10/15/2009 11:25:00 pm

Boat People

Posted by Tom French |

It makes me angry when the only thing the Government and the Opposition can agree on is that we need to be "tough on illegal immigrants." This whole thing with the Tamil refugees getting intercepted by Indonesian authorities before they reach Australian waters is getting to me. I actually don't mind too much that Australia asked Indonesia to help. Like if there was a problem in your neighbour's backyard you might ask them to deal with it before it gets to your backyard.

But that said I don't know why we have to be so afraid of asylum seekers. We have the means to process them in a humane and dignified way, we just don't have the compassion. It's a political winner for Rudd to say "I make absolutely no apology whatsoever for taking a hard line on illegal immigration to Australia". Refugee policy should be about more than just what looks good to the electorate.

One of the reasons I was excited by a Labor Government was because I thought they might have a better immigration policy. And in fact, they have made some good improvements to the visa system and the use of detention centres. But why can't we say "If you care enough about your safety, and your family's safety, to spend weeks and months travelling across the world, in unsafe transport with dodgy rip-off merchants to get to Australia because you believe Australia will protect you and your family, then we will give you the time of day to investigate your case and process you application of asylum." It makes me sad that Australia wants to be seen as a country that takes a "hard line". Why can't we be a country with a soft heart?

I'll give the last words to Alex the Tamil spokesperson on the refugee boat in Indonesia who I enjoyed listening to tonight: "First of all I would like to say thank you to Mr Kevin Rudd because he has accepted many refugees in the past, and those refugees can be any one of our brothers or sisters who have found refuge and found safety in Australia.

"And we are thankful to him, but the other thing we would like to tell Mr Rudd is the fact that there are still many more Sri Lankans who need help.

"For you to share intelligence and make sure that this boat does not reach Australian waters - it was very difficult for us to accept because we came until the last point believing that Australia will accept us into their country."

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