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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Stop demonising displaced people

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Joyce Morley, Tweed Heads South

I am appalled at the situation of asylum seekers being treated like a political football. It started after the events of 9/11 when the Howard government linked refugee boat arrivals with possible terrorist activity. The fear-invoking tactics used then are still being used by both the coalition and Labor to win elections.

There are people fleeing persecution all over the world. As long as there are wars, injustices, oppression, poverty and harsh environments, there will be refugees seeking a better and safer life for themselves and their families. So it is impossible to ‘stop the boats’.

On ABC1’s Q&A program (July 4) it was made very clear that Indonesia will not accept the return of refugee boats into their waters. So this puts an end to the coalition’s ‘turn back the boats’ policy.

There must be a better way to treat those less fortunate than us. As if they haven’t suffered enough, we treat them with suspicion; we lock them up indefinitely in remote locations in sub-standard conditions; we separate families; we deny them the right to work; and we stop assessing their claims for asylum. And to top it all off, we now accuse them of being economic refugees (even though when claims were still being assessed 90 per cent were found to be genuine).

What is the solution? First, stop referring to asylum seekers as a ‘problem’. They are human beings who are suffering and in need of help. It is time that politicians take a humane bi-partisan approach to allowing safe and speedy re-settlement of genuine refugees. I recommend that they refer to the Greens Immigration and Refugee Policies in order to find a kinder and fairer way forward.

Let’s stop demonising desperate displaced people as if they are criminals in need of deterrence and punishment. Instead treat them with the compassion and dignity that we would expect if we were in their shoes.


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  1. That seems to be the Achilles heal of the major parties’ argument of why we need to stop refugees getting here by boat, they haven’t raised a single logical, rational argument why we need to stop refugees getting here by boat. Even all the SOLAS arguments say we should get them off those death traps and to dry land (Australia)as quickly possible, not return them to the vagaries of the open ocean and knowingly potentially to their deaths. These people are seeking asylum from persecution; regional businesses want them to fill the gaps in employment and they are outnumbered by genuinely illegal immigrants who arrive by plane with no legitimate legal claim to stay by hundreds to one yet we are spending billions on stopping this non existent ‘problem’. Two words must occur to Labor and Liberal politicians as they step off the podium from yet another ‘stop the boats’ media moment – ‘sucked in’.


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