What sort of country are we?

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Julian Burnside: What sort of country are we?
September 28, 2015 7.30pm AEST
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Julian Burnside
Adjunct Professor, Australian Catholic University

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Julian Burnside is a patron of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. He does not accept any fees when acting for asylum seekers, and any offers of payment for other services in this area are politely declined.
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Julian Burnside at a hearing during the Tampa case in 2001. AAP/John Hargest
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This piece is based on the 2015 Hamer Oration, delivered by Julian Burnside on September 28, 2015.

It was with some surprise that I found myself engaged in such a hotly political issue as refugee policy. I had never been involved in politics, nor interested in it. My best explanation of how this happened lies in a story I heard a long time ago. It involves a family whose ten-year-old son had never spoken a word. The parents had passed from anxiety to despair to resignation: there was no organic reason for his silence.

One morning, as a novelty, the mother decided to serve porridge at breakfast. She had never served it before.

The ten-year-old took a spoonful of porridge, looked up sharply and said:

I think porridge is revolting.
His parents were astonished.

It’s a miracle! You can speak! Why haven’t you spoken before this?
He said:

Everything has been satisfactory until now.
Tampa, refugees and the collapse of values

The arrival of the Tampa in Australian waters was misrepresented to the public as a threat to our national sovereignty. The people on Tampa were rescued at the request of the Australian government. They comprised for the most part terrified Hazaras from Afghanistan, fleeing the Taliban. The Taliban’s regime was universally recognised as one of the most brutal and repressive in recent times.

The notion that a handful of terrified, persecuted men, women and children fleeing such a regime could constitute a threat to our national sovereignty is so bizarre that it defies discussion.

I was shocked to see Australia’s response to Tampa. The government denied the Tampa’s request to land is bedraggled cargo in Australia; it sent the SAS onto the ship. 438 men, women and children were held on the deck in the tropical sun, day after day. I knew nothing about our refugee policy, but I knew it was wrong to treat human beings that way.

By the time the case was over, I knew a lot more about refugee policy, and a lot more about the Australian character. I knew that it was not possible to stay in this country unless I tried to do something to combat these obvious injustices. It was my great “porridge moment”. On August 26, 2001, MV Tampa rescued 438 people whose boat, the Palapa, had sunk. It rescued them at Australia’s request. It acted according to the tradition of sailors the world over.

The people rescued by Tampa were, mostly, terrified Hazaras from Afghanistan: men, women and children. They were fleeing the Taliban. We knew all this. We also knew that the Taliban were a brutal and repressive regime. We knew that Hazaras, one of the three ethnic groups in Afghanistan, had been persecuted for centuries, but that the persecution had become increasingly harsh under the Taliban who come from the Pashtun ethnic group.

The captain of Tampa asked for medical help. Many of the women and children were ill or injured. When Tampa entered Australian territorial waters off Christmas Island, Australia sent the SAS and took control of the ship at gunpoint to prevent the refugees from coming ashore.

The arrival of the Tampa in Australian waters was misrepresented to the public as a threat to our national sovereignty. The notion that 438 terrified, persecuted men, women and children constitute a threat to national sovereignty is so bizarre that it defies discussion.

The idea that Prime Minister John Howard could revive his flagging prospects for re-election by using the SAS to keep those people from safety reflected a profound malaise in the Australian character.

The judgment in the Tampa case was handed down at 2.15PM Eastern Standard Time on September 11, 2001, nine hours before the terrorist attack on America. From that moment, the government ran two different ideas together: border control and security. The catch-cry “border protection” confuses national security with refugee policy. In that confusion we lost our moral bearings.

The government denied the Tampa’s request to land is bedraggled cargo in Australia. AAP/Wallenius Wilhelmsen
The Pacific Solution is born

During the Tampa litigation, the Howard government cobbled together the Pacific Solution. It is hard to believe, but the first incarnation of the Pacific Solution, terrible though it was, was more benign than the present version.

But it had its victims. One of them was Mohammad Sarwar.

On August 26, 2002, the Afghans who had been rescued by Tampa were preparing to commemorate the 12-month anniversary of their rescue. That morning, Sarwar woke, sat up, uttered two short cries and fell back dead.

His friends wrote to us:

We regret to inform you that in early morning of 26th August Mohammad Sarwar ID NO 391 an Afghan Tampa Asylum Seeker died.He was quite young and seemed to be in his mid 20s. He was a Hazara from Central Afghanistan. He was one of the 438 asylum seekers who were rescued from ocean by the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa. He spent almost one year on board the Tampa and Manoora and in detention on Nauru. He was hospitalised in Nauru for the first few weeks on Nauru.

He was refused refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Just a few days earlier to his death he was interviewed on his appeal to the negative decision he had received on his claim for protection. His close associates, who had seen him coming out of the interview room, had seen he was very concerned and unhappy for the ways he was asked question. In the recent weeks he was seen to be stressed, worried, depressed and almost isolated. But Mohammad Sarwar was proved to be a voiceless, quiet and would speak very little of his concerns and pains he might be suffering. Recently, he was seen sitting alone and thinking very deeply.

Eventually, he has sought the asylum only God can grant.
Both Australia and Nauru refused to conduct an autopsy.

At the time Sarwar died, the Australian government was forcing and cajoling Afghans to return to their country. Sarwar’s family asked that his corpse be returned to Kabul. Australia refused, saying it was unsafe to return a corpse to Afghanistan.

Sarwar was an early victim of the Pacific Solution. Another was Australia’s character.

Terror

In the wake of 9/11, the government sent a care package to every Australian household. It included a fridge magnet – a sure protection against terrorism – and a letter from Howard. The letter included this observation:

Dear Fellow Australian,

I’m writing to you because I believe you and your family should know more about some key issues affecting the security of our country and how we can all play a part in protecting our way of life.

As a people we have traditionally engaged the world optimistically … our open, friendly nature makes us welcome guests and warm hosts.
Don Watson wrote about this:

This rose-coloured boasting smells of some nightmare ministry of information … the phrase as a people might not be a lie, but it smells like one. And it sits askew to the element of conservative political philosophy that opposes all attempts to categorise people by class or historic tendency, or any other conceit that will serve as an excuse for eliminating them.

The people of Australia is not so rank because it does not carry the suggestion that some mythic or historic force unites us in our destiny. But if we must have as a people, then traditionally has to go, and not only because optimistically is sitting on top of it. It has to go because it is so at odds with Australian history it could be reasonably called a lie.

Traditionally we built barriers against the world we are alleged to have engaged so optimistically; traditionally we clung to the mother country for protection against that same world; traditionally … we took less of an optimistic view of the world than an ironic, fatalistic view of the world.

