Refugee Day Rally & Refugee Week

This Sunday marks the start of Refugee Week, with plenty of events around the country to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution refugees have made and continue to make to our society, culture and economy. I’m speaking at a rally being held in Brisbane Square this Sunday from 1pm to mark World Refugee Day.

I have attended many refugee week events over the years, and they often involve people from a wide spectrum of society, which is a good thing. However, one thing I have found inc0ngruous is seeing politicians attend these events and saying lots of nice things about refugees at they same time as they tolerate and in some cases actively participate in political tactics which deliberately inflame community fear and antagonism towards refugees and asylum seekers.

The Liberal National Party in Brisbane has been doing their bit in the lead up to Refugee Week, seeking to stir up some hatred in the local area around the location of the northside motel where the federal government has placed a number of asylum seeker families.

I’ve written a bit more about it in this piece at Crikey’s website. I have no problem with people having different views to mine about what the best policy approach should be for responding to asylum seekers – all sides of the debate would benefit from acknowledging this matter raises some difficult and challenging issues. But there is no excuse for deliberately inflaming community division and actively impeding the effective settlement of refugees living in our suburbs.

A copy of a leaflet that’s been letterboxed in the area is below.

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32 Comments

  1. Lowest common denominator bile. And misleading to boot. An asylum seeker is not ”illegal”. They have the legal right to come here and apply for asylum/refugee status. They would only be deemed ”illegal” should their application be rejected and they subsequently refused to leave. It disgusts me that we stoop to using people’s lives to play tawdry, populist politics.

  2. When you get the mayor of Port Augusta repeating the “illegal” line .. not sure whether she knows better or not … how can the community be expected to understand this?

  3. I’ve been speaking with some visa holders who were hoping for permanent residency. They said Rudd has decided to send most of them back where they came from, now that they have outgrown their usefulness.

    Apart from that, I’ve had nurses complaining about having to work for 2 whole days without access to disposable gloves, which has put their health at risk. Some are also only getting 2 shifts of work per week, making it difficult to pay their rent. Aged care centres could easily employ them full-time, if they were not so disgustingly greedy.

    When I contacted the federal Department of Health & Ageing, they tried to pass the buck to Queensland Health. Now it seems that both health departments have washed their hands of the matter.

    Soon we may be seeing visa holders on the queue for Food Bank handouts because they have no money left to pay the grocery bill.

  4. now you know why the govt is trying to keep them as far away from the east coast as possible .nsw qld and vic is where most of them will end up anyway so why not place them there from the start.
    all there support systems are there anyway just makes good sence to me .
    why dose the govt keep trying to put them in very remote areas of western and some times south australia..
    the govt is rapidly expand the population so why not be up front about it .

    i wonder if the govt its self didnot place that ad to find out just who mite cause trouble in the future

    place you name here and become an instant racist .

    It disgusts me that we stoop to using people’s lives to play tawdry, populist politics
    and what has change since the birth of politics.

  5. I’ve been following your blog for a while now Andrew, and I completely agree with you on this subject matter. As Paul mentioned above, asylum seekers are not illegal and should not be subjected in such a demeaning manner by the government.

    I’m afraid that one day, the Australian govt will choose to opt to adopt strict immigration laws such as the recent immigration law in Arizona, US, rather than addressing the key problems and finding the solution. Migration does need to be controlled, but the way the govt are going about this issue is apalling. Its events like these, blogs like these, and independent media that will hopefully raise awareness to this issue. The magazine i’m launching in a couple of weeks, hopes to acheive that (http://ifprojectblog.com/).

    Keep up the good work Andrew.

  6. The government has a clear policy goal and that is to take the incentives away from the people who are in the business of people smuggling. The coalition was planning to re-introduce the three year temporary protection visa. The people smugglers have by and large suspended trade whilst they work out the vagaries of the government’s position, which means more suffering by the desperate men, women and children who wait. These people are asylum seekers that are trying to escape from war-ravaged countries. Kevin Rudd, our new foreign policy minister now has the objective of implementing a processing centre in east Timor which the East Timorese are not in favour of. Chris Bowen says that no time frame has been put on any solutions. Official Immigration Department figures show at close of business on Friday that there were 4,903 people crowded into Australia’s detention and residential centres, which now include two hotels in Darwin and one in Brisbane. Now that the election brouhaha is over, let us fervently hope that our politicians can get their priorities right, and to speak and act with one humanitarian voice. Their main focus now should be on displaced and disadvantaged people, not votes.
    Angela Cominos

  7. one motel full in brisbane oh my how bad is that
    and the same in n.s.w and vic but i hear that the west has had enough and they are all comming to the east coast .

    i just wonder how the govt is going to explain that and mabe your services will be at breaking point to before to long.

    some ppl smugglers are being sent to n.s.w for trial and mabe gaol and they are complaining already because of the cost well its about time they took there share and some of the cost.

