Politics

Opinion: Refugee crisis

BY ROYA AHMAD

International refugees have made positive contributions to Australian society.RECENTLY there has been a huge increase in the number of suicides and boats coming to the Australian shore. It seems it’s never ending as more and more boats arrive each week.

So let’s just quickly simplify what the difference is between an asylum seeker and a refugee.

The Australian Parliamentary Library social policy section expert, Janet Phillips, has written: “There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and often the terms are used interchangeably or incorrectly. An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.”

Also the Convention defines a ‘refugee’ as any person who, “owing to well‐founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees emphasises that a person who has a well‐founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not be labelled an “illegal immigrant” as the very nature of persecution means that their only means of escape may be via illegal entry and/or the use of false documentation.

Now that the refugee crisis seems to be coming out of control, the laws keep changing and many are left in detention for more than 18 months.

There has been an increased number of suicides and depression among the detainees. Many towns are refusing to allow the government to bring the detainees there.

But if you have a look at Dandenong Melbourne, it has been rebuilt thanks to the refugees and boat people. Once a haunted place, due to drug dealers, criminals and a lack of tourists and business, now it’s lively and a place many love to visit.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she is in favour of “mandatory detention because the asylum seekers have to be properly processed before letting out into the community”. So how much money is being spent on the processing of each asylum seeker?

Is it then worth keeping them in detention for that long?

Of course, many are saying they are queue jumpers and illegal immigrants. But wouldn’t you do the same if you were placed in their situation? If there was a war that made you fearful for yourself and your family’s safety, wouldn’t you leave for a better place?

In my opinion, it’s hard to decide if they deserve to be here or not. I know many refuges are starving and dying each day in many countries and don’t have the money to come to Australia or another country.

Look at the table that shows the number of boats, carrying refugees and asylum seekers, which have arrived in Australia since 1976.

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