Where is the humane and compassionate approach to asylum-seekers?

July 11, 2010

It is very concerning to see both of the older parties whipping up a frenzy of fear in the community about asylum seekers. This knee jerk reaction is taking us increasingly further from a humane and compassionate approach to this issue, and closer to the policies of the Howard era. 95% of asylum seekers arriving by boat are found to be genuine refugees, and at the current rate of refugee arrivals, it would take 20 years to fill the MCG. It is not illegal to arrive in Australia seeking asylum, so it is misleading and divisive to call these people illegal immigrants.

Surely we should be treating people who are risking their lives to escape persecution the way we would want our own family and friends to be treated if they were forced to leave their country because of war or similar reasons. The number of people risking their lives to come to Australia by boat is minuscule compared to the numbers who come by plane, or who overstay their visas. Just 3441 asylum seekers were given refugee status in Australia last year, roughly 1% of the total migration program for that year. In comparison, around 50,000 people over-stayed their (mainly) business, student or holiday visas.

In the short-term, we ought to process asylum seeker applications rapidly here in this country, and where the need is genuine, help these people to make a new life in Australia until such time they can go home, ensuring that they are not held behind razor wire before this happens.

In the long-term, we need to work at a global level to ensure that all countries are democratic and free from conflict, and that catastrophic climate change can be averted, therefore greatly reducing the number of people who will need to seek asylum in the future.

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