The smugness of the sentence about our being lovely guests and warm hosts is so larded by fantasy and self-delusion, it transcends Neighbours and becomes Edna Everage.

It will occur to some readers, surely, that it has been our nature recently to play very cold hosts to uninvited guests, the sort of people we don’t want here, who throw their children into the sea, who are not fun-loving, welcoming, warm, sunny, etc.

Given (our) recent history, we might wonder if the words are as ingenuous as they sound. The thought, even the subconscious thought, might have been of a piece with Medea’s “soft talk”. Thus – as a people Australians are very nice; people who don’t agree with this proposition are not nice people; people who are not nice are not Australians in the sense of Australians as a people. People who are not prepared to be Australian as a people should shut up or piss off back where they came from.
There is the problem: by our response to boat people since August 2001, we may have redefined our national character.

The Howard government set up the ‘Pacific Solution’ for dealing with boat arrivals. AAP/Laura Friezer
Hamidi

Mr Hamidi had fled Saddam Hussein’s regime. Within a couple of weeks of his arrival in detention in Australia, officers of the Immigration Department noted that he had suffered torture in Iraq at the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison and that the form of torture which most frightened him was being locked in a small room. In Abu Ghraib, he had regularly been held in a small cell where he was randomly electrocuted through water in the floor.

After about 15 or 18 months in detention, he fell into hopelessness and despair. It is typical for asylum seekers in Australia’s detention system to lose hope after about 15 or 18 months. When Mr Hamidi fell into hopelessness, he started self-harming. Whenever he could find a bit of broken glass or a bit of razor wire, he would cut himself.

When he cut himself, the Immigration Department did two things: they gave him Panadol (which seems to be the universal treatment in immigration detention) and they put him in solitary confinement – in a small cell. This did not help him.

After a couple of weeks in solitary confinement, he would come out even more desperate than when he went in. He would then harm himself again and the Department would give him Panadol and solitary confinement. This went on for five years.

Eventually, some lawyers in Adelaide took a case to the Federal Court of Australia seeking an order requiring that Mr Hamidi, and some others in similarly desperate circumstances, should be taken to the Glenside psychiatric hospital in Adelaide for assessment and, if necessary, for treatment. The Commonwealth resisted the application and fought the case for several weeks. Eventually, the judge determined that the detainees should be sent to Glenside for assessment and if necessary for treatment.

When Mr Hamidi was taken to Glenside he was assessed mentally and physically. The physical assessment showed that he had ten metres of scarring on his body from his self-harming in Immigration Detention. He subsequently got a protection visa, but his health is ruined. Saddam Hussein tried to kill him and failed. Australia tried to incapacitate him and succeeded. Chance bludgeoned him almost to death.

One girl

There was the case which, for me at least, forever changed my view of this lucky country. It concerned an Iranian family – mother, father and two daughters aged 11 and seven at the relevant time. They were members of a small, pre-Christian religion: a religion which, in Iran, is regarded as unclean. If ever you think chance has dealt you a bad hand, try being a member of a religion which is regarded as unclean. There are plenty of historical precedents which show what a hard time those people get.

This family stayed on in Iran for as long as they could bear it, because their parents and grandparents were buried there. But one day, after a shocking incident involving the 11-year-old, the family fled Iran and ended up in detention at Woomera.

After about 15 or 18 months, all of them were in a bad way but especially the 11-year-old. The 11-year-old girl had stopped caring for herself: she had stopped grooming herself, she had stopped brushing her hair; she was careless with her clothing; she had stopped eating. She was frightened to go to the toilet block, which was about 100 metres from their cabin, and she would wet the bed at night and wet her clothing during the day.

Back then, if you were held in Woomera and had serious psychiatric needs, you would get to see the visiting psychiatrist approximately once every six months. The 11 year-old-girl needed daily psychiatric help. A psychiatrist from Adelaide, who had heard about the case, went to Woomera and delivered a report to the Immigration Department saying that it was essential that the family be removed from Woomera and placed in a metropolitan detention centre so that the 11-year-old could get daily psychiatric help. The report emphasised that the child was at extreme risk.

Eventually, the Department agreed to move the family from Woomera in the South Australian desert to Maribyrnong in the western suburbs of Melbourne. There, although the purpose for moving them was that the 11-year-old should get daily psychiatric help, for the first two and a half weeks of their stay nobody came to see her: not a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, not a doctor, not a nurse, not a social worker – nobody at all. It was as if they hadn’t even arrived.

On a Sunday night in May 2002, while her mother and father and young sister were up in the mess hall having their evening meal, this little girl alone in their cell in Maribyrnong Detention Centre took a bedsheet and hanged herself. But she was only little and didn’t know how to tie the knot properly, so she was still strangling when the family came back from dinner. They took her down and she and her mother were taken straight away to the general hospital nearby. They were accompanied by two ACM guards so that, as a matter of legal analysis, they were still in Immigration Detention.

Kon from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who had been looking after the family’s visa application, heard about the incident and went to the hospital at about 9.30 that night. He said hello to the guards, who know him well because he is a regular visitor of Maribyrnong. He said he just wanted to speak to the mother to see if there was anything he could do to help. They said: “No you’re not allowed to see them, because lawyers’ visiting hours in Immigration Detention are nine to five” and they sent him away. Kon then rang me at home and told me what had happened.

Are we a country which treats children that way? Apparently we are.

The Woomera detention centre in South Australia hosted hundreds of detainees. AAP
The 2013 election

By 2008 the boats had virtually stopped arriving. In July 2008, the first Rudd government introduced a number of reforms to the Migration Act which satisfied about 90% of the concerns of refugee advocates. A while later, however, chance played another wild card: Tony Abbott became opposition leader by one vote.

As soon as he became opposition leader, Abbott began complaining publicly and loudly about boat people. Kevin Rudd responded by mounting a ferocious attack on people smugglers. It seems that in the heat of the moment he had forgotten that his moral hero – Dietrich Bonhoeffer – had been a people smuggler, albeit a benevolent one. He had forgotten, it seems, that Oskar Schindler and Gustav Schroeder, the Captain of the St Louis, were both people smugglers.

When Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister, she ran a very ambivalent line about boat people. While expressing some concern for the circumstances which led them to flee, she said that she understood why Australians were concerned about boat people arriving in Australia. The asylum seeker debate went off on a new tack at about that time.

The lowpoint of the debate was seen in the campaign that preceded the federal election of September 2013. That election campaign, for the first time in Australia’s political history, saw both major parties try to outbid each other in their promises of cruelty to boat people.

