Nov 15, 2010

Not exactly hate mail but worth a response.

Dear Simone,
Thanks for your comment- I too am not interested in labelling people "haters" or belittling them to prove my point. I appreciate you taking the time to write an actual argument rather than call me names. I also appreciate that you put your name to it with a link to your blog.

Firsty, you state "once you are in you can hop on the gravy train" . What gravy train is that? The one where you are locked behind razor wire? Uncertain of your future for months if not years? Asylum seekers are not eligible for ANY Centrelink benefits at all. Nothing. It is a myth that they are given payments. They have no access to health care cards, medicare etc.

To say "The question of whether these new arrivals are assimilating into our society and making a positive contribution seems to be of little or no concern." What exactly do you mean by assimilate? How do you define a positive contribution?

The fact that so many people "risk life and limb" to come here just proves how horrendous things are in their country of origin. If you look at the statistics over 95% of people seeking asylum in Australia actually arrive by plane! We are not being flooded by people on boats- again another myth.

You state " No wonder so many boat people bypass any number of other safe countries" What safe countries are you referring too? No other countries on route to Australia from the middle east will legally accept asylum seekers.

You also claim "The end result of such a cavalier attitude towards immigration can be seen throughout Europe" , Asylum seekers are NOT migrants. Asylum seekers are not choosing to move here. They are escaping persecution. Migrants are not the same as asylum seekers.

If we are a " soft touch" (and exactly what is soft about locking people in detention? ) why have we only had , since , 1976, 25 380 people arrive by boat seeking asylum, that is an average of ONLY 746 per year!!!! From January to June this year 2, 504 people have lodged asylum seeker claims here, this compared to 2001 when there was 13 000 claims. The numbers of people seeking asylum is dictated by global events not our policies.

I saw the Dateline interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I agree with a lot of what she says. There are actually 43.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2009. Last year we provided 13000 places for refugees.
She states: "That scale calls for a complete revamping of immigration policies, and I don't think we should look only at - I mean, we should feel sorry for all 40 million people, but a country like Australia cannot take all 40 million in, so the concept of compassion is not enough now and it's not practical anymore. " OBVIOUSLY we cannot take 40million asylum seekers, i am not suggesting that we do and yes we do need to look at our immigration policies, even though asylum seekers are not immigrants, but she doesn't actually offer a solution so I am unclear of what you think her point is and how she is saying we should not allow asylum seekers into Australia anymore?

As we granted over 4 000 000 permanent and temporary visas last year we clearly can afford to have
13 000 asylum seekers living here.

I absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, wholeheartedly, believe we should Let Them Stay. I feel I have a good understanding of the issues , the complexities of it. I know the system is not perfect , but how can we, as a rich country turn these people away.

By definition an Asylum Seeker is fleeing persecution. They leave because they fear staying, because they fear being killed because of what they believe. We are lucky, we can have this debate without fear of persecution. We are allowed to disagree with our government.

I was trying to avoid a huge rant on the subject but a lot of what you have stated  is myth.

I pointed in my post to some good resources, in fact Get Up is a great one, as is the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, both helped me support my argument here. Perhaps you could read where I have referenced as I have where you have referenced.

On the flipside I was so excited by so many supportive comments from many many of you and thanks to Kylie and Catherine for buying a cushion. You guys are ace.


  1. While I don't agree with Simone, I do know that her thoughts are very common in our society. Thanks for some lively, polite and opinionated discussion.

  2. Yep, Simone definitely has a right to her opinion. I hear it a lot too and frequently am forced to enter into the same debate... Actually, mostly I feel like the lone voice in the wilderness. It infuriates me that so many lies have been perpetrated out of pure fear... oh, and that it all started out of political opportunism!
    Anyway... before I start ranting... I think it's great that Simone did state her views so that the issue could be discussed openly and myths addressed.
    Love the cushion, Cath - can't wait till it arrives :) Kx

  3. As the child of a man who escaped the persectution of World War 2 nazi Europe, I'm bloody glad he was allowed to come to this country, to make a significant social and economical contribution, and to have children who are now making their own contributions ... like making pretty quilts for the masses!!
    Simone, while I respect your right to your opinion, I urge you to look at the potential benefits there might be not only to Australia but to the world we live in by sending a message to oppressive regimes that "what you are doing to your citizens is wrong. We believe that so strongly that we are willing to offer them a better life over at our place".
    I just think we are lucky not to be in their sandals Simone. We're lucky. Let's share some of our good fortune. Hey?

