Friday, 17 December 2010

I might try to be a little less

serious between now and Christmas but I would like to deal with one serious issue first.
I hope that, if nothing else, the appalling tragedy at Flying Fish cove on Christmas Island with the deaths of so many people will cause the government to rethink policy. I am not going to hold my breath.
I am also well aware, from direct sources, that "migration agents" are informing people that they only need to get to a detention centre and then tell the right story in order to be allowed permanent entry. One family went so far as to scar the body of the son they wanted to send. The scars would "prove" torture. Once he was in Australia he could arrange for his family to come. Yes. It happens. He died of an unrelated illness before he could reach Australia. His family still has to pay the "migration agent" for the journey he never completed.
Temporary Protection Visas have been criticised because of the uncertainty surrounding them. An individual on a TPV never knows when he or she will be sent home. Any reduction in limits to family following the original residence seeker is also criticised.
Those who speak out on these issues are heard loudly and clearly in the media. Those who disagree are labelled as racist and lacking in compassion.
Now, oddly enough, many refugees want to go 'home'. A TPV would suit them very well and, while they may want their family, they do not expect themselves or their family to be allowed to stay forever. They want to go home eventually because home is where things are familiar and they are understood. However welcome we make them our place is not the same and we do things differently.
We may well be giving refugees something they do not necessarily want. It is residence seekers who are looking for what we have to offer - but on their terms and not ours. We confuse the two.


Sheeprustler said...

I'm not sure what change in policy would help, frankly. If a hard line is taken a la John Howard and they stop coming, what happens to them? We don't know how genuine they are until they are assessed, and none of the suggestions as to how to do this seems to satisfy many people. We have an obligation under a treaty to accept refugees but it doesn't explain how to tell that they 'really' are refugees. What happened to the ones who didn't come during the Howard policy? Did they die, end up somewhere else, or just have their ambitions thwarted? I have no answer and I don't think anyone else does, especially those who are expected to have answers.

catdownunder said...

Yes, I understand what you are saying. Two points. First, most actual ("genuine" if you like) do end up in refugee camps - or at embassies if they have the knowledge and the money to get that far. I often have to deal with the communication issues but there are many cues that will mark them out as being at risk.
Second, those who did not come during the Howard era and who were at risk ended up in camps on the borders, in neighbouring countries and so on. Some of them, particularly professionals, made it further than that and then sought asylum through legal channels - e.g. by going to an embassy.
Of course not everyone can do this but, if you have a genuine fear of persecution, then it is much cheaper and far less dangerous to seek asylum through legal means. Asylum seekers are usually happy to go anywhere they perceive as "safe" or even relatively safe.
When people start specifically saying, "I want to go to/live in Australia" then the validity of their claim to be refugees does have to be questioned.