“Boat people,” then-PM Howard warned us. “Queue jumpers” are not “genuine refugees” Howard’s acolytes pounded into our heads. Boats are a “pipeline for terrorists,” screamed Howard’s Defence and Immigration departments.
Consider Kadija, a “confirmed” refugee. [ABC News OnLine]
Kadija and her family fled Afghanistan 10 years ago. After spending years in refugee camps – “in the queue” like good little refugees – Kadija considered “jumping the queue” and becoming a “boat person” with her family. Her children’s fear kept them from boats: Kadija remains in the squalor and endures the uncertainty of the camp.
There are 3,200 refugees (850 “confirmed” by the UN) rotting in Jakarta refugee camps. We’ve agreed to accept 500 refugees from Indonesia this year. In the first 10 months, we’ve accepted: 52.
Vocabulary honed by the Howard government remains embedded in Australian collective consciousness. We’ve abandoned the caring, compassionate, conscience that welcomed and embraced Vietnamese immigrants, thousands of them “boat people” too. It was then the morally “right thing to do.”
Our policies now push people like Kadija to consider desperate means that keep people smugglers in business. And keep Australia from meeting its international humanitarian commitments.
Australia – there but for the grace of God go we! For what are we waiting before helping others?
Judy Bamberger, CLA member