Last night I witnessed on 60 Minutes an absolute disgrace of a story by Liam Bartlett. It is a real shame, as I usually find that 60 Minutes is a balanced programme, and I look forward to watching it each week.
Surprise, surpise, the story was about asylum seekers. However, it was different this time round, because it included a whistleblower.
Last nights “whistlblower” who is allegedly a member of The Department Of Immigration staff on Christmas Island, added nothing new to the debate, but seemed to do her utmost to promote the racist agenda that these poor asylum seekers are not worth helping.
She explained to us that these asylum seekers were arriving with photos of nice houses that they owned, and credit cards from Swiss and Austrian banks. The way she described them, I am surprised that they don’t come in on private charter flights….. She expects us to believe that these poor people are leaving a life of luxury, and risking the lives of their entire family, to come to Australia and start all over again, that sounds plausible.
But hold on, did she have the figures to back this up? Hardly… In fact, she told the viewers last night that “most” of the detainees are not legitimate asylum seekers, and should be sent home.
Wow, did they forget to mention that she worked for the UNHCR? Not at all, because she doesn’t. Nor did they bother to correct her and tell the viewers that in fact, the asylum seekers that are not legitimate are in fact sent home, and that these make up approximately 3% of those processed, hardly “most of them”. For those of you with the mathematical ability of the whistleblower, that means 97% are legitimate asylum seekers.
Anyway, Liam was on Christmas Island to visit an inmate, with a refugee advocate. They had booked the visit in ahead of time, although they didn’t explain fully the purpose of the visit, you know little things, like it was being filmed for an interview, to be shown on a high rating national current affairs show. But never mind.
Upon arrival, they were told that they could not enter the detention centre, and were given no explanation. “This happens all the time” we are told by the refugee advocate, and I guess we will have to believe her…. however, I have my doubts. I am reasonably sure that every visitor to the facility is not showing up with a full film, sound and lighting crew, but I could be wrong.
Not to worry though, because even though the refused entry came as quite a surprise, we were extremely lucky that Liam just happened to have packed, in with his toothbrush, an “unmanned surveillance drone”. I keep forgetting to pack mine when I go away…. So away we went flying through the detention centre via remote control. Geez it was lucky he packed that.
Interestingly enough, this little setup has caused a few issues, with the matter now being investigated by police, due to privacy, and security issues.
The asylum seeker debate is a complex issue, and is in need of serious debate, and a humanitarian solution found. What is not needed is irresponsible reporting, and scare mongering from supposedly “conservative” politicians, who are pandering to the fears of the lowest elements in our society.
The opposition would have you believe that John Howard stopped the boats, and Kevin Rudd in 2007 changed the rules, and back they came in fleets, like a conquering navy. The Liberals are working off the theory that if you tell the lie often enough, people will believe it’s true.
So, here are some facts:
In 2010 UNHCR recorded that 358,800 asylum applications were made to 44 countries worldwide. Australia received only 8,250 of these. United States (55,500 claims), France (47,800), Germany (41,300), Sweden (31,800), and Canada (23,200).
The number of unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia has always followed global trends. In 2001 and 2002, under John Howard, for example, Australia experienced a peak in the number of boat arrivals (more than 5,500 in 2001 and almost 3000 in 2002) as did most of the rest of the world. Then from 2003, global asylum numbers dropped as the level of global conflict dropped.
Enter Kevin ’07. Iin the year 2008, the number of boats carrying asylum seekers increased again. However, rather than respect the needs of these unfortunate and desperate people, fuelled by the press pack, who could smell blood, the Liberal party went on the attack. Peoples lives, once again coming in as secondary to scoring a few cheap political points.
But was their attack justified? Was it Kevins fault? The only way to tell is to look at the facts as opposed to the spin, and see what was happening in other parts of the world.
When comparing 2008 figures with 2007, asylum seeker numbers rose by 122% in Italy, 121% in Norway, 89% in the Netherlands, 70% in Turkey, 53% in Switzerland, 30% in Canada and 20% in France, according to a 2009 UNHCR report.? Yet in the same period, Australia saw only a 19% increase. That doesn’t sound too bad to me.
As for the supposed “queue jumpers” that extremists like Scott Morrison keep referring to, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a name used by Mr Morrison and his band of merry lynch men, to further humiliate already downtrodden people, and to whip up hatred for innocent people that are desperately trying to flee hatred.
Many asylum seekers come from countries where there is no UNHCR office and no Australian embassy (e.g. Iraq or Afghanistan). Even in a country with a UNHCR office, many refugees may not physically be able to get there to register, perhaps because of roadblocks, curfews and travel restrictions. If our 60 Minutes whistleblower is right, it could have been that the Rolls was in for a service, or the chauffer was off sick.
Often in many cases, going to a UNHCR office and/or expressing a desire to leave may literally put yours and your families life at risk, or often expose you to a greater degree of danger. Sometimes refugees are prevented from registering for political reasons. In one instance reported by an Australian Federal MP in 2008, UNHCR was not allowed to register refugees from a certain country, as government officials did not wish to acknowledge that there was turmoil in that country.
It would be far cheaper for these people to go to their local embassy, pick themselves up a Visa, and catch a flight to Australia, even first class would be cheaper. They would be here in a few hours, then they could just ignore their visa requirements and stay, after all, that is what the vast majority of illegal immigrants do.
But no, these “queue jumpers”, don’t do it that way. They think, rather than go 1st class, let’s travel on an unseaworthy vessel in cramped conditions with little food. Rather than take the trip in a few hours, let’s take over a month in rough seas instead. Rather than getting served champagne whilst watching a movie, they’d rather risk the lives of their family. And for these pleasures, they would rather pay five times as much.
The reason they do it this way, is not because they are jumping some fictitious queue and pushing in front of someone more needy. It is because they are absolutely desperate.
So what can you do about it?
So, why don’t you start by looking up your local member, and sending them an email. Tell them you want an end to the slanging match that is currently being waged in parliament, and in the press. Tell them you don’t want to hear the inflammatory names and slogans being used by the Coalition anymore. Tell them, that this is an issue where bipartisan support is required, and required yesterday.
At the rate things are going, we have already seen “The Pacific Solution” under Howard, if Morrison and Abbott get their way, I fear we may be talking about the “Final Solution”.
Let’s get it fixed.