  4. For Simone,
    A refugee is a person who is in a position of needing refuge. So bringing racism into a discussion on refugees is ignorant. There is no fixed status to this position. There is no race attached to the situation of requiring a refuge.
    I will address the use of the words assimilate and contribute- these words are more than simple terms. It is not very aware, especially in Australia to think these words wont carry a large message, given they have been used in very recent times as powerful symbols. I suggest assimilate is a commandeering term, in our time and history always used to prescribe to others what they ought to be doing in a superior/inferior way of relating. 
    And contribution is another word laden with judgement. Often used by white men, politicians often love it. I suggest though it is a fairly recent philosphical belief about doing something in order to be of worth. Bit of a buggar if you're profoundly disabled or perhaps so traumatized by war or famine you can't 'do' things. 
     And how does one judge the contribution of giving others the opportunity to express compassion and empathy. This is something valuable in my view, and if no one ever needed support we would never be able to feel the lightness of being which is found in selflessness. 
    Would it truly help you feel safer if others only helped others if they fit a criteria you got to decide upon. Are your decisions so infallable? 
     I am glad in your words you aren't intellectually lazy, this is a real gift.  I hope you use it to reflect on this issue with clarity. 
    Rather than overthinking a potential future situation why not decide to simply see where the question,' what does this moment require?' takes you?
    And for Cathy- good for you in bringing up a divisive topic in a gentle and solution centred way, I am glad I stumbled upon these messages in the blogosphere and hope I haven't gone on tooooo much here. Subject very close to my heart.... Xokate

  5. What a beautifully argued response. I've always been too scared to state my opinion of the 'asylum-seeker situation' because it's such a volatile subject, and truth be known I didn't know what my own feelings were. So I read your response and Simone's response (also very eloquent), and yours 'feels' right - sorry Simone but feelings play a huge part in how we can improve our world for the better. Yes, people, I think it's time to show the love, love, love and see what happens. Thanks for stepping out and keeping the subject in discussion.

  6. The whole topic shakes me up too much to write anything as considered and cohesive as you've put Cath. Really, well done. I can't get into the headspace of someone who would think that these people are not deserving of the basic human right of being free from persecution. I just can't comprehend it, I can't see things from their viewpoint. If we could each see each other as individuals and not collective groups of 'you people' and 'those people' What will it take for people to wake up and see what is really important. Family. A future for our children. Peace. Freedom from fear. That’s all ‘these’ people are after too.

  7. Well done. I find it hard to stomach the combination of ignorance and a lack of compassion.

    Australia is such an affluent society, yet our culture clings to a fear that this can all be taken away by 'invading hordes'.

    It's a shame that our relative isolation makes travel so expensive, because it means that many Australians haven't travelled widely and seen real poverty. With no knowledge of poverty, let alone the kind of conditions refugees are fleeing from, we cannot empathise with most of the world's population or realise how lucky we are.

  8. Atta girl, Cath! I'm too time-poor right now to add anything to the debate (prone to ranting) but you're a gem!

  9. I've always wondered about the argument where refugees should only be accepted if they make a positive contribution to society. It makes no sense when there are many Australian-born people who are perfectly capable of not making a positive contribution towards society. What do we do with those people? Kick them out? How do we judge that, anyway? And what rights do we want in other countries if anything terrible ever happened in Australia?

  10. Simone here! Just in case some clarification is needed, I want it known that I am not opposed to Australia accepting genuine refugees. For the record I am a Jew and, as such, don’t need to be reminded of how lucky I am to live in a country like Australia that welcomes ‘the stranger’ and offers him/her the chance of a better life. Like Andi in the comments section above, I also have family members who have had to flee from persecution and start over again in a new land.

    I suppose what rankled me about your cushion was that it was lacking the necessary small print. Where on your cushion does it state ‘Terms and Conditions Apply? Do we just let everyone who arrives on our shores illegally stay, regardless of how they got here? Using your cushion as a guide, I guess we do. Well, in the interest of fairness, national security and sound border protection, I think we need to be a little more discerning. This Let.Them.Stay/ open borders mentality only encourages queue jumpers (as evidenced by the steep rise in boat arrivals since 2008) and empowers people smugglers. It does nothing to further the cause of refugees waiting patiently in refugee camps all over the world and, if anything, probably makes it even harder for them to escape. The situation, as it stands, is out of control, the people smugglers know it and are making hay while the sun shines. Australia should meet its responsibilities vis a vis refugees, but not in a way that gives so much control to the people smugglers. For that I am not apologetic in the least.

    What exactly do I mean by assimilate? How do I define a positive contribution? (In this response I address immigrants in general)
    Let’s see, I’m inclined to define an assimilated person as someone who will easily fit in with our essentially Judeo-Christian culture, but I’d better not. I wouldn’t want to be turned over to the thought police or some kind of totalitarian hate crime tribunal, and inducing apoplexy in you, Cath, and most of your readers is not my intention either!  So instead, I would suggest you go have a good look at the figures for ethnic crime. It will soon become apparent which new arrivals are not assimilating as well as others. Political-correctness would dictate that I refrain from mentioning it, but a fact is sometimes an unpleasant fact - the most obvious examples do happen to come from Islamic cultures. But people from violence-prone places such as Somalia, Sudan and many west African states are also highly represented. A positive contribution means, at the most basic level, first do no harm.

