Since 2011 there’s been somewhat of a global spike in asylum seeker and refugee numbers on a global scale; the Arab Spring led to some pretty intense changes in the Middle East, but even before that there were a number of particularly dangerous areas; notably Sri Lanka and the persecution of Tamil peoples and Myanmar where ethnic cleansing of the Islamic Rohingya minority has been a prominent issue. Asylum has been an issue I feel fairly strongly about; I myself am the direct child of an asylum seeker. My father’s family fled Russia and Yugoslavia in the 1920’s to escape the wrath of Stalin & Pals (Seriously, best sitcom idea every), they landed in Germany which worked out pretty well until, you know, Hitler and that whole deal, eventually they made it to regional New South Wales in Australia where they would live in a tent for five years.
Without that specific piece of lineage I imagine many people have a hard time understanding just what it feels like to be a displaced person; My grandparents never got to see their homes ever again, my father, uncle and aunt were raised knowing they were Russian/Yugoslavs but never got to understand on a cultural level what that really meant and in actuality until last year when a formal letter from the Russian state department made its way to my house they’d never even been acknowledged by their homeland as having existed. This piece of personal history is precisely why I side with the plight of Syrian refugees in 2016; imagine being a Syrian citizen caught between violent revolutionary forces hell bent on implementing an ideological view that seeks to control you day-to-day life and a dictatorial government that has no qualms in killing you if you don’t side with them automatically. The Syrian conflict today is very much a mirror of the Eastern Bloc in the early days of Lenin.
So today when it was announced by the supreme court of Papua New Guinea that Australia’s offshore detention centre in Nauru was 100% illegal (something the Australian government new six years ago), my immediate elation was crippled faster than Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. Still to this day a lot of Australians just seem to really hate the concept of refugees and migration in general. It makes absolutely no sense to me, but then again I’m a migrant so perhaps I just can’t see it. There’s a lot of fear-mongering regarding asylum seekers, they’re “a secret invasion force” because of course the most effective way to invade a country is to put families on rickety boats that might not even make the journey and invade a country with a population nearing 25 million via a few hundred people. That invasion plot is so bad that it makes the aliens from War of The Worlds and Signs, who were allergic to water, seem like strategical geniuses.
This fear of invasion, specifically in Australia is something I’ve always been amused by; in reality there’s only ever been one successful invasion of Australia and it was performed by the ancestors of the people who seem terrified of refugees. I’d find it funny were it not so dangerous, because the reality is that instead of laughing at these sorts of people consecutive Australian governments have openly catered to them and introduced increasingly harsh measures to “deal” with asylum seekers. This fear of foreigners is something that’s become a stereotype of Australians abroad, when I first moved to Australia I was repeatedly warned by people from my homes in Austin and Toronto that “People there are really racist”, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told to “go back to America” (I’m Canadian, but I get told to go back there too), I remember a really specific incident where a school teacher kept hounding me about details on the Soviet space program (apparently having a Russian last name gives me access to all records of Soviet government programs). Something to keep in mind there is that I was subject to that sort of pseudo-xenophobia and I’m technically “white” (A term I’m not too keen on because genetically I’ve got more in common with people in Turkey than I do people in England).
Think of how horrible it must be for anyone who doesn’t fit into that fairly broad Western European image; students I’ve taught over the years from various non-anglo, non-Christian, backgrounds and the reality that they’ll have to deal with racism and xenophobia during their lives because some asshole decided that they don’t belong. It’s this sort of thing that bothers me greatly, I’ve dealt with cultural prejudice and xenophobia and I had the advantage of being a westernized migrant. I can’t imagine what non-western migrants and/or refugees have to deal with and it’s disturbing that our political leaders, cave to the demands of people who want to punish people because they’re “the wrong kind if people”. It bothers me that in Canada the election of a centre-left Prime Minister who advocated an equal representation cabinet was slammed by every private media entity in Australia as being “a lunatic socialist”, I mean really Canada has a far more socialist political party (New Democracy), Justin Trudeau is a moderate at best. Even in Australia’s colonial parent the UK, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and ultra-conservative UKIP leader Nigel Farage distanced themselves from former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott because he was “