Monday, 24 September 2012

We need more compassion and empathy for refugees

We live in a wonderful country.
We take it for granted that we have more than enough water to go around.
We have food and sanitation and waste collection and order.
We have electricity and gas, heating and cooling.
We have health services. And get this, often those services are free (for example if you go to a public hospital or a bulk billed doctor's service).
We have subsidised medicine via the PBS system.
We have education for our children.
And our women can vote.

Sure, our country has some issues, plenty. But in relation to the fundamental building blocks of living a happy life, we have ours right here. And we forget because we've moved to the next level of complexity in life. We have the basics and so our mind re-focuses on other things. Sport. Politics. Current issues. Relationships. Celebrities. TV. Sometimes we need something to remind us that these things are first world problems, and that many people in the world do not ever get to worry about the same things we get to worry about. They're busy worrying about how to get clean water, or food for the family. They're worrying about getting sick and not being able to work. Sometimes they're worried because they live in a war zone. But for us we forget all of that. It's so far from our minds.

Today I got my reminder. It slapped me across the face.

I navigated my internet browser to ninemsn.com.au to see what the celebs were wearing to the Emmys. I saw this:






Are Australian's refugee laws too soft? [In response to this article: 'Soft laws' bring pretend refugees.]

They had to be kidding, right?

I can't get over the lack of ignorance on this issue.

So. First: what (or rather who) is a "refugee"?

Refugees "are ordinary people who have been forced to leave their homes to escape human rights abuses, such as violence, persecution, torture, or worse". [Source: Amnesty International]

It is not illegal to seek refuge (or asylum) in a foreign country. The only thing you have to do is seek confirmation from the Government that you are entitled to refugee status.

Did you know that in 2010 only 5,500 asylum seekers arrived at Australia's borders seeking refugee status? For the whole year.

Think about how many people live in Australia already. It's around 22.6 million according to Google.
How many towns and cities and places to live are there in Australia? 2 thousand? 3 thousand? I've no idea but we have a big country here.

Consider that we are not a small nation. We have plenty of land, food, water etc. We have a large population. When you look at the figures, 5,500 asylum seekers is not a lot.

Think about the meaning of "refugee" again.

It is a person.

Seeking refuge.

From human rights abuses, violence, persecution, torture or worse (such as war or natural disaster).

Refugees are people (just like you and me) who are asking for help. By the very definition they are seeking refuge. If you were faced with war or violence or persecution would you ask for help or seek refuge someplace else? I would!!!!

This is not something that we should get our pants in a knot about. We should be encouraging our Government to approach this issue with sensitivity, compassion and creative thinking. And we should NOT be encouraging our Government to "come down" on these people.

I can't solve this on my own. But I can ask publicly that before you jump up and down about refugee and asylum seekers just have a bit of a think. Walk a mile in that person's shoes. Maybe research the facts first.
I am disgusted at how many people voted 'Yes - Australia's Refugee laws are "too soft"'. And I am incredibly disgusted at ninemsn.com.au for even putting a question like that out there - even if it was in response to a stupid article quoting something someone wrote.

So disgusted I wrote ninemsn.com.au an email informing them I'm not reading their stupid news site anymore (copy of email is below).

I am not asking anyone to write to ninemsn.com.au or boycott the news site. But PLEASE for the love of God, PLEASE can we have some compassion for these sorts of issues? And can we PLEASE have a little THINK before we jump up and down about refugees and other immigration issues?

Because, God forbid, if were ever to need to seek refuge or asylum ourselves - I'm pretty certain we'd want others do the same for us.



Email sent 24-09-2012:
Dear Ninemsn,

Are refugee laws too SOFT?

I went to your news site today:
http://ninemsn.com.au/

I saw a "vote here" question: "Are Australia's refugee laws too soft?"

What is wrong with you?!?!

First. The question is framed in a completely biased way. A question like that is completely leading. Too Soft? I know this is a topical issue at the moment but don't newspapers have an obligation to present the unbiased facts? Oh, that's right, I apologise. You need to appeal to the broader public and create sensationalised content. It's just such a shame you're doing it for this particular issue.

You might not have voted but I cannot believe that >31000 people voted "yes" understanding really what they were saying.

I voted "no". How can you even stage such a ridiculous vote?

All Australian's (except Indigenous Australians) are refugees in some way. And before you get on your high horse about the legality or illegality of how we all originally got here - I might point out that Australia was not in fact settled - see the High Court Mabo decision. I'm happy to forward it to you if you don't have a copy.

The refugee issues in Australia are actually quite complex and should not be reduced to Papa Bear fairy-tale "too hard" or "too soft" rhetoric. Those issues require much more compassion and creative thinking. What we don't need is a mob of red-neck Aussies wielding pitchforks at non western people. And you are inciting that with your ridiculous vote.

I did not previously hold your news website in the highest of regards but you have lowered yourself beyond anything I had imagined. In my mind you are now in the same category as **** and ***, i.e.: sensationalised propaganda rubbish.
I did go to your news site today. Shamefully.
Rest assured. I won't be going again.

Regards
Mary Ryan

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