  11. Cont'd from above.

    As for the charge of political opportunism levelled against the conservative side of Australian politics with regard to this issue, I’ll concede that you may be right. But it would be folly to believe that Labor and The Greens are motivated purely by compassion. They’ve got their agenda too.

    Andi, I truly believe that the western world could take in all 40 million + refugees and it wouldn’t make a country like Saudi Arabia or Syria any less oppressive. The theocratic regimes in these countries DESPISE the west and all it stands for, and no amount of group hugging or kumbayah - singing will change that.

    dash robin, are you accusing me of racism? If so, wow. This will surely come as news to my beloved niece and nephews who are ethnically half Yemeni. You don’t know me, and yet you presume to know what’s in my heart. Hmm...

    You’re right about something else though. The term assimilation IS sometimes used to prescribe to others what they ought to be doing in a superior/inferior way of relating, and that’s perfectly okay with me. For example (and it’s an extreme one, I admit), if you come from a country where genital mutilation is practised on young girls and you wish to bring that practice here with you, then we have not just the right, but also the responsibility to say that such behaviour is indeed culturally inferior and you ought not do it. Same goes for honour killings. Same goes for Sati (the Indian/Hindu custom of a widow burning to death on her husband’s funeral pyre). Same goes for the importation of tribal disputes. Same goes for the subjugation of women. Same goes for the persecution of homosexuals. And so on. I’m sure you’d agree. I also think that the wearing of a veil which covers the entire face is dehumanizing and absolutely antithetical to our liberal values. How can we expect to achieve social cohesiveness with people who won’t even show us their face? To properly assimilate (yes, I do like that word) all immigrants should be expected to learn English as this will benefit both society and the immigrant. E pluribus unum (out of many, one) – that is how I define assimilation. It used to be the basic premise of our immigration policy before Gough Whitlam came to power, and it worked reasonably well. The balkanization of society along racial, ethnic and religious lines – that is how I define the alternative, failed policy of multiculturalism.

    As for your derogatory reference to the white man, oh my! May I please suggest that you reflect for a moment on the hell-holes from which most of our refugees are coming (hint: they’re generally not countries governed by evil white men). Now that you’ve done that, let’s all get down on our hands and knees and give thanks to the white man for enshrining in our constitution the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of association and all the other precious freedoms we enjoy and which make Australia such an appealing destination for immigrants.

  12. Simone, your racist-ethnic stereotyping about crime is nothing new, but what a wonderful opportunity you have presented for me to share a fantastic piece of writing about negative ethnic stereotyping;
    'go have a read.'
    I am so lucky to know many refugees from Afghanastan, Sri Lanka and Africa who are exceptional in thier peace, kindness, sharing and grace. I only wish I had half of thier courage and compassion-maybe you could have the rest! :o)

  13. Where is queue of which you speak? There is no queue. Another myth.

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  15. Larissa, we improve our world by doing what IS right, not what feels right. Sometimes the right thing to do feels right (bonus), and sometimes it doesn’t. To illustrate my point, consider foreign aid to Africa. Most people would agree that it feels right to give governmental aid to the starving people of Africa. And yet I read today in ‘The Globe and Mail’ (a Canadian paper) that ‘a growing number of humanitarian and development experts – including former true believers – argue that aid money frequently prolongs wars, props up dictators, impedes democracy, aids oppression and stifles human rights. Nowhere, they say, is this chain of unintended consequences more apparent than in Ethiopia itself.’
    Kevin Rudd (and now Julia Gillard) obviously think it feels right to change our border security legislation and, in so doing, give the green light to people smugglers. It felt right, but was it the right thing to do? I guess it was if you have a soft spot for people smugglers. Personally? I don’t.


  16. Jesus Simone - not to be overly simplistic, but do you honestly think that if everyone escaping Nazi Germany waited in some mythical 'queue' they'd have survived? The answer is no. World War 2 only happened when the shit hit the fan and the whole situation became so unavoidable that the world HAD to get involved, and then Hitler topped himself.

    These are obviously different times, and the world is not stepping in to solve these modern problems. If people waited for some queue to materialise they'd be dead, as we have proof of time and time again.

    Ethnic crimes - what is this? A label for crime committed by people from specific ethnicities that aren't white... just because supposed 'ethnic crime' receives media attention, doesn't mean there's a higher prevalence amongst people of different ethnic groupings. It just means when we hear about crimes committed by white people, it's not labelled as such, so we don't think about it that way.

    Assimilation - seriously? Two words: Indigenous Australians...

    And again, a green light? You think the Labor Party is welcoming people smugglers? They're the ones that introduced the idea of temporary protection visas and other measures making it more difficult for asylum seekers.

    thanks everyone.


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