  8. Red Crab .. becuase of the infrastructure needs fo the AIrforce, lack of unused mining camps etc in the east, the west is, like it or not and I certainly don’t, the obvious place to put large numbers of people for ‘temporary’ detention, simply because there are places there to put them.

    If you accept the previous few governments’ ideas about creative ways to break international law and the dictates of human morality, the *best* place to put people, if you are intent on depriving them from the support and knowledgeable advice of others, is as far from easy travel or communication as possible.

    The fact that you live in the ‘dumping ground’ is no reason to dislike the unfortunate souls used as human chess pieces, not for that matter the people in the rest of Australia. If you can’t influence the decisions of the Immigration Ministers, what makes you think we can? I’m in SA, not “The East” and we have had this difficulty ourselves, and it is not impossible that we’ll have it again. Protest about the asylum seekers not being able to live in the community, why don’t you, and you’ll find that a ot of hte ‘drain’ on your community will vanish as people flock to be where there are services and support from others with whom they have language or religious bonds .. i.e. in The East.

    If you listened less to shock jocks and your premier, you’ve perhaps take a more rational view of the entire issue.

  9. togret
    you have some very good points
    you are correct wa has become a dumping ground for ppl who dont speek our language and belive it or not they cost the state plenty .
    i would suggest that y come to perth and have a look what has been happening .
    as christmsas island the pressure on the services and utillitys is strong and aproching collaps as iv sead before the govt should study the impact that a sudden increace in population has on a small community and like christmas island w.a. is a small community compared to any of the east coast states .
    the govt claims there is 6000 asylim seekers in detention well i belive that they are just a smoke screen and the real adgenda is to populate the country buy stealth keep the focas on them while they let more than that number in every week .
    when one takes a good look at the ppl who are here we dont see any one who has come buy boat.

    perth population has grown buy something like 500 000 in the last few years and there not asylim seekers .

    and the premier of w.a. is correct curtin base makes every other detention centre look like a 5 star hotel put 600 single males there and light a match then stand back do they really want that on the east coast or mabe a better idea is to mabe put them somewhere like mabe in the community of dubbo just think 600 single males who dont speek our language have no work and realise that there is not much chance for them to get work because they are unskilled .now theres something for the govt to study and they wouldent have to travel to far either.
    just how long do you think the govt would be there if they did that not long . and how fast would the good ppl of dubbo change there attitude to the problem of asylim seekers.

  10. Res crab – you seem to be confusing 3 problems here:

    1. the people of WA don’t like the people of the East .. nothing I can say about that – you never have

    2. You don’t like people ‘who don’t speak your language” comign to Australia .. this has been happening since 1788 … not sure why you have so much fear of someone who doesn’t .. not all incomers are Non-English-speaking, by the way, but even if they were – how does that make them less worthy than others as settlers? As I’ve said before there are many who get off planes every day ‘legally’ who do speak English who proceed to rip us off by overstaying visas and working under the table . I don’t think you’ve ever shinged about them.

    3. You seem to think that asylum seekers are being beat up by the media … at the moment, I think you’ll find it is only in WA that it’s happening, because it touches a hot button in WA. Do you like being a puppet who dances to the tugging of the media and the Liberals? I agree the asylum seekers are not being treated well,but pardon me if I focus my attention on concern for them .. the people of WA are not in such a desperate state, at least not if they have white skins. I never hear a word of concern for them from you – just blame because they are a problem to you.

  11. Togret:

    Maybe the people making these accusations just want the women and children out of there.

    Unless we go in there and see it for ourselves, we don’t know for certain whether the allegations are true or not.

