Firstly, I’d like you to read this post by Critical Alpha, a fellow Melburnian who I met through Twitter. Funnily enough, I’ve only met his wife in real life, we’ve only ever conversed through tweets and sometimes epic emails. But that’s another blog post.
I struggle with the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia for several reasons. Firstly, the amount of people who actually arrive here, is miniscule. Compare how many thousand of people have poured into Italy in the past few months, to those few hundred who actually reach Australia, each year. I will check the stats to update this with proper figures, but this post has been brewing and I want to get it off my chest tonight.
Secondly, I emigrated to Australia from the UK, landing September 2008. It was a long, arduous process. It involved a health check, at my expense; a chest x-ray, at my expense; Hubs had to prove he could support me for a minimum of two years, because I would not be entitled to claim any benefits; we had to get witness statements from family members and friends, as well as writing our own, to support our relationship; I was interviewed; we had to supply photos, emails, letters to corroborate we said who we said we were. To even be eligible to apply, we had to live together for a year. Two years after my visa was approved, we had to repeat statements to assure the Australian Government our relationship was still going strong, I had to send a copy of our marriage certificate into them, we will have to notify them of our son’s birth when he arrives. The paperwork is all in one file, in a fire-proof safe. It is probably heading towards 4-5″ thick. By the time I am eligible to apply for citizenship, in another 4(ish) years, who knows what paperwork will have been added.
I chose to leave my home country of my own free will. I chose to upend my life, pack my most precious belongings and ship them off in a container. I chose.
- I did not have to flee my house in the middle of the night, with just the clothes I was wearing on my back.
- I have not left my family behind to make a dangerous journey, in the hope that if I can get to safety, my family can join me, months or even years later.
- I am not risking my child’s life to try and ensure their safety; because I know if I stay in the place I call home, they could be killed for being the wrong caste, colour, creed.
- I’m not worried that if I walk down the street, I will get hissed at to go back where came from.
Australians are a funny lot, so are the British (note not English on this occasion). We’re both nations of migrants, because we’re islands. We’ve a security blanket of water around us that, to a degree, protects us from invasion. Borders are smaller, let’s face it, the whole world is smaller than it was, if you were running for your life. Wouldn’t you try to get to somewhere you felt safe? Wouldn’t you cross water too? Psychologically, crossing water is important, it’s a natural barrier between you and your persecutors.
My mum did a weekend course on migration as part of her genealogy studies. She learnt of a study where DNA/blood samples from all over the UK were taken to try to trace migration movements. Did you know that when the Romans appeared on the South Coast, a lot of Anglo Saxons fled over the hills, into Wales? While not a water barrier, mountains are still a physical barrier. It also puts pay to the people who bang on about being English through and through.
A guy I once knew was asked to leave the British National Party; he could trace his family back practically to the Magna Carta, he was proud of his heritage and joined in good faith what he thought was a political party celebrating all things British. As Britain is made up of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, so covers Celts, Vikings, Romans as well as everyone else who landed and just wandered through what is now the UK, it’s a curious thing to be pedantic about. The reason he was asked to leave? He wanted to know when they were going to ask the Queen to leave the UK, as she was more German than English.
This week the arrest of Ratko Mladic was announced. For those who are a bit hazy about what he did, he authorised the rounding up, persecution and finally murder of 1000s of Muslim men and boys, to create a little ethnically cleansed Serb pocket. The ramifications from Serbo-Croat unrest and eventual war are still being felt now, UN are still providing peace-keeping forces there, with soldiers from all over the world rotating through to maintain a delicate equilibrium. How many of those families fled, with just the clothes on their backs, to other parts of Europe, but can’t be counted? What about the 1000s of people killed in Darfur, while 1000s more are desperately trying to leave to ensure their family’s safety?
But, the real reason I get so angry about the treatment of asylum seekers here? Australians will claim that anyone deserves ‘A fair go’, they bang on about people ‘Doing it tough’. Two phrases that make my skin crawl for their mangling of the English language, but what they really mean when they say them is, ‘But, only if you’re one of us’. White. Because, let’s face it, even the indigenous people of this glorious land are treated appallingly.
We are all members of the Human Family. Being prejudiced, bigoted, ignorant and just plain blinkered to why these people are arriving sometimes without any identification papers on them, or just wearing one outfit, or by maintaining that ‘We’ll stop the boats’ is racist. Plain and simple. Is that how you want Australia to be known? Or shall we just wind the clock back 50 years, so you can all fight the ignorant, corked-hatted ‘Bonzer Bloke’ with his ‘Sheila’ stereotype all over again?