Tonight I attended the organising collective meeting for Brisbane’s World Refugee Day Rally which we are planning for this Sunday June 20 at 1pm at Brisbane Square.
Seeking asylum is not a crime, it is a human right. In Australia, there is no such thing as an ‘illegal immigrant’ to describe an asylum seeker. Any use of that term that’s bandied around is sensationalism and fear-mongering at it’s very worst. You know, pretty much the opposite of the ‘fair go’ values that I was born and raised believing was what defined me as Australian.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (and its 1967 protocol), to which Australia is a signatory, defines a refugee as:
Any person who owing to a 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/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.
The Convention Definition is used by the Australian Government to determine whether our country has protection obligations towards an individual. If a person is found to be a refugee, Australia is obliged under international law to offer support and to ensure that the person is not sent back unwillingly to the country of origin. More details at Safecom’s Refugees: Australians and the Facts Versus the Myths.
Only those countries who are NOT signatories to this United Nations Human Rights Convention are technically able to call asylum seekers ‘illegal’. However, our Australia is such a wonderful country that we – as compassionate, peaceful and pro-democratic citizens – signed this Convention. This means no person seeking asylum in Australia is ever ‘illegal’. I’m dumbfunded every time the word is used by the mass media. I really don’t understand their rationale for confusing the facts. It’s not an objective telling of the facts; the word actually loads a story with a particularly negative perspective. It’s sensationalist journalism and it bugs the hell out of me. Big cheers for all the journalists out there who give their editors a good run for their money when preparing their own articles and a big shout out to editors who offer a more objective style of reporting on asylum seekers.
Word on the street is that Queensland now has it’s first 2 detention centres and there’s a 3rd on its way. Guh. This is a so shameful, particularly given I am aware of NGOs whose own refugee support services are radically underfunded and yet who could – with the bizarre amount of funding that’s spent imprisoning people – could instead use these funds to offer a community-based style approach to welcoming asylum seekers. These organisations have countless talented, professional staff and passionate volunteers who’d be willing to genuinely provide the welcoming environment that these traumatised men, women and children deserve. Let’s think outside this box of fear we seem to have found ourselves in.
When I was a little girl, I remember visiting an open reception centre for refugees and asylum seekers. This is what I’m asking for now. And they call me a ‘progressive’ because I’m seeking to re-instate old policies; to consider revisiting a similar arrangement as that which occurred in the 1970s and 80s. Odd. It’d just be so more socially useful to welcome asylum seekers in spaces where individuals, community organisations and governments can provide health, language and work support while people in the community are free to visit their new neighbours and where people are free to leave and learn about what makes our communities tick. This is the lucky country I remember. I don’t think I’m asking for much. Just a touch of humanity to shine a light on Australia’s recent dark history.
Hopefully see you Sunday.