  12. Lorikeet – one hopes that the complaint that is to be investigated by the police (apparently one laid by someone with obligations under their professional duties as a teacher, a nurse, etc) proves to be groundless.

    Nevertheless, with families crammed into one-room dongas or motel rooms who cannot safeguard their own from the unwelcome attentions of their fellows or the guards, the conditions are there for abuse to happen.

    Maybe the professionals who seem to have made the complaints would risk their jobs and integrity to make false claims, I don’t know. If so, one might wonder what woudl drive them to do that. Let’s hope we don’t get more DIMIA coverups.

  13. togret
    just imagine how much attention you could focas on the wellbeing of asylim seekers if they were much closer to you .

    question what makes y think i dont like the ppl from the eastern states im married to one and my children are queenslanders .

    this incident that is at leonora is not the first you have a short memory
    i wonder just how many ppl who would do such a thing has slipped through the procesing procedure .

    you seem to think that i think that new commers should speek english
    point one this is an english speeking country

    point two i dont care what they speek i was making a point how hard it would be for a group to look for work if they didnt speek the language of the country they are hopping to stay in and get work.

    and belive it or not thats what most of them have made the hazards trip for .

    just imagine for a second what would happen if the govt put 600 more single males into villawood where they should be .

    the curtin base in w.a. is not a nice place to be in the next few months when the weather warms up and y dont think there will be trouble but not to worry its a long way from anyone on the east coast .thats why they are there .

  14. Red Crab:

    Lots of people who come here on visas are hoping for permanent residency. Plenty of them have language difficulties at first, but they seem to start work immediately.

    Some people who have escaped a war zone have psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This can make them a danger to themselves and others, unless they get appropriate and timely treatment.

  15. exactly ticking time boms if not discoverd early enough.
    one only has to look at the current situation at the moment at villawood

  16. Good on the greens for pushing on this issue – need to push for support as well as living inhte community. Many refugees living on the poverty line – need more support for ALL living on poverty line, but they need additional language and cultural education. In SA, for example, TAFE cutting back on Basic Education just when it is so badly needed .. TAFE being made into a “Business” with all that implies re the “Bottom Line”. What happened to the Social Outcomes TAFE used to provide? Vanished. Who is doing that now, for the whole community? I’ll tell you: nobody.

  17. Presumably that poverty does not extend to the alleged 70% of those Sri lankans granted asylym status who manged to take a holiday back home wihtn the last year……….or is that just a media beat up?

  18. Ken: whether or not Sri Lankans who came as refugees are able to holiday at home in safety is one thing. I understand the well-known Sri Lankan terrorism expert Rohan Something-or-other has claimed this. SInce he is affiliated with the winning side, I’ll wait for confirmation on this. I don’t know whether he is thought to be an authoritative commentor.

    I’ll say this, though: I was not aware that there was a rule that you had to be poor to qualify as a refugee – perhaps you have been reading the Murdoch press too much, or only them?

    However, I was talking about the Sudanese, the Burundians, and the others from all over the place who have endured rape, torture, terror and long waits in camps in Africa as much as any other group when I talked about poverty. I take it you don’t begrudge them assistance?

  19. Yes I would agree, but I would have thought while there may not be a rule about it, a reasonable person, lets say the “man in the street” test might think it a tad odd that a person having escaped somewhere for fear of their life, persecution, rape tortue etc ect etct and we have assessed that to be genuine by granting them refugee status, feels it OK and presumably now safe to trot back into that frying pan again.

    i’m a student of behaviour, just a wonder

  20. Well Ken as I said – I await a reliable comment on this. I am no fan of peole who commit atrocities, indeed I lean toward the buddhist end of hte war:peace spectrum. Unfortuantely the buddhists/Sinhalese/Government group in power in Sri Lanka just now, though recognised as the legitimate government, are still refusing to allow neutral parties to investigate the shocking treatment of civilains toward the end of the recent conflict, despite haveing promised Ban Ki-Moon that they would do so. ” .. rather than protecting civilians, the government blocked access by humanitarian organisations. The International Committee of the Red Cross complained publicly that it was unable to reach those most in need.” It takes a lot for the Red Cross to complain publically.

    It may be that some people who fled Sri Lanka at one stage because of well-founded fears for their safety are able to return now, but it may also be that another segment of the population cannot.