Abbott won the election and made good of his promise to mistreat boat people. We now have the harshest imaginable policies in relation to boat people and arguably the harshest treatment of boat people of any country that has signed the Refugees’ Convention.

In broad outline it goes like this.

When boat people arrive

When boat people arrive at Christmas Island, they have typically spent eight or ten days on a rickety boat. They have typically come from landlocked countries and have typically never spent time on the ocean.

Typically, they have had not enough to eat and not enough to drink. Typically, they have had no opportunity to wash or to change their clothes. Typically, they arrive distressed, frightened and wearing clothes caked in their own excrement.

They are not allowed to shower or to change their clothes before they are interviewed by a member of the Immigration Department. It is difficult to think of any decent justification for subjecting them to that humiliation.

When they arrive, any medical appliances they have will be confiscated and not returned: spectacles, hearing aids, false teeth, prosthetic limbs, are all confiscated. If they have any medications with them, those medications are confiscated and not returned.

According to doctors on Christmas Island, one person has a full-time job of sitting in front of a bin popping pills out of blister packs for later destruction.

If they have any medical documentation with them, it is confiscated and not returned. The result of all of this is that people with chronic health problems find themselves denied any effective treatment.

The results can be very distressing. For example, a doctor who worked on Christmas Island told me of a woman who had been detained there for some weeks and who was generally regarded as psychotic. Her behaviour was highly erratic for reasons that no-one understood. The consultation with this woman was very difficult because, although the doctor and the patient were sitting across a table from each other, the interpreter joined them by telephone from Sydney.

Eventually, the doctor worked out that the problem was that the woman was incontinent of urine. She could not leave her cabin without urine running down her leg. It was driving her mad. When the doctor worked out that this was the cause of the problem, she asked the Department to provide incontinence pads. The Department’s initial response was “we don’t do those”. The doctor insisted.

The Department relented and provided four incontinence pads per day: not enough, so that the woman needs to queue for more but the incontinence pads made a profound difference to her mood and behaviour.

When boat people arrive at Christmas Island, they have typically spent eight or ten days at sea. AAP
‘Pacific Solution’ mark two

Asylum seekers who arrive at Christmas Island are assessed to see if there is any medical reason why they cannot be sent offshore, to Nauru or Manus Island.

In either place, they are held in detention centres run by Transfield Services (an Australian company). Guards are provided by Wilson Security (another Australian company). Medical Services are provided by IHMS: International Medical and Health Services (an Australian subsidiary of a French company).

Nevertheless, Australia insists that what happens in offshore detention is nothing to do with Australia. That is not only absurdly false, it overlooks the small detail that we spend about A$5 billion a year on the detention system. If that number is unimaginably big, it is the equivalent of one million Geelong chopper rides a year.

Manus

A few days ago I got an email from a health worker on Manus:

… The situation as you can imagine is very grim. Around 80% of transferees suffering serious mental health issues. PNG staff are slowly being “trained” to take over various roles with mostly undesirable results. East Lorengau is not working. One refugee is lingering in hospital for over two weeks with undiagnosed stomach problems. One refugee doctor is suffering severe mental health issues…
Here is an extract from a statement by a doctor who worked on Manus whose professional experience includes the provision of healthcare services in maximum-security prisons in Australia:

… On the whole, the conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are extremely poor. When I first arrived at the Manus Island OPC I was considerably distressed at what I saw, and I recall thinking that this must be similar to a concentration camp.

The detainees at the Manus Island OPC are detained behind razor wire fences, in conditions below the standard of Australian maximum-security prison.

My professional opinion is that the minimum medical requirements of the detained population were not being met. I have no reason to believe that the conditions of detention have improved since I ceased employment at the Manus Island OPC.

The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC appeared to be calculated to break the spirit of those detained in the Manus Island OPC. On a number of occasions the extreme conditions of detention resulted in detainees abandoning their claims for asylum and returning to their country of origin.

At the Manus Island OPC, bathroom facilities are rarely cleaned. There was a lot of mould, poor ventilation, and the structural integrity of the facilities is concerning.

No soap is provided to detainees for personal hygiene.

When detainees need to use the bathroom, it is standard procedure that they first attend at the guards’ station to request toilet paper. Detainees would be required to give an indication of how many ‘squares’ they will need. The maximum allowed is six squares of toilet paper, which I considered demeaning.

A large number of detainees continue to be in need of urgent medical attention.

Formal requests for medical attention are available to the detainees. The forms are only available in English. Many of the detainees do not have a workable understanding of English and the guards will not provide assistance.
Reza Barati

In February 2014 Reza Barati was killed on Manus Island. Initially, Australia said that he had escaped from the detention centre and was killed outside the detention centre. Soon it became clear that he was killed inside the detention centre. It took months before anyone was charged with his murder.

Just a couple of weeks after Barati was killed, I received a sworn statement from an eyewitness. The statement included the following:

J … is a local who worked for the Salvation Army. … He was holding a large wooden stick. It was about a metre and a half long … it had two nails in the wood. The nails were sticking out …

When Reza came up the stairs, J … was at the top of the stairs waiting for him. J … said ‘fuck you motherfucker’ J … then swung back behind his shoulder with the stick and took a big swing at Reza, hitting him on top of the head.

J … screamed again at Reza and hit him again on the head. Reza then fell on the floor …

I could see a lot of blood coming out of his head, on his forehead, running down his face. His blood is still there on the ground. He was still alive at this stage.

About 10 or 15 guards from G4S came up the stairs. Two of them were Australians. The rest were PNG locals. I know who they are. I can identify them by their face. They started kicking Reza in his head and stomach with their boots.

Reza was on the ground trying to defend himself. He put his arms up to cover his head but they were still kicking.

There was one local … I recognised him … he picked up a big rock … he lifted the rock above his head and threw it down hard on top of Reza’s head. At this time, Reza passed away.

One of the locals came and hit him in his leg very hard … but Reza did not feel it. This is how I know he was dead.

After that, as the guards came past him, they kicked his dead body on the ground …
Australia regards itself as having no responsibility for Barati or anyone else held on Manus Island or Nauru. But we pay Transfield Services to run the detention centres there. We pay Wilson Security, the Australian company which employs the guards. When the government disclaims responsibility for what happens in offshore detention centres, it is deliberately misleading you.

Some will be aware that I have been running a campaign to encourage Australians to write letters to people held on Nauru and Manus. Just before Christmas last year, 2000 letters I had sent to Nauru were returned to me, unopened and marked “Return to Sender”.

So far, the Department of Immigration has not responded to the four emails I have sent them asking for an explanation why those letters had not been delivered to the people to whom they were addressed. They have told members of the press that the named recipients of the letters did not wish to receive letters.

