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The truth about asylum seekers

Why do asylum seekers flee to countries around the world?

Long before asylum seekers make the decision to board a boat for a risky journey to places like Europe and Australia, they have faced enormous danger in their homeland.

Today, living in our community are:

  • Sri Lankan men who have lost legs and arms as a result of indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the Sri Lankan civil war
  • Sri Lankan women and men who have been repeatedly raped by soldiers
  • Young Hazara men who have fled Afghanistan after their fathers, brothers and uncles have been murdered and dismembered simply because of their ethnicity and religion.

Asylum Seekers are fleeing from horrible situations. They are not in the same category as people who decide to migrate to Australia for a better life. They simply cannot fit into an “orderly migration” program.

They are desperate people fleeing for their lives. They are doing exactly what we would do if we were in the same situation!

Why don’t asylum seekers stay in Malaysia or Indonesia?

There are tens of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in countries in our region like Malaysia and Indonesia. None of these countries is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. This means that asylum seekers are not guaranteed protection and may be very vulnerable. Many asylum seekers in these countries may wait for many years before they are processed and resettled. In the meantime, they may have very limited access to accommodation, health services, education, work and income. In some of our regional neighbours, asylum seekers have been beaten, brutally caned and even locked up in jail.

If you fled from danger and found you and your family faced more danger and deprivation, wouldn’t you try to find somewhere safer where your fears could end? Asylum seekers who try to get to Australia or other countries by boat know they are taking an enormous risk, but they are desperate to find safety and freedom.

Why is it good for Australia to welcome asylum seekers?

Asylum seekers are not terrorists or criminals or bludgers. They are people fleeing persecution and seeking hope, freedom, safety and life.

The most recent data produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that asylum seekers are 45 times less likely to have police charges laid against them than other Australians.

In our community today, there are thousands of asylum seekers who have been recognised as refugees. They are living normal lives with their families. They are working hard, sending their children to school and making a positive contribution to the community. They are free of the danger and fear from which they fled and they are deeply grateful to Australia for giving them safety and freedom.

Why does Australia’s asylum seeker policy cost so much?

Australia’s asylum seeker policy costs so much because successive Governments have chosen harsh policies in a vain attempt to deter people from coming to our shores. Locking up asylum seekers in detention centres and sending them to countries like PNG and Nauru for processing costs a lot.

After all this expense, Government figures show that over 90% of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat are refugees. Many of them are traumatised by their treatment here and need substantial medical support and counselling to overcome the psychological damage caused by their prolonged detention in Australia or in our offshore processing centres.

Australia did not always lock asylum seekers up or send them overseas. In the 1970s, when over 1 million Vietnamese people fled persecution in their homeland and took to boats in search of safety, it is estimated that between 50,000 and 200,000 people drowned. Back then, Australia did not do what we are doing now. We cooperated with countries in the region and with settling countries like the USA, France, Canada and Great Britain to settle over 1 million refugees. Australia alone settled 137,000 Vietnamese refugees without locking them up or sending them to other countries for processing!

Is there a better way to deal with asylum seekers?

Nobody wants people drowning while attempting to get to Australia; but stopping people coming here by boat will not stop the drownings. In the last 6 years, just over 1,000 asylum seekers have tragically drowned trying to come to Australia. More than a thousand asylum seekers have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in just the last 6 months. If we were able to stop boats coming to Australia, we would only shift this awful problem elsewhere. We would not stop the drownings, just where they happened.

If Australia wants to stop the terrible drownings in our region and to respond constructively to the plight of asylum seekers in our region, we need to work respectfully with countries in our region like Malaysia and Indonesia where there are many asylum seekers and with countries which can resettle refugees just like former PM Malcolm Fraser did in the 1970s with the cooperation of the Labor Opposition. We worked with our neighbours to process refugee claims in the region and joined with suitable resettlement countries like the USA to offer a significant number of places for them to start a new life free from fear.

This is the only sensible way to put the people smugglers out of business; and it is the only way to humanely treat desperate, traumatised people who are only doing what we would do to save ourselves and our families.

PLEASE URGE CANDIDATES IN YOUR ELECTORATE TO SUPPORT ASYLUM SEEKER POLICIES WHICH STOP THE DROWNINGS AND GIVE THEM HOPE OF SAFETY AND FREEDOM.

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