    A government that still refuses to allow outside access to many areas and which has arbitrarily removed from conact with the outside world or even thier own families thousands of people it is calling “terrorists” woudl not be one I would trust.

    However, were I Sinhalese, or a Christian/Tamil/Hindu member of the privileged class, maybe I would feel safe to at least go home and quietly gather up as much as I could .. I can have as much of a chip on my left shoulder as anyone, but I dont’ begrudge them that.

  21. Andrew assesses well how politicians exploit any situation that gives them an out from addressing real time, real cost issues in Australia about detriment to Australians.
    Just about anything is good enough for them so long as it is a scenario they can pretend as beyond their control – or can otherwise be perceived as being beyond their control.

    ‘Complex issues’ are good. ‘Divisive issues’ are good.
    Matters within the domain of ‘courts’ are also good since it costs far in excess of too damned much ever to be sorted out.

    Not once do they ever admit that they persist in stonewalling any action on their part that would move the status quo or cause referendum or in Queensland’s case have them simply declaim an administrative/procedural change that would have any man-jack of them taking any responsibility or duty of care whatsoever.

    Nothing has changed since the days of the Rum Corps and nothing ever will until Australians get their act together and demand UNHCR compliant rights legislation including punitive clauses for corrupt and non-performing elected representatives in our parliaments.

    Once that is achieved and the population sees the benefits so derived then we may well proceed toward looking after the interests of those who seek shelter on our soil.

  22. Andrew assesses well how politicians exploit any situation that gives them an out from addressing real time, real cost issues in Australia about detriment to Australians.
    Just about anything is good enough for them so long as it is a scenario they can pretend as beyond their control – or can otherwise be perceived as being beyond their control.

    ‘Complex issues’ are good. ‘Divisive issues’ are good.
    Matters within the domain of ‘courts’ are also good since it costs far in excess of too damned much ever to be sorted out.

    Not once do they ever admit that they persist in stonewalling any action on their part that would move the status quo or cause referendum or in Queensland’s case have them simply declaim an administrative/procedural change that would have any man-jack of them taking any responsibility or duty of care whatsoever.

    Nothing has changed since the days of the Rum Corps and nothing ever will until Australians get their act together and demand UNHCR compliant rights legislation including punitive clauses for corrupt and non-performing elected representatives in our parliaments.

    Once that is achieved and the population sees the benefits so derived then we may well proceed toward looking after the interests of those who seek shelter on our soil.

  23. Non-farmer – which particualr thing are you concerned about? I may be dim, but it is not clear. The sale of QR? The Murray-Darling Basin? Something else?

  24. Ken – your ‘man in the street’ might find his/her curiosity stimulated by this article on so-called returnees as tourists, and possibly act to find out more from both sides? certainly it seems that the majority are resisting every effort of international organisatons to conduct inquiries into hte numbers of civilains interned/killed, and re-naming ‘civilans’ as ‘terosists’ doesn’t really work, for me, in absolving the government of SL of accounatability for their welfare.

    Rohan Whatsisname doesn’t get a good run in the 80-odd comments on this story, as many write him off as a Sinhalese/Government stooge, while the pro-Sinhalese/Government others fail to comment on his obvious impartiality, lading one to think that the ‘stooge’ label might be undisputed. I note that nowhere are there names or comments given by those who say it is safe to go back now – I have not been able to find news stories about this. There might be reasons for that beyond its falsity, but doesn’t it make you wonder?

    On the other hand, doesn’t it seem convenient for the forces of repression to spread lies whenever and however they can about Tamils now being safe, and who better to plant them with, for further distribution, than anti-refugees-of-any-type people in Oz? Repeat a lie often enough and it is often swallowed whole – c.f. Lindy Chamberlain / babies overboard / no planes crashed on 9/11.

    Though, you know, I have often wondered myself about 9/11 .. it sure was convenient …

  25. I think A Non Farmer would be quite right to be concerned about the Murray/Darling Basin, the sale of QR, and plenty of other issues.

    If he went into Parliament House and tossed out of the windows, all of the politicians who have vested interests in the corporatisation of farming, rail, ports etc etc, I don’t think there would be too many left.

    I’m sure if my dad and his mates were still alive, they would probably give A Non Farmer quite a bit of assistance.