Apart from being implausible, it stands awkwardly with the fact that, during the second half of last year, the Department assured me that the letters were being received and distributed.

Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed on Manus Island. AAP/Dan Peled
International criticism

Australia’s system of mandatory detention has been trenchantly criticized by Amnesty International and UNHCR. In late 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) delivered a report on conditions in the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) on Manus Island, saying:

UNHCR was deeply troubled to observe that the current policies, operational approaches and harsh physical conditions at the RPC do not comply with international standards.
It also reported on conditions in Nauru and said:

Assessed as a whole, UNHCR is of the view that the transfer of asylum-seekers to what are currently harsh and unsatisfactory temporary facilities, within a closed detention setting, and in the absence of a fully functional legal framework and adequately capacitated system to assess refugee claims, do not currently meet the required protection standards.
Just as a person’s character is judged by their conduct, so a country’s character is judged by its conduct. Australia is now judged overseas by its behaviour as cruel and selfish. We treat frightened, innocent people as criminals. It is a profound injustice.

It is a hard thing to be forced by circumstances to leave the country of your birth in search for a place that is safe. The play of chance is worse again for those who must seek protection in a country whose language and culture is radically different from your own.

How much worse must it be to find that your bid for freedom ends up with punishment as harsh as anything you might have experienced at home. I have received messages from many refugees from many countries over the course of many years which say, in substance: “In my home country they kill you quickly; in Australia they kill you slowly”.

Our politicians lie to us

One of the most distressing things about the present situation is that it is based on a series of lies. When politicians called boat people “illegals” and “queue jumpers” they are not telling the truth. When politicians say that they are concerned about people drowning in their attempt to reach safety, they are not telling the truth.

The Abbott government reintroduced temporary protection visas (TPVs). Temporary protection visas offer only three years’ protection, and they include a condition which denies they prospect of family reunion.

That has one obvious practical consequence: families who wish to rejoin the husband or father who is living in Australia on a TPV are not allowed to come to Australia by any orthodox means, so the only way in which the family can be reunited is by the women and children using the services of a people smuggler. TPVs are a positive incentive for people to use people smugglers.

Quite apart from that, there is something indecent about the idea that in order to prevent people from drowning in their attempt to reach safety you punish the ones who don’t drown. That is precisely what this country is doing right now.

The former Abbott government made an election pledge to ‘stop the boats’. AAP/Ava Benny-Morrison
Conclusion

Like most of you, I am aware that Donald Horne was speaking ironically when he wrote of Australia as “the lucky country”. But in most important ways, compared with the boat people who try to reach safety in Australia, we are indeed lucky.

Over the past 15 years, 94% of boat people have been assessed, by us, as refugees genuinely fleeing the fear of persecution. In Australia, most members of the community never have to fear persecution; never have to fear for the late night knock on the door; never have to fear for their human rights.

But it is all because of the play of chance. Imagine for a moment that you are a Hazara from Afghanistan. You have fled your country and you have come down the northwest corridor through Malaysia and Indonesia. You can travel through both of those countries because they give you a one-month visa on arrival.

While you are in Indonesia you can go to the UNHCR office in Jakarta and apply for refugee status. If you are a Hazara from Afghanistan, you will almost certainly be assessed as a refugee. But when your one-month visa expires, you have to hide because if you are found by the police, they will jail you.

You cannot work because if you work you will be found and then you will be jailed. You cannot send your children to school because if you do you will be found and then you will be jailed. If the UNHCR has assessed you as a refugee, you can wait patiently in the shadows until some country offers to resettle you. That may take 20 or 30 years.

Now, for just one minute, imagine that chance has put you in that position: you are that person. Will you wait in the shadows for 20 or 30 years or will you take your courage in both hands and get on a boat? I have never met an Australian who would not get on the boat. It’s a very strange thing that we criticise, revile and punish those who do precisely what we would do if by chance we had not the luck to belong to this country.

Whether this thinking will bear fruit may soon be tested. In the last weeks of its existence, the Abbott government shifted its position quickly in response to public opinion. It had initially resisted the idea of receiving Syrian refugees.

Public opinion could see however that bombing Syrians and turning our backs on them was not a good look. Germany conspicuously agreed to take 800,000 Syrian refugees, with very few questions asked. That made our claim to be “the most generous country in the world” look a bit hollow. Given that Germany’s population is about four times ours, we would have had to receive 200,000 refugees rather than the present quota of 13,750.

Abbott volunteered that we would take 12,000 Syrians. Whether the Turnbull government engages in cherry-picking remains to be seen. There is a real risk that the Howard government sentiment will survive: “If they come in the front door, they are (more or less) welcome; if they come in the back door, we will jail them”.

It’s too early to tell whether community attitudes have actually changed. If they have, government attitudes are likely to change.

The second matter was equally surprising and even more encouraging. Melbourne responded swiftly and decisively against the idea of Border Force officers cruising the streets and “speaking to anyone who crosses our path”. The original idea, apparently, was to have squads of public transport officers, police, and Border Force officers who would intercept people at places like Flinders Street Station and check their Myki card, their identity and their visa status.

Melbourne heard of the proposal on the morning of Friday, August 28. Melbournians turned out in force to protest. By mid-afternoon, the exercise had been cancelled, in a flurry of buck-passing.

In my view, Melbourne’s reaction – so swift and decisive – showed that we know when and where to draw the line. Perhaps I am an optimist, but I think it showed what sort of country we are. I think that, at heart, we are still the country that David Hamer and Dick Hamer served with such distinction. Perhaps someone should tell our politicians.

Refugees
Asylum seekers
Nauru
Manus Island
Offshore detention
Long read

What the EU must do now to halt this tragedy on its shores

http://theconversation.com/what-the-eu-must-do-now-to-halt-this-tragedy-on-its-shores-40486?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+21+April+2015+-+2662&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+21+April+2015+-+2662+CID_9ce922828832a53bf64a3f1dc27ade0c&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=What%20the%20EU%20must%20do%20now%20to%20halt%20this%20tragedy%20on%20its%20shores

“How much is a human life worth? How many more people have to die to generate enough momentum for Europe to intervene? Unfortunately these are not rhetorical questions. More than 1,500 people have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean on their way from North Africa since the start of 2015.

Many Europeans are wondering how much longer Europe can ignore the tragedy unfolding on its doorstep while politicians and policy makers weigh up the political and economic cost of saving lives at sea.

. . . . . .   ”

Please go to the above link to read more about what Nando says about the tragedy on Europe’s shores.

How do you protect people?

