The Australian Election

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of weeks, Australia has been going off the charts in crazy political antics. There will be an election, imminently. I get lots of mail telling me to register to vote, ‘Because it is an offence not to!’ ‘My vote counts!’ ‘We are counting on you!’ (from the conservative party no less).

They need to do more research.

  1. I am not an Australian citizen, therefore am illegible to vote.
  2. I wouldn’t vote conservative if you paid me.

This doesn’t stop me from having an opinion, and I’m sorry, but you’re now going to hear bits of it. 

But first look at this:

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This, I kid you not is not doctored or edited. And makes me so sad. I actually found it online at the beginning of August, and yes, I know I’ve been busy, but it made me so cross, so utterly furious that it’s taken me three weeks to actually calm down enough to blog about it.

Let’s deconstruct the word asylum shall we? Firstly it is a noun, it is a word denoting something, in this case ‘shelter or protection‘ which is why people with mental illnesses were often housed in asylums, to ensure their safety and the safety of others. It also is defined as ‘protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee‘.

Asylum seekers come in all shapes and sizes. Tamils were welcome in Australia with the open arms of sanctuary, until the situation in Sri Lanka was ‘resolved’, when they suddenly weren’t so welcome any more. The only problem was, when endemic, systematic caste and hierarchal systems are resolved, it takes a wee while for that to filter down to everyone. But no matter, we’ll send you back anyway, and because you’re application has been refused – you can’t come back in. I worked with a Sri Lankan Tamil, who applied for protection status through all the correct channels, then brought his wife and two children over to give them a safer life. Please note, not ‘better’ life. It took years, his wife moved over not knowing a word of English and hated it. She wanted to go back home, but couldn’t because she’d given up her status when she arrived in Australia and was now stuck. She may well have been safer, but was it better? The strain of trying to do the right thing for his family was immense on this sweet man.

There were 45.2 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2012. This figure includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers and 28.8 million internally displaced persons. http://www.refugeeweek.org.au/resources/stats.php

45.2 million people, that is nearly 25,000 people a day. A DAY.

Given that most refugees simply just try to get over the closest border, the largest population of displaced persons lives in…? Australia? the UK? the USA? No – Pakistan with 1,638,500 million refugees. 

Afghanistan was the leading country of origin of refugees in 2012, 2.6 million people spread across eighty-two countries, one in four refugees world-wide is someone sheltering from just one country. Yes, you did read that right. But when you have turmoil with a mass exodus of people flooding out the country, the surrounding countries simply cannot absorb, house, feed, clothe, just damn well look after all the people that are escaping. So globally, the care of people who have been displaced should be shared to spread the load. So just how many of these refugees are getting to Australia?  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/07/22/asylum-seekers-where-australia-stands

13,750 protection visas are issued as part of the government’s humanitarian program each year. But if you arrive illegally, either by boat, or at the airport (slightly higher percentage, but not as newsworthy), or outstay your visa’s welcome, you may not be granted anything other than a stay in a detention centre. Let’s compare that to the 71,819 visas that were issued to people on the skilled migrant program, because hey – you have a trade, you’re useful! Which makes protection visas about protecting 0.03% of the worldwide population of displaced persons.

I love this graph from http://www.worldbank.org/ Refugee population globally, and adding in Australia. Says a lot doesn’t it, that you can’t actually see the Australian contribution to resettling refugees on the bottom of the graph. But according to the media here, this is what most people are worried about.

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So who is one of the biggest contributors to people forcibly displaced? The UK, because in the arms industry worldwide, the UK is now proudly in second place. Which sickens me. 

My first husband was in the British Army, I asked him why he joined up once. He replied because he firmly believed in protecting people who couldn’t protect themselves, because at it’s bottom line – war is about beating people into submission until they give up, (back to those guns again). I’ve been sitting at this keyboard now trying to find the words for David Cameron proudly spruiking the arms industry, while busily cutting benefits, slamming doors on refugees and demolishing the infrastructure of welfare systems that actively support displaced persons in the UK, and I can’t. 

I’ve tried to find the words for my fury in Australia thinking that asylum seekers are a problem. I’ve researched this blog post and tried to find evidence to help me think more coherently and clearly, but when it comes down to it: I’m incandescent with anger that people are so stupid they cannot see that both the UK and Australia are nations of migrants. Both countries are islands, you couldn’t get to either of them unless you arrived by boat until very recently.

For all those rednecks who so proudly display ‘F*** off! We’re full!‘ bumper stickers, shame on you. For all those politicians who are using people’s misery, heartache and desperate need for sanctuary as bargaining points, shame on you too. People flee everything they know, sometimes with just the clothes on their backs, because they are scared, in mortal danger and trying to do the best they can to find safety for their families. They may not have had time to grab all their paperwork out of the burning rubble that was their home. 

It took me over eighteen months to apply for, get processed and be given a visa, in my first language! I’m also married to an Australian. I need to complete the final step of applying for citizenship, which if memory serves I am eligible for fairly shortly, but because it’s been a date out in the ether, I can’t remember when it is. The paperwork to support my application is stored in a fireproof safe and is the size of a phonebook. 

Imagine trying to complete the phonebook of material if you can’t speak English, are traumatised, bereaved, have no paperwork and just want to find somewhere safe? Aside from being angry, I’m also sad that the human family treats each other like that. That other people’s suffering means so little to them, that they’re worried more about scoring points in political debates than actually putting their money where their mouth is and just DOING SOMETHING.

 

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One thought on “The Australian Election

  1. Just got John Nguyen’s latest campaign letter in the mail…
    The phrase “… stop the boats” has been removed. The only reference to the issue in the letter is the sentence “Meanwhile, Labor has mismanaged our economy … They have surrendered our borders to illegal boat arrivals.” His dot point plan does not mention boats. Looks like someone in hid office took their proof reading job seriously this time!

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