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Vindictive Approach to Refugees

P.F. MULLINS (CL 4/11/01) finds what I would call a Christian attitude towards asylum seekers ‘difficult to comprehend’.

I find the attitude of people like him difficult to comprehend.

Most people would agree that we have a right to regulate who comes into our country (even though, for most of us here in Australia, it is ultimately stolen property).

Similarly, if you own a ship you have the right to control who gets on it. But if your ship comes across a sinking ship, this right is over-ridden by an obligation to pick up the crew and passengers.

If you are driving in the outback and you come across a survivor of an accident you have an obligation to help. If a woman comes to your house in fear of a stalker you have no right to just send her away.

A country has similar obligations to people who are fleeing from an oppressive government or other agent of persecution. This is so even if that government is not an enemy – more so if, as in the case of Afghanistan now, it is an enemy against whom your own country is fighting.

My suggestion is that the Australian Navy should be used to transport asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. The advantages of this are:

  • It puts people-smugglers out of business.
  • It eliminates the risk to the lives of people who might otherwise be desperate enough to try to come here on unseaworthy boats.
  • It puts us in Indonesia’s good books.
  • It gives other countries more reason to respect us.
  • It gives us some control over who we are to pick up (but this should be exercised liberally, so that people don’t see themselves facing years in refugee camps).
  • It does something for people like me who would like to be able again to be proud to be Australian.

I believe the Australian Government’s present attitude to refugees is just plain vindictive.

GAVAN BREEN Alice Springs, NT

Written by: Staff writers
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