How do you protect people in times of war and upheaval? The German magazine DER SPIEGEL published an opinion piece by Maximilian Popp on this subject. I think the so called “first world” faces a huge problem with more and more displaced people from zones of war and upheaval seeking asylum and a better life. What can humanely be done? How can we suppose that a certain percentage of human beings can be just ignored and left to drown or be killed in zones of  terrible upheavals?

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opinion-europe-should-protect-people-not-borders-a-1029594.html

Australia – Cambodia Refugee Deal

http://www.upswellmag.com/blog–australia-refugees-and-the-containment-of-surplus-life

According to the Australian government refugees who tried to come to Australia in one of these leaky boats, that are operated by people smugglers, refugees like this who are being held at present in some offshore detention centre, have eventually to be settled in a country other than Australia. Our government calls this a very successful border control policy. They are adamant that Australian voters do like this policy. The introduction of this policy has stopped the boats for quite some time now. People who dared to come near Australia in one of these leaky boats in the past and who are at present in some off shore detention centre, have to be settled in some country elsewhere, not in Australia, so our government says.

Cambodia apparently is willing to receive refugees as settlers. Australia does not want to settle these unwanted boat arrivals in our vast country.

https://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/ngos-in-cambodia-complicit-in-the-australia-cambodia-refugee-deal/

31000 Asylum Seekers’ Chance of Settlement

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/27/scott-morrison-may-be-forced-to-give-31000-asylum-seekers-chance-of-settlement

“The “deal” between the Palmer United party and the immigration minister to reintroduce temporary protection visas is looking shaky as PUP expresses deep concerns Scott Morrison’s legislation goes far beyond what was agreed.

. . . . . .

Guardian Australia understands the Senate is very likely to insist on a clear “pathway to permanence”.

Palmer had immediate concerns about the bill and sent a “please explain” letter to Morrison when a parliamentary human rights committee including five members of the Coalition found the bill was incompatible with human rights.”

A Reblog of a Reblog

Last  year  Gerard Oosterman  published this blog:

 

“Australia’s Dilemma with Boat-people baffling the World”

http://oosterman.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/australias-dilemma-with-boat-people-baffling-the-world/#comments

 

I just came across this blog and ended up reading some of the comments with Gerards replies.  I think nothing much has changed since last year. We still have this terrible dilemma.

 Responses to “Australia’s Dilemma with Boat-people baffling the World”

  1. auntyuta Says:
    Why? Is it because we feel our way of life being threatened?
    Do we not spend billions to ‘protect’ our borders? What if this money or at least part of it could be spent to provide some simple housing for asylum seekers. What if we let these people work to build houses, infrastructure and to produce nourishing food, as well as build schools and do training of teachers for children as well as adults to learn English? Does anyone think these people are not capable of doing a day’s work? Why let them rot in camps without being able to work? It doesn’t make sense to me.
    There are many jobs in Australia that are nearly exclusively done by recent migrants from Asia and Africa. They are willingly and gladly doing these jobs for little pay which other Australians are not willing to do anymore!
    How much do people pay these so called people smugglers? Why don’t we go to Indonesia and tell these people instead of giving this money to people smugglers they can deposit it with an Australian Bank. Then they only have to apply for residence in Australia and in due time the Australian government is going to transport them to this country of their choice at no cost to them? If the application is not successful for some reason (maybe because they cannot provide sufficient papers?) then they can withdraw their saved money at any time. At least the the people smugglers would not get the money and these people would not risk being drowned at sea or their application not being successful after a hazardous journey. When Peter and I applied for migration to Australia from Germany in 1959 we were asked to come for an interview to the Australian embassy in Cologne. We had to bring our two babies along too when we talked to the Australian officer.
    Why cannot the same thing be done with prospective migrants in Indonesia?

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:
      Of course many could be settled here very comfortably. The political parties just use the boat people for political ends, whipping up xenophobia.
      Anyway, it seems the liberals have been snookered by the ALP in their own game. I think your idea to advice people to invest the money going to smugglers into an Australian Bank instead an excellent idea. It take an (ex) German to come up with practical workable solutions!  🙂

      Like

      • auntyuta Says:
        He, he, Gerard, this remains to be seen if anything like this would meet any government’s criteria!
        I just read what barrister and human rights advocate Julian Burnside has to say. He says boat arrivals are less than 0,7% of all yearly arrivals. To keep one person in detention for one year costs 200,000 $ in our cities and more then twice this in outback centres or off shore places. (I reckon Papua New Guinea might be a lot cheaper!)
        Burnside says after one month for security and health checks asylum seekers should be released into the community allowing them to work or to receive Centrelink benefits, settling them in regional centres who would gladly welcome the influx of people to these reginal towns who struggle to survive.

        Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:
      Yes, that would be common sense. But common sense seems to be in short supply. The difficulty seems to be to turn around peoples perception that the boat people numbers are not large, they are miniscule. It is not a real problem for such a country of ‘boundless plains’.

      Like

  2. roughseasinthemed Says:
    Can’t believe the white Australia policy is still going on. Amazing. I remember it from years back when my uncle was a ten pound pom and my partner and some of his mates from South Wales went in the late 70s. Then, to be fair, it did change and Redfern became full of Vietnamese.It’s one of the ironies of life that big countries are invariably underpopulated and small ones overpopulated. A generalisation, but living in the fifth most densely populated territory in the world, one that applies to me. If you look at Europe, Belgium, Netherlands, and to a lesser extent, the UK, are all relatively high up the list. Spain less so, like Australia, it has vast areas of country that have no people.When you start to look at bigger countries with a high population density, Bangla Desh comes first, followed by India, and then China. Bangla Desh isn’t that big, just the biggest that hits six figures in sq kms in the top 20. India makes top 50, and China is 83 in the rankings. The rest of the big countries are way down the list.

    Having said all that PNG is pretty low on the list 209, compared with Australia at 233.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_population_density.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:
      The original White Australian Policy was abandoned officially in the seventies. The population now is very mixed and from just about all over the world, that’s why it is so ludicrous to be so worried about boat people in desperation trying to come here. We should be worried about their drowning but this is not the main concern which is a way over the top whipping up of xenophobia, being overrun by hordes of Afghans or Iranians, etc.
      We went to those countries waging dubious wars that made millions of refugees. When some in desperation try and come to Australia risking their lives, we make out as if they have evil intentions for Australia
      . Terrible.

      Like

      • roughseasinthemed Says:
        I should have added that every year there is an influx of raft people from Africa trying to get to Spain and thence to northern Europe for a better life. Or just anywhere really.What so-called developed countries (ie greedy capitalist ones) should do, is put some reasonable infrastructure in instead of going to war for oil, leaving the place a dog’s breakfast, and consider more environmental moves. In my dreams.

