Saturday, April 25, 2009

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COMMENT: Border Insecurity ...

The letters section of the Daily Telegraph of Friday 24 April 2009 has two typical examples of uninformed hysteria concerning the issue of "border security" and asylum seekers. I'm in no way suggesting the Tele shouldn'y be publishing these letters. Everyone's voice should be heard, and it's useful to know just what some people are thinking about such sensitive issues.

The first letter is from one P Cummins. It starts like this ...
The reason we now have a swag of boat people trying to get into Australia is because the Rudd Government last year loosened our border security laws ...
This might possibly be true in the case of Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers, but the fact is that the conflict in Sri Lanka has only recently escalated to the extent that many Tamil civilians are fleeing directly from Sri Lanka as opposed to via Indonesia.
They need to be tightened for the protection of the citizens of this country, an obligation the Government has to its people.
So Australian citizens need to be protected from weak malnourished asylum seekers fleeing persecution. And what will these poor people bring with them? WMD? Nuclear weapons?
One has to ask why all of these asylum seekers come down to Australia? There are dozens of Muslim countries near Iraq and Afghanistan that are wealthy and not at war, where other Muslims and their families would fit right in and be comfortable.
There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in Syria, which is struggling to accommodate them. Syria is itself not a terribly wealthy nation. Hazara Afghans fleeing the Taliban would hardly want to stick around in Pakistan where elements of the same Taliban have taken over large areas of the country. And using your reasoning, I'm not sure which Muslim-majority country Tamil Sri Lankans will go to given that they're a mixture of Hindu and Christian. In any event, it isn't just about religion. People's identities are not limited to religion. If our identity was solely determined by religion, we should have seen Kevin Rudd and/or Malcolm Turnbull and not John Safran being nailed to a cross in the Philippines. After all, the Philippines is a Catholic country, and both Rudd and Turnbull are Catholic.
So why come many thousands of miles down to Australia, a basically British culture and a Christian country? These are the questions we should be asking.
In that case, I'm sure quite a few of these people would happily convert to Christianity if it meant they and their families would be safe. After all, quite a few asylum seekers such as Kashmiri Peter Qasim converted to Christianity. However, that didn't stop him from being kept in detention by the Howard government even though it drove him into severe depression. And I guess we shouldn't have any problem accepting Tamil Christian asylum seekers. As for being British, I don't think indogenous Aussies were eating with knives and forks 40,000 years ago. Then again, neither were the Poms for that matter.

But why should we be asking such questions? After all, our immigration system does not discriminate on the basis of religion. And anyway, how can we really tell what religion a person subscribes to? Or is it someone we determine based on their racial background? So we assume that an Iraqi must be Muslim because he is Iraqi and has an Arabic-sounding name, even if he could well be a Chaldean or Yazidi or Assyrian Orthodox?

Then there is a letter from one Lynne Cole whose arguments make a similar degree of (non)sense.
The recent boatload of asylum seekers were all male, presumably some of them are or were married, perhaps with children. So they left family behind to cope with the Taliban on their own.
Your point being? That these men just callously left their families behind and left without so much as a goodbye? That their families had no say in the matter? That their family members don't wish to see even one person flee to safety? Or are you saying that their families are all in Afghanistan or Pakistan and not in Indonesia? That the Taliban have made it to Jakarta?
How will the families of the five dead survive?
Are you suggesting you're really concerned about their welfare and would support their migrating to Australia?
Why aren't these brave men standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our young soldiers who are in Afghanistan trying to improve the lot of the Afghan people?
Maybe for the same reason the vast majority of young Australian men and women aren't there - they're not professional soldiers. And maybe because it isn't nice staying in a place where you could be kicked out of your property and/or be murdered at anytime and where you've already seen family members slaughtered. And from a strategic perspective, the last thing Coalition forces and the Afghan National Army needs is severely traumatised people fighting on their side.
Our young men are killed or injured while these people choose to try for an easy life in Australia.
It's so easy being away from one's family and only hearing their voices on the other end of a phone (presuming you can even contact them). It's a piece of cake surviving in a new country where you aren't allowed to work and cannot access any social security and are forced to rely on charity to make some kind of a living. And on top of that, having to deal with the trauma of having just survived life in a warzone and mourning alone over your dead relatives, presuming that you even know that they are dead.
Those we have already admitted no doubt tell those back home that what a soft touch we are.
Pfft. Are you suggesting, Lynne, that we start behaving like al-Qaeda and Taliban and LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army just so that you feel protected from nasty dark-skinned refugees? I'm glad we are a soft touch. If you want to experience a not-so-soft touch, feel free to go join our brave men and women fighting in Afghanistan.