We Need to Sort it Out: Please, Can’t We Just Accept some Asylum Seekers here and commit to a real Policy?

(I thought I’d published this already. Ooops. Stay tuned for more posts like this, as it’s Refugee Week here.)

It was the fishermen from Aceh who prompted the politicians to act, by rescuing the asylum seeking Rohingya. Since I last wrote, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have talked and agreed to stop turning the boats away and met for talks.

Indonesia even scolded Australia for not acting. But Abbott just said, “Nope, nope, nope.”

As an article from the Guardian says:

Australia has a responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in the Bay of Bengal because it is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, according to the Indonesian government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to offer resettlement to Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar on the grounds it would encourage people smuggling.

Asked earlier on Thursday whether the Australian government would help resettle those who have been stranded at sea, Mr Abbott replied “nope, nope, nope”.

“I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door,” he said.

But Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Australia could not ignore the humanitarian crisis.

“My point is this: countries that are parties to the convention on refugees have a responsibility to ensure they believe in what they sign,” Mr Nasir said.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN convention.

However Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to 7000 Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugees still stranded at sea and provide temporary shelter for up to a year.

This was on the provision that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.

“I hope all the countries that signed the refugee convention address the issue,” Mr Nasir said.

“If you believe it when you sign it, you should act upon it.”

Now, former refugees in Australia are afraid to speak out:

Refugees in Australia fear speaking out about asylum, ex-detainee says
Surgeon who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime says many former detainees ‘fear they will be persecuted’ if they speak publicly

Many refugees who have settled in Australia are too afraid to speak out about the country’s treatment of refugees, with some fearful their immigration status would be jeopardised, surgeon and former refugee Munjed Al Muderis has told Guardian Australia.

Earlier Al Muderis shared his experiences at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday during the ideas festival TEDxSydney 2015. After fleeing war-torn Iraq, he spent 10 months at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia in 1999 before being granted refugee status.

Al Muderis said many of his colleagues who had also been in detention “have this fear they will be persecuted if they talk”. One colleague warned him against speaking to the media, saying it might jeopardise his immigration status.

He also acknowledged a feeling of shame existed in the refugee community because of a view perpetuated by the government that Australians don’t welcome refugees, and said another friend – a “high-profile radio frequency engineer” – kept his refugee history a secret.

Al Muderis said during his time in detention he was deemed a troublemaker after he attempted to expose the conditions of the camp to the public. He befriended a guard who helped him smuggle in a camera and wrote letters to Amnesty International calling for the Human Rights Commission to investigate.

“I was falsely accused of being a ringleader and inciting problems in the detention centre,” he said.

The former refugee said it was important the Australian public realise “not all refugees are sucking taxpayer money and living on the dole. It’s very important to know asylum seekers and refugees are human like any other. We’re a slice of society: there is the bad, good and ugly. 

“And it’s our duty as a country to work on people who are bad, to make them good.”

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Even Gambia has offered to help out with the Rohingya refugee crisis and the US are looking into options. But not Australia, “nope”!

South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees

The impoverished west African nations says it is its ‘sacred duty’ to help fellow Muslims and will set them up in refugee camps

A boat which carried Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants sits abandoned in Kuta Binje, Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday.
A boat which carried Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants sits abandoned in Kuta Binje, Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Gambia says it will take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding south-east Asia to escape oppression.

The government of the impoverished west African nation asked countries of the region to send them and it will set them up in refugee camps.

“The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – especially those referred to as ‘boat people’ –currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia andIndonesia,” it said on Wednesday.

“As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with.”

The statement appealed to the international community to send tents, bedding, household materials and medicine to help the Muslim-majority Gambia set up “habitable camps with decent sanitary conditions”.

The US has also said it would help in resettlement.

A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said the US would take a leading role in any multi-country effort, organized by the United Nations refugee agency.

“I think the Malaysians and the Indonesians have requested some help resettling people. We’re taking a careful look at the proposal,” Harf said. “It has to be a multi-country effort. We obviously can’t take this all on ourselves. But we are prepared to play a leading role in this effort.”

How far does our love reach? Oddny asks:

How far does your love reach?

It struck me that she was just like me

It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.

The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.

The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated  25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.

Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.

My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.

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Labor should step up, as suggested here:

Labor’s Operation Sovereign Borders dilemma

13 Comments
Tony Kevin |  24 May 2015

The dreadful tragedy suffered this past week by Rohingya asylum seekers trapped at sea prompted an eventual softened response from Australia’s neighbours.

But there was no change from Australia’s PM, who resolutely declared late on Thursday: ‘I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.’

The week’s events provide a fresh challenge to Labor to rethink its support for the Abbott Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) ‘stop the boats’ policy, which has successfully used strong-arm methods to stop boat people reaching Australia or entering Australian custody, by means that so seemingly has not involved loss of life.

The current government’s record stands in sharp contrast to that of Labor Governments between 2007 and 2013, when around 1100 people died while trying to reach Australia or Australian custody. We need to ask ourselves honestly how and why this happened, and if Labor in government could prevent it from happening again?

If, on regaining government, Labor did what most of its supporters would like it to do – instruct OSB to end its regime of aggressive, secret, internationally illegal forced returns of all asylum-seeker boats or their passengers to Indonesia, and close down the offshore detention camps  now housing around 1500 men, women and children in terrible punitive conditions in Nauru and Manus, and letting those people out into the Australian community – what would be the consequences?

Clearly, the Abbott Government, for as long as it is in power, will continue to run Operation Sovereign Borders maritime operations under the present forced return protocols, and will keep everyone now in offshore detention locked up there indefinitely. The latter is a dreadful prospect which Labor must oppose vigorously.

But I would like Labor, as a first step towards fruitful public policy discussion of this issue, to be more honest about why those 1100 people died in the years of Labor in power. They only have to study the history of each awful drowning event in our adjacent waters. Those 1100 people did not die because they were sent in unsafe overcrowded boats by ruthless irresponsible people smugglers – the 97 per cent who arrived safely were sent by the same kinds of people smugglers in the same kinds of boats.

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it’s also up to us.

We must stand up and say what we want: a fair solution that takes into account peoples’ common humanity.

References:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indonesia-to-australia-you-signed-the-un-convention-on-refugees-act-on-it-20150521-gh6u58.html

http://oddnygumaer.com/2015/05/20/how-far-does-your-love-reach/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/former-refugee-now-medical-pioneer-warns-against-detaining-asylum-seekers?CMP=soc_567

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/south-east-asia-migrant-crisis-gambia-offers-to-resettle-all-rohingya-refugees

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/nope-nope-nope-tony-abbott-says-australia-will-take-no-rohingya-refugees

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=43968#.VWLOdU-qpBd

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