        Like

  3. berlioz1935 Says:
    Gerard, you are painting a good picture of the history of post-war immigration into Australia and the present sad state of affairs.Even the language they are using explaining the new measurements are offensive, like “this country has enough”. What about PNG? They soon will have enough of the asylum seekers.The “boat people” will get a culture shock. Perhaps this is intended. You are right, it can’t be the number of people that come. There is plenty of land that can be populated.

    You say, Australia is a huge country and “small” parts of it are as big as European countries. The problem with Australians is they have no idea how huge Australia is. When they go to school and they see a map of Australia the map is the same size as the map of any other country. Since we have no neighbours here we have no way comparing our country with another.

    The numbers in boat arrivals are minuscule. If we are worried about the drowning, as they say, they should go to Indonesia and pick the recognised refugees up and bring them here. I wrote to PM Gillard but got no response.

    When we came to Australia they came and picked us up (assisted migrants) and we were economic migrants. We all want a better life, what is wrong with that? Didn’t the Angle-Saxon go to Britain for a better life?

    Contracting out the asylum seekers is cheaper. To hell with the consequences for them and the people of PNG. The shock of the new measure “might” do the trick and it will reduce the boat arrivals.

    And you asked, why? Because we stole the country in the first place and we don’t want to share it with others. The population has increased despite ourselves. We are racist, but we will not admit it.

    Like

  4. gerard oosterman Says:
    Yes Berlioz 1935.
    Back in those days the Australian Government were advertising overseas to try and entice people to migrate. Now many are coming out of a much greater need. The need to survive and escape terrible wars.
    I can’t believe some of the dreadful comments in the media. Many boat people have drowned and are still drowning and it is made out as if this is some ploy by them to gain a better outcome or more sympathy.
  5. And on it goes . . . .

Edit This

2 Responses to “A Reblog from 22nd of July 2013”

  1. stuartbramhallJuly 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm Edit #

    Australia has long had a deplorable record in their dealings with refugees. As a member of the child and adolescent faculty of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, I supported a formal protest to the Australian government about the abusive treatment of child refugees in Australian detention centres.

    • auntyutaJuly 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm Edit #

      Thanks for this, Stuart. I wished that more could be done for these children. At the moment we are very upset, shocked and sad about the loss of life in that terrible airline crash over the East of Ukraine.
      I blame the companies who produce these extremely dangerous weapons. There is always the danger they end up with people who make horrible, horrible mistakes! I really do not know how anyone can be convinced to gain something positive out of these weapons. Why do they think they have to produce them? 😦

Surge in Refugees in Germany

A Publication by SPIEGEL ONLINE INTERNATIONAL from July 07, 2014

I copied this publication for I am quite distressed that all these wars, hostilities and fighting create such misery for so many refugees.

Growing Influx: Germany Caught Off Guard By Surge in Refugees

Photo Gallery: Germany's Crowded Refugee CentersPhotos
DPA

The German government is expecting around 175,000 people to file applications for asylum this year, the highest number in two decades. Regional politicians are acting surprised, but there have been signs of this development for years now.

Last Friday, the state interior ministers of Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) convened for a meeting at the stately Westin Bellevue in Dresden, with a view of the Elbe River and the baroque historic city center. But they weren’t here to discuss the views — the subject at hand was much grimmer: packed school gymnasiums, dwellings made out of shipping containers, cots and other logistical aspects of Germany’s refugee crisis.

 

Part of the job of state interior ministers in Germany is to ensure that refugees who make their way into country are provided with acceptable accommodations. If you travel through Germany’s cities, you can often see evidence that state governments haven’t been doing their jobs well — and that they’ve been overstrained by the sheer number of people seeking assistance, which has risen dramatically for months.Officials had been hoping that Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s federal interior minister and a member of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU, might present a realistic solution at the Dresden meeting. Germany’s federal parliament passed a new law penned by de Maizière on Thursday that defines Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina — the sources of a massive wave of refugees to Germany during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s — as “safe countries of origin” and expedites the process of rejecting asylum applications for citizens from these countries.

Although de Maizière praised the law at the meeting, it is unlikely that it will be approved by the Bundesrat, Germany’s second legislative chamber, which represents the interests of the states — the CDU and SPD do not have a majority in the Bundesrat, and the Green Party has already expressed its displeasure with the proposed law. And even if it is approved, it isn’t clear if the new rules can slow the influx of refugees.

During their consultations, the ministers gave the impression that developments have caught the country by surprise — almost as if they were being overrun by it. But in fact, large numbers of refugees have been making their way to Germany from the world’s crisis zones for two years now.

Officials Moved too Slowly to Address Problems

The refugees in Germany are fleeing many things: the civil war in Syria, the recent wave of terror in Iraq, torturous regimes but also, in many cases, a life of poverty and no prospects, be it in Africa or as a member of the Roma minority in Serbia. Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) estimates that as many as 175,000 people will apply for asylum in Germany this year alone, the highest number seen in the past 20 years and double the figure for 2013.

In Munich, the state government even considered the idea of erecting tent camps to provide new arrivals with accommodation. What’s happening there is symptomatic of what other municipalities and aid organizations are experiencing: One of Europe’s richest countries is proving unable to provide humane accommodations for refugees. At least part of the problem lies in the fact that government officials failed to plan and properly prepare for the current wave. Cities have been complaining since the beginning of 2012 about having too little money available and too little capacity for providing assistance to refugees. Their complaints were either ignored or went unheard.

The federal interior minister and state governments have done too little to address the problem. There have been faint promises that municipalities and states would be given more money at some point in the future for the care of refugees, but the people are arriving here now.

At the end of June, Pastor Andreas Herden of Inner Mission, the Munich chapter of a Protestant aid organization, spoke openly about the situation in the state. He said it had become inevitable that tent cities would have to be set up at the preliminary reception center in Munich for refugees. In just two days’ time, he said 300 people had arrived at the former military barracks, which were already full. Herden’s public remarks sent a collective chill down the spines of members of the Bavarian state government — they feared that photos making beautiful Munich look no different than a Syrian refugee camp would make their way around the world.

Shortly thereafter, German President Joachim Gauck pleaded with his fellow Germans for a greater sense of humanity. He said the images of coffins in the hangar of Lampedusa airport didn’t fit in with the image “we have of ourselves as Europeans.” Thousands of mostly African refugees have perished in recent years as they sought to make their way to the Italian island, which is located just 113 kilometers (70 miles) from Tunisia.

