I AM writing to express my concern on the issue of refugees which in recent times has been a major item on the political agenda and reported in the media.
Asylum seekers have been labelled “illegals”, “boat people” and “queue jumpers”. However, there has been little debate on the truth of these claims.
Refugees are defined under Article 33.1 of the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 as any person who: “… owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his (or her) nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself (or herself) of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his (or her) former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
Australia has lately undertaken campaigns to deter and impede asylum seekers from making claims for protection. The changes are the introduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs), safe haven visas (SHVs) and the Border Protection Amendment Act – introduced at the same time as TPVs. This amends Section 36 of the existing legislation which defines to whom Australia has a protection obligation.
Asylum seekers/refugees are not entitled to income security and most do not have permission to work. They are denied access to most mainstream social services including employment assistance, English language classes, health and education. The absence of adequate income affects their self-esteem, identity and their suffering is intensified.
Asylum seekers/refugees are seeking to live in a country free of fear and persecution which they have experienced in their country of origin. They are human beings and have human rights along with the rest of us. The labels which have been placed on them are unnecessary. People who place labels on refugees are obviously unaware of the conditions of the countries they are fleeing. The above definition of a refugee clearly explains that these people are genuinely concerned for their safety.
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.
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