    “Complex Issues” and “Divisive Issues” detract attention away from truly rotten agendas of any kind, which slip under the radar while politicians are competing for an Academy Award.

    For example, between all of the hoo-haa over Julia Gillard backstabbing Kevin Rudd, Kevin-O-Lemon landed himself a plum job with the United Nations and the job of Minister for Foreign Affairs, further feathering his own Asia/Pacific nest.

  26. Tohgrett –
    Oh the bliss of being able to say that a pal of mine has set up his own page.
    As it happens he’s put me on the ‘comments selection committee’.
    I’m busting with excitement with being able to arbitrarily scotch stupid no-where comment – or is that no-where non-comment we can happily delete once we get rolling.
    Is it something about the fifteen second grab or can’t people assimilate words of more than one syllable these days?

    Like – instead of just shrieking then moving along to the next blog why not increase your education a bit and try to work out what a bloke is trying to say.
    Besides which – who ever said that I have to say everything.
    Say something intelligent yourself.

    As far as the MD basin is concerned it might as well be said now.
    According to the Green scenario it’ll all be under salt water soon anyway.
    Who cares up here.

    Victorians have never cared when cyclones hit qld and to the best of my knowledge have never contributed when we’ve been hurt.

    There have been so many victorians moving into queensland lately that the place has effectively ceased functioning.
    Before you question that ask me why I had to write a paper for Beattie about what he so politely put as ‘Demographics Change’.

    What’s the name of that stupid poet? That’s right, that Lawson bloke with his flat-headed youth.
    Up here we are chockablock with ‘em, every man-jack from down-south, and its Halloween this weekend.

    Which raises another question about – Halloween – in Qld?
    More like mayhem after dark in Queensland.
    In short – stow your dead rivers and call back all your dunderheaded, inbred and useless and put them to work down there to save your saltpans

  27. Tohgret
    Forget what I said above.
    I’ve probably heard too much nasty stuff from useless politicians up here and consequently lost my plot.
    What is happening down south is causing massive grief up here and I’m very concerned about what it is costing us up north.
    I’m sure you have heard how federal labor has plummeted in the polls.
    If that continues I’m sure the blame has to stop somewhere?
    Meanwhile a bankrupt queensland has to continue with a premier wearing those fancy electronic earmuffs.
    What else might I say?

  28. question .
    call me dumb but how can any govt sell publicly owned utillitys that they are the cartakers of not the owners of without a referendum .

    i am now a fan of the poly from nth qld he was right and the other dopes has sold us out to the greens who seem to be running the country . what a joke

  29. Red Crab:

    The answer is simple. Labor has sold us all out to global organisations through the signing of various declarations, agreements and treaties since WWII.

    They do whatever their corporate buddies want.

    I’m not sure which politician you are a fan of, but I have seen Bob Katter on TV highlighting the fact that we are now nett importers of foods. He mentioned fruits, vegetables, pork and seafood. Now 75% of our fish comes from overseas countries, up from 70%.

    In a radio interview prior to the election, Larissa Waters, Lead Senate candidate for The Greens, said her party wanted a ban on all commercial and recreational fishing. She won a Senate seat, with Tony Zegenhagen from the Democratic Labor Party, and Wendy Francis from Family First both missing out.

    On the radio interview, Larissa Waters tried to dodge the question about her occupation, saying she was just an ordinary person, before finally admitting she is an Environmental Lawyer.

    The Democratic Labor Party and the Nationals are patriots of this country. This is not about racism, but about running a democratic parliament that looks after the interests of its own citizens, and helping the third world AS AUSTRALIA SEES FIT, and not as GLOBAL GOVERNANCE SEES FIT.

  30. The allegation that Larissa Waters stated that the Greens wanted a ban on all fishing is 100% false, as is the suggestion that she would try to hide the fact she is an environmental lawyer. To the contrary, she regularly highlighted her credentials as an environmental lawyer, not least when campaigning to protect agricultural land and our aquifers from being damaged by mining,

    It is bad enough that plenty of Coalition MPs and the Fishing Party and others repeatedly run with the lie that the Greens want to ban fishing. Verballing a Green as saying so is even worse.

    Bob Katter is also wrong about us being a net importer of food. As he was told in Parliament, we export $24 billion worth of food products; we import $10 billion dollars worth of food products.

    And this thread, as usual, has gone completely off topic.

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