Germans Growing More Empathetic to Refugees

Gauck’s words struck a chord with Germans. In contrast to the 1990s, there is a greater consensus among society today that refugees should be provided with protection in Germany. Empathy for stranded people — who have made the voyage from Africa, often having given their entire sayings to human-traffickers in the hope of getting to Europe — has replaced old fears of foreigners.

These days, Germans don’t seem to mind taking in refugees from Syria either. German politicians — from Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) right down to members of the Left Party in parliament — have said that Germany has to face up to its international responsibilities by taking in more Syrians. But what good is compassion for the needy if no one is taking care of the practical aspects of refugee relief?

When it opened in 2010, the Munich reception center for new refugees, located at the former Bayernkaserne military barracks, was only meant to be a temporary, back-up location to be used for six months. At the time, 400 people moved in and the Bavarian Interior Ministry promised it would quickly build a new reception center in the smaller city of Deggendorf, where the government had the opportunity to inexpensively purchase buildings that were part of an apparel factory. Munich city officials had originally planned to build new apartments at the site of the barracks.

But then the barracks filled with asylum seekers from the countries affected by the Arab Spring, families from the Balkans, refugees from Eritrea and Nigeria and Syrian war victims. By the winter of 2013, the interim facility had grown into a giant camp with 1,600 people. It became so cramped that a former military equipment hangar was converted into a sleeping facility with beds. As of the end of June of this year, some 2,000 refugees were being accommodated in the barracks.

Influx Exceeds Forecasts

Nowadays, smugglers simply drop their passengers off in small buses on side streets near the barracks. “The influx is exceeding any of our previous forecasts,” laments Bavarian Social Minister Emilia Müller.

The government district of Upper Bavaria, which includes Munich, quickly cleaned up an old truck storage facility on the barracks property and crammed 300 cots inside with stained, thin 5-centimeter (2 inch) thick foam mattresses. Anything had to be better than erecting tent cities, the thinking went.

The same day, officials led journalists on tours through the soot-covered hall, with rain water leaking through the roof. Officials wanted to show the media that the state still had capacity and that everything was under control. But they weren’t shown the quarantine area located just next door, where dozens of people were being kept locked behind iron fences because no doctors were available to give them the quick examination for infectious diseases required under Germany’s Asylum Procedure Law.

A Shortage of Money and Staff

Space problems aside, the reception center — like most German accommodations provided for asylum seekers — is short on money and staff. Günther Bauer, the head of Inner Mission Munich, says that at least 20 employees are needed to provide social counseling for the new arrivals at the Bayernkaserne facility. Currently, he says, there are only 6.5 employees and they are only allowed to enter into the quarantine area in cases of emergency.

Doctors with the public health office are unable to complete the close to 100 examinations that are currently necessary each day. This has created a bottleneck for the refugees who now face long waiting periods before they can obtain their medical certificates, without which they are not allowed to leave the barracks. As they wait, the five-to-10-day deadline in which they can apply to be brought together with family members already living in Germany expires.

After the medical examination, the refugees are taken to decentralized accommodations or community centers. Even after spending weeks in Germany, many refugees aren’t able to meet with the BAMF representatives who are responsible for listening to their stories and reviewing their cases. “Sometimes they spend months in a village waiting for a representative of the office,” says Alexander Thal of the Bavarian Refugees Council, an umbrella group of state organizations providing assistance to asylum seekers. It’s a period of time in which nothing happens. New arrivals are only permitted to seek employment nine months after they get to Germany, and those who haven’t been interviewed also can’t be deported.

The overcrowding in the shelters has been worsened by the BAMF’s personnel shortage, which has led to longer wait times and frustrated those who have already undergone dangerous travels to make it to Germany. On Friday, the police evicted 80 refugee claimants from the agency’s property in Nuremberg who had threatened to begin a hunger strike.

The current federal budget allowed for 300 new BAMF hires, but officials in Nuremberg seem to be struggling to fill those positions. Just recently, eight candidates backed out. The workers who decide on asylum cases usually come from Germany’s government-backed public administration colleges. But the graduates of those institutions are coveted, and now BAMF recruiters are going to job fairs and considering bachelors degree-holders who have learned the basics of public administration.

Besides, in the months it will take to train the new employees, the processing points will continue becoming more crowded. In addition, 150 employees who had been on loan to BAMF from the German Federal Police — to help with the past year’s increased number of refugee claims — will have to return to their original positions, despite the fact that the current number of refugees is considerably higher than it was in 2013. Last week, the staff council of the Federal Police turned down the Interior Ministry’s request to extend the temporary workers’ deputation.

The German Federal Police have little sympathy for their colleagues. They argue that the rising number of asylum requests isn’t some unexpected, new problem — people have aware of it for a long time. “People have known about this for years, and they’ve turned a blind eye to it,” says one high-ranking Federal Police employee.

In most German states, the search for refugee housing is just as disorganized. Refugees are geographically allotted according to the so-called Königsteiner Schlüssel (Königstein Code), which takes tax income and population into account. The western German state of North Rhine-Westfalia and the southeastern state of Bavaria are responsible for accommodating the greatest number of refugees, a container village is also being planned in the central German state of Hesse, where even a former garden center has been repurposed as shelter.

North Rhine-Westphalia is trying to acquire empty British-army barracks from the federal government in the city of Mönchengladbach to create additional capacity. In Upper Bavaria, local authorities want to use school gymnasia and tennis facilities during the summer months, if necessary. The northern German state of Lower Saxony is planning to outfit group accommodations in the Wendland region, in facilities intended to house police securing the transportation of dry-cask radioactive material to the nuclear waste facility in Gorleben.

Not In Our Backyard Complaints

In three years, Hamburg has increased the number of spaces in its refugee processing center from 70 to today’s 1,700. Now the authorities want to open a shelter in the well-heeled Harvestehude neighborhood, where a building belonging to the German armed forces is available. Some high-earners, however, have been resistant to the idea. It is inhumane, they argue, to expose refugees to an affluence that they themselves could never attain.

Protests have also been popping up in the countryside. In the Bavarian municipality of Salzweg, near the Austrian border, village locals have fought against the leasing of an inn for refugee families. In Anzing, near Munich, posters were recently hung in the old forester’s lodge that was supposed to house refugees: They included a rhyme claiming that the 30 men the inn was to house would be a burden for the community. In the Baden-Württemberg town of Fellbach, refugees had to move out of a container village located in the parking lot of a stadium because of neighbor complaints.

