say that not everyone who risks their lives to come here by boat is anything but a refugee?
Well, I am sorry - they aren't.
I had a phone call yesterday and, instead of going off to meet a group of fellow knitters for a bit of well earned relaxation I went off to talk to the person who phoned me and her family.
They were doing the right thing - or what they thought was the right thing. They have been very pro-refugee. They have been attending rallies, writing to the media, protesting in other ways - and giving a lot of practical assistance to people who have come here as refugees. Their parents have done the same thing.
As a family I admire them because they really have put their words into action.
But the parents have had a refugee family living in their little beach "shack". It is a comfortable little house in a very pleasant location. After being alerted by a very late night phone call they went to see the family yesterday. They were not there. There was nothing else there either. The place had been cleaned out. Nobody knows where the family or the furniture - including a fridge and stove and beds, bedding, table, chairs etc. have gone. Add to that the police are looking for the father of the family. He is wanted on a variety of offences - in his home country as well as here. And the name he has been using is not the same as the name the police had been given - although the photograph is, apparently, too distinctive to be anyone else.
He was, from all accounts, a "charming" and "quiet" man who told a most convincing story. His wife was "very quiet" and the children were "extremely shy". The man employing the father thought he was going to be a good employee - but some things had gone missing. He had been in the job not quite three weeks.
Local people apparently say their move was assisted by other people who spoke their language - although the family claimed to know nobody here at all.
The family who tried to help are shattered. There is very little that can be done even if the law catches up with the father. They knew that but they needed to talk to someone. So, I listened.
I have known other "refugees" who have just simply disappeared too. They have been found housing and employment and been given a great deal of support. Most of them have at least left much of what they have been given behind but they leave. It is then the stories of dubious relationships with other members of their own communities come out. It is then that stories of demands and threats and concerns about possible domestic violence surface. Sometimes people try to excuse it as people being traumatised by their experiences - and perhaps that is sometimes the case - but sometimes it is clear that people have simply told a story to avoid facing justice in their own country. They continue to behave as they always have.
It is not something any of us want to face. I don't know what the answer is because those who genuinely need help can also behave in ways we see as unacceptable. Culture and trauma both contribute to that. We want to believe the people we are helping are genuinely in need of our help. It isn't always the case.
And what makes me so angry is not just the harm it does to the cause of those genuinely in need but the hurt it does to those who tried to help.

1 comment:

virtualquilter said...

Cat,

Last year a girl turned up on my doorstep who had been bashed and raped. She had offered to help a so called refugee to learn English.

I didn't see her until after she managed to get herself dressed, but I do know the police have some hope that the man will be deported. I certainly hope so ... not happy about living next door to someone who would do that, and as she is a taxpayer she was partly funding his support here in Australia.