I AM writing to address some misconceptions in Mr Bernard Maume’s letter about the refugee situation worldwide and particularly in Australia (CL 1/7/01).
Our first priority should be to those in desperate need of help and asylum. These include those coming by boat, supposedly “illegally”, jumping or refusing the “queue”.
Firstly, these people are quite legal if they are seeking asylum. Secondly, they are not “queue-jumpers” or refusing to join a queue because for most of these people, there is no queue to get into. For asylum seekers, it is hard enough to be granted asylum when an Australian embassy or United Nations program exists in their country, but it is almost impossible when no embassy exists at all. For the majority of refugees coming to Australia no embassy exists in their country, eg Iraq or Afghanistan.
Consequently, they find their only means of coming to Australia is through “people smugglers”, who seem to be doing more to get these people to safety than the political hard-heartedness of Australians.
We must also keep in mind that 70 to 80 per cent of refugees are granted asylum and that the Australian humanitarian migration program (for asylum seekers) has not been filled for the past few years. So, those fair-minded people who support Mr Ruddock and Mr Sciacca should find that these politicians’ logic is flawed. These two politicians support an extensive migration program for Australia’s economic growth, but they lock up mostly genuine (but weak) asylum seekers because they are pandering to the myths that we are being flooded by refugees and migrants, and that boat people are taking the place of “genuine” overseas refugees.
However, the minister does not even fill the 12000 places in the migration program for these people, so we are actually not being flooded and overseas refugees are missing out anyway (according to Budget figures).
Refugees have a small part in our migration program (12,000 out of around 90,000 places). They are probably the most needy migrants we accept. I wouldn’t call them below our standards, nor would I deny any refugee, even those economically desperate or criminal, a place in Australia.
The message of Christ was not to exclude, but include, especially those in need of guidance and help.
This migration is not the answer to the present poor state of the world, but it seems an appropriately compassionate and Christ-centred response to open our arms to these needy people. They are hurting in the same way many of the people of Australia are hurting because of the present corporate dominated neo-liberal system.
I agree with Mr Maume that “we must not be swayed by muzzy-minded zealots with a political axe to grind”. I would say that those politicians and interests espousing a neo-liberal ideology are the ones grinding the axe, as we allow ourselves to be pathetically diverted from the real problems with our system.
Restoring hope, faith and love in the community is not achieved by grinding those most in need, which we are not only doing to the refugees but to those many poor, oppressed and dispossessed (which includes many low and middle income earners) whose serious situation goes on unaddressed as we go on a witch hunt.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.