 

Both social welfare organizations and authorities are predicting that the number of asylum seekers will continue to increase until October. The stream of refugees supposedly won’t crest or plateau until the winter, at the earliest. Günther Bauer of Inner Mission Munich is convinced that “the strain from Africa will remain constant.” The German government should have delivered a real refugee policy strategy a long time ago, he argues.But such a strategy doesn’t exist in the EU, or in Germany or Bavaria. Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer has simply stated that his cabinet will now address the massive shortage of accommodations. Minister Müller promised 5,000 new spots for refugees by the end of 2014, an ambitious plan that will be almost impossible to achieve.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter, meanwhile, wants to provide the refugees with at least one good-will gesture: TVs for the Bayernkasserne facility so that the new arrivals can watch the World Cup.

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey and Thomas Rogers

Facts about Asylum Seekers

I, Aunty Uta,  did get the following from a reply to:

http://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/about/

http://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/

posted February 1, 2014 at 10:21 am by d0tski

I do not know how to contact d0tski to get his permission to reblog. I did find what he wrote an excellent contribution. I wished I was articulate and knowledgeable enough to write something similar myself. d0tski wrote this:

 

“Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately:

Polling shows that 59% of people polled do NOT believe that most asylum seekers who arrive by boat are genuine refugees. Only 30% believed that most boat arrivals are genuine refugees.
Now, those of us who get our news from someone other than Murdoch know this not to be true. We know that greater than 90% of people who arrive by boat will later (much later), be recognised as ‘genuine refugees’.

Of the 1000 people surveyed, 60% felt that boat-arrivals should be treated more harshly.

59% of those surveyed felt that boat-arrivals should not receive financial government assistance.

All these figures tell us that the majority of Australians have no idea who is on these boats. No concept of the types of persecution they are fleeing. No idea that there is no ‘queue’ for asylum seekers to be processed and re-settled. They don’t realise that (for example), in 2011, only 0.7% of the worlds refugees were resettled. These figures also show us that people do not know, or do not believe, that the conditions on Manus and Nauru are tantamount to torture.

Personally, I refuse to believe that people don’t care. I’m convinced that the problem is that people DON’T KNOW.

This needs to change. Television shows such as those shown on the ABC’s “4 Corners”, and SBS’ “Go Back To Where You Came From” are great. I always watch them. But truly, they are preaching to the choir.
Add to that the fact that it is nigh-on impossible to get decent reportage out of these places. Successive governments have made it increasingly difficult for us to know what is going on. For the Abbott government, it’s pretty much their modus operandi.

How do you get the rest of Australia to listen and learn? I don’t know. If we knew that, we wouldn’t have this problem.

I don’t have any answers here, so if you read this far hoping for a revelation, I apologise 🙂 I just think it’s important to know what the problems are before trying to come up with a solution.

Actually, there’s one other thought I’ve had. Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? If you did psych in highschool, you probably covered it. It’s basically the idea that humans have a hierarchy of needs that looks like a pyramid. The greatest needs are at the bottom, and include physiological needs like breathing, food, water etc. We move up the pyramid through Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and eventually (so the theory goes) we reach Self Actualisation at the top.
Now, it’s my personal theory that governments like to try and keep most of their constituents near the bottom of the pyramid. If we’re all worrying about where our next meal may come from, job security, and mundane things like that, we’re never going to get to a point where our greatest needs are ones like morality, truth and creativity. It is in the governments’ (not just in Oz, but all over) best interest that we live in a permanent state of fear. They want us to always worry that someone is going to come and take what is ‘rightfully ours.’ They appeal to our most basic emotions of fear and greed.

Once again, I don’t know how you change that.”

 

 

Aunty Uta’s Comment to this Post by Dotski:

On the first of March, 2014, that is just a few weeks ago, I published the above under the heading: Apologies to the Author.

Today I came across it once more and read it again with great interest. In my opinion this is a very well written article.  I like it so much that I post it here again. I feel it is very saddening that so many people do not know the true facts about Asylum Seekers. Dotski says he does not know how to change that. Does anybody know?

 

 

Apologies to the Author

I did get the following from a reply to:

http://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/about/

http://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/

posted February 1, 2014 at 10:21 am by d0tski

I do not know how to contact d0tski to get his permission to reblog. I did find what he wrote an excellent contribution. I wished I was articulate and knowledgeable enough to write something similar myself. d0tski wrote this:

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately:

Polling shows that 59% of people polled do NOT believe that most asylum seekers who arrive by boat are genuine refugees. Only 30% believed that most boat arrivals are genuine refugees.
Now, those of us who get our news from someone other than Murdoch know this not to be true. We know that greater than 90% of people who arrive by boat will later (much later), be recognised as ‘genuine refugees’.

Of the 1000 people surveyed, 60% felt that boat-arrivals should be treated more harshly.

59% of those surveyed felt that boat-arrivals should not receive financial government assistance.

All these figures tell us that the majority of Australians have no idea who is on these boats. No concept of the types of persecution they are fleeing. No idea that there is no ‘queue’ for asylum seekers to be processed and re-settled. They don’t realise that (for example), in 2011, only 0.7% of the worlds refugees were resettled. These figures also show us that people do not know, or do not believe, that the conditions on Manus and Nauru are tantamount to torture.

Personally, I refuse to believe that people don’t care. I’m convinced that the problem is that people DON’T KNOW.

This needs to change. Television shows such as those shown on the ABC’s “4 Corners”, and SBS’ “Go Back To Where You Came From” are great. I always watch them. But truly, they are preaching to the choir.
Add to that the fact that it is nigh-on impossible to get decent reportage out of these places. Successive governments have made it increasingly difficult for us to know what is going on. For the Abbott government, it’s pretty much their modus operandi.

How do you get the rest of Australia to listen and learn? I don’t know. If we knew that, we wouldn’t have this problem.

I don’t have any answers here, so if you read this far hoping for a revelation, I apologise 🙂 I just think it’s important to know what the problems are before trying to come up with a solution.

Actually, there’s one other thought I’ve had. Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? If you did psych in highschool, you probably covered it. It’s basically the idea that humans have a hierarchy of needs that looks like a pyramid. The greatest needs are at the bottom, and include physiological needs like breathing, food, water etc. We move up the pyramid through Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and eventually (so the theory goes) we reach Self Actualisation at the top.
Now, it’s my personal theory that governments like to try and keep most of their constituents near the bottom of the pyramid. If we’re all worrying about where our next meal may come from, job security, and mundane things like that, we’re never going to get to a point where our greatest needs are ones like morality, truth and creativity. It is in the governments’ (not just in Oz, but all over) best interest that we live in a permanent state of fear. They want us to always worry that someone is going to come and take what is ‘rightfully ours.’ They appeal to our most basic emotions of fear and greed.

Once again, I don’t know how you change that.