When we saw them floundering in the water as the debris of the pathetic vessels floated around them, Australians were motivated to prevent more innocent people from losing their lives by drowning.
But now they’re not people floundering. They are evil with destructive intent. An entity that requires ever-increasing “border protection” to prevent the infiltration of danger into our precious world.
From Tampa to Morrison, what happened?
The justification for offshore processing and mandatory detention was initially an initiative that politicians stated clearly was motivated to prevent the loss of life that had been happening when desperate people took to rickety boats to reach Australia in search of a safe and peaceful life.
Stuck in limbo without rights in places like Indonesia, they needed to find a place where they could work and access education for their children. So they reached for a place they thought would welcome them or at least be obligated to give them some kind of support through its commitment to the United nations convention on refugees. With no queue and little documentation – those seeking asylum forced to flee dangerous regimes with minimal preparation – limbo was a different kind of hell. So brave, proactive and protective of their loved ones, they did the only thing they could to give their families a chance at a life. But that option was for some was a fatal one. And vision of people drowning so close to their own shores was too much for many Australians. (Though possibly viewed differently by some with different agendas.) And so those people were destined to never be allowed to reach Australia in their entire life and be reassigned to another limbo on places like Christmas island, Nauru and Manus.
As the years passed and the detained people seeking asylum were kept from the majority of media – and from the millions Australians –those people dissolved in the public consciousness. And their existence was replaced in many minds by something inhuman. They weren’t mothers and engineers and babies and students. They were threats. Demonised. The small percentage who seek asylum in this way have become a tidal wave of infiltration waiting to happen. And so now Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton (and members of all major parties and key media ratings-seekers) can speak of “border protection” over and over again and have no one question its legitimacy.
What happened to saving people’s lives?
I imagine Mr Morrison would say the lives he is focussed on saving are those of Australians lucky enough to hold citizenship for a country with relative geographic isolation, space and resources.
But if you think back to the pictures of the babies and the students and the mothers and the engineers, how can Australians need to be saved from them? What is our nation being protected from? Being enriched by cultural infusion like that that came from the Vietnamese migration? And from Italy and Greece before that? And from all parts of the world where lives have been steeped in long histories and traditions that inform and add depth and meaning. Or from turbulent dangerous locations that seed a simple and determined desire for peaceful low-risk lives.
Even the initial catch cry of ‘saving lives’ is deeply flawed. (See ref links below.)
But this mantra of “border protection” from those who benefit by keeping the populace in a state of instability or fear has meant we have allowed ourselves to devolve into a damaging ignorance that divides and weakens a population. The strategic manipulation by power-hungry individuals with no thought for “safety” beyond the retention of their seat in the parliament provides Australians with little to keep us any safer that we already are and slams the door to advancement in any positive direction – both as human beings and as a productive, contemporary community.
I need to be one of the people that stands up while it’s happening and says No.
What do you need to be?
REFERENCES (click on the underlined text below to see source material or further details)
Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? Library of the Parliament of Australia
Do boat arrivals ‘bring disease’ and are they a threat to security? Unauthorised boat arrivals have always undergone comprehensive security and health checks. These include the collection of personal and medical history, a physical examination and formalised mental health screening; assessing identities and whether the person is raising claims which may engage Australia’s protection obligations; and obtaining formal police clearances from countries of first asylum in which they have resided for at least 12 months, to confirm they are of good character.
Is Australia being ‘swamped by boat arrivals’?
In terms of migration to Australia generally, boat arrivals have always been a very small cohort:
…in the context of our migration program, the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia is very, very minor. It is less than 1.5 per cent of new migrants