Posted by David Chibo (18.104.22.168) on October 25, 2001 at 23:59:04:
In Reply to: Australian Government E-mail List posted by David Chibo on October 25, 2001 at 23:56:19:
E-mailed to every member of the Australian Governemnt.
Wednesday, 24th October, 2001
To the Australian Government,
I write this letter after hearing of the horrible tragedy that befell 350 mainly Iraqi asylum-seekers in Indonesian waters on Monday 23rd October, 2001.
The fact that 40 of the asylum-seekers who drowned had already been assessed by the UNHCR as genuine refugees, with a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return to their home country, is even more startling.
This letter is a request to change our country's foreign policy in regards to the treatment of these asylum-seekers when you come to power.
The United Nations ('Geneva') Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, of which Australia is a signatory, specifically states that a signatory country is not to penalize asylum seekers for entering a signatory country 'illegally'.
In stark contrast to this convention our current policy portrays us as the only western nation, which has a mandatory detention policy for all asylum seekers who enter without documents and in essence penalizing asylum seekers.
It is important that we all remember some crucial facts in order to understand this issue better.
The only true Australians are the indigenous Aborigines. The rest of us are either migrants or the descendents of migrants.
We have no right, as Australians, whose ancestors were also migrants and refugees, to treat today's asylum-seekers like criminals. With all due respect to our founding fathers, the first European asylum-seekers that came to this country, over 200 years ago, were in fact, convicts. We shudder to think how they would have been treated under today's Liberal government.
In fact we treat asylum seekers as though they are criminals. I have personally visited the Villawood Detention Centre (VDC) and can speak from personal experience.
Whilst at the VDC we met 9 Assyrian asylum-seekers – 5 males, 3 females, one of who is pregnant, and a child who had fled Iraq.
They were scared and apprehensive and very reluctant to say too much for fear that it may affect their case. Some had been in the VDC for over two and a half years.
To gain an understanding of their everyday lives they described their conditions to me.
1. Headcount - 6 times per day.
2. Sleep deprivation - One of these headcounts was conducted at 3:30a.m., which meant that no one slept a full 8 hours without interruption.
3. Handcuffs -Used when the asylum-seekers visited the doctor.
4. The food and living conditions were reasonable.
5. Anyone who decided to work was paid $1/hour.
Unlike some other Assyrian leaders I will not ask for only Assyrians to be granted some “special-status”. The “fair-go” I want for Assyrian refugees must extend to all refugees.
I request that Australia move away from the current policy of mandatory detention for all asylum-seekers and allow them into Australian society only after having their identity checked and being electronically tagged. This policy, which is similar to Sweden’s, would allow them to go to school, visit family, work and seek all the help they need in order to eventually assimilate into our country. At the end of the review asylum-seekers would either be sent back to their country of origin, or be accepted into Australia.
Another one of the main reasons why asylum-seekers are being treated in this manner is the argument that our country can only take so many migrants – any more would stretch our capacity. However, as Senator Stott Despoja has argued – as recently reported in The Age – the number of places allocated should be filled. She told Channel Nine that 12,000 places were allocated for humanitarian and refugee cases, but "... we're filling around 4000. So we haven't actually used the quota of places that are allocated for those particular groups, asylum seekers, refugees".
I would like to request that our government please fill our migrant intake quota for this year. Our declining birth rate means that in the years to come our ageing population will require more and more workers to drive the economy. Accepting our quota will mean that we could begin to address this concern today.
Another misconception is that asylum-seekers are costing us too much. The issue is clearly not economic as the cost of our recent naval presence in North Australian waters was around $200 million.
We must soul-search and analyze the root cause of the global refugee crisis and move to resolve these causes, not simply deal with the effects of global problems.
What is the root cause of the world's refugee crisis?
The problem lies in the foreign policy of the current and former superpowers, the U.S.A. and the former U.S.S.R.
During the Cold-War countries such as Afghanistan, Vietnam and Cambodia became pawns in the hands of the U.S.'s and the former U.S.S.R.'s foreign policy.
I'm asking that we in Australia collectively take responsibility for our support of the U.S. and its foreign policy.
A prime example of this was the way in which we took responsibility for our actions at the end of the Vietnam War.
After the pointless Vietnam War and the deaths of over 900,000 Vietnamese and over 500 Australian soldiers, we in Australia, under Malcolm Fraser's Liberal government took in thousands of Vietnamese “boat-people” (asylum-seekers) because Australians realized that our support for America's foreign policy meant that we were also partly responsible for "cleaning-up" after the Vietnam War had ended.
Australia also showed strong leadership when our foreign minister Mr. Gareth Evans helped initiate free and democratic elections in Cambodia, which had also become unstable as a result of the Vietnam War, having endured genocide and war. This was another problem for which we were also partly to blame, and for which we displayed an excellent example for the rest of the world to follow.
These examples are in stark contrast to our current policy on Iraq, where we help enforce the U.S. embargo, which could arguably be called “a genocide via sanctions”. According to the U.N.’s own conservative estimates, our support for the sanctions means that we are also partly responsible for over 500,000 dead Iraqi children, yet we refuse to accept Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers who flee that country as a direct result of our support for the U.S.'s foreign policy.
In the age of globalism, it's time we dealt with the root causes of the world's refugee problem. It's time we took responsibility for our actions instead of portraying "strength" and "beating-up" on asylum-seekers who have every right to be here.
In truth our government's policy, unfortunately, appears to be pandering to the fears of rural voters in order to secure the swinging seats they'll need in order to be re-elected this year.
Yet it is not too late to change this policy and make it more humanitarian and fair when you come to power.
My Requests are summarized below
1. Electronic Tagging to replace Mandatory Detention - I request that Australia move away from the current policy of mandatory detention for the asylum-seekers to allowing them into Australian society after an identity check and electronically tagging them so that they can go to school, visit family and seek all the help they need in order to assimilate into our country.
At the end of the review the asylum-seekers will either be sent back to their country of origin, if rejected, or be fully accepted into Australia.
2. Fill our migrant intake quota for this year.
3. Responsibility - I'm also asking that we in Australia collectively take responsibility for our support of the U.S. and its foreign policy by either "cleaning-up" after the event, or not supporting the event in the first place.
I thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing your response to my above-mentioned requests.
Should you wish to contact me via phone or e-mail please do so by telephoning me on 0421 353 253 or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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