Saturday, December 10, 2011

More on refugees, asylum seekers - whatever.

Much of the discussion in Australia, and I presume other countries with similar problems, has been on how to “stop the boats” from arriving. Short of the drastic step of blowing them out of the water there is no short term solution. People have migrated, gone to what they perceive are “greener pastures”, for thousands of years; in fact we are all, in effect, “migrants” out of Africa!

I am sure that many intelligent people have spent a great deal of time thinking about various solutions to this perceived problem but I have not seen much in the media about the actual causes – why these people take the tremendous risk of a precarious land and sea journey to Australia. For instance just reflect for a moment on where these “boat people” originate – generally Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq – not particularly pleasant places to live at the present time. In none of these countries is anyone “free” as we here in Australia would perceive it; all have corrupt or repressive governments; all are consumed by violence of one sort or another; all have a low standard of living for the general populace; all, with the possible exception of Iraq are culturally bound by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Quite reasonably many people in these countries want to leave for a “better” future and prospects in Australia. If I was in their shoes, I would too – in fact I did. I left Zimbabwe for Australia, with my family, over 30 years ago. But I arrived in an aircraft.

The solution – long term – is to improve conditions in the countries concerned to the extent that their citizens are not tempted to leave. If this is not possible, and being realistic it is probably not possible, then we have to expect people to move - move to what they believe is a better place. Trying to stop them coming is like putting a finger in the leak in a dike – it may work for a while but long term the pressure will build up to a point when it will be impossible to stop.

A few points to consider:-

• After the necessary health and security checks - welcome them as new migrants and put them to work.
• These are generally industrious, intelligent and resourceful people who have suffered as we have not. There is a shortage of labour in the resource States of Western Australia and Queensland. And some, if not most, have skills we need.
• Give them a welcome; give them succour; allow them to work for a better life than the one they have known – give them a future.
• Be charitable and give them an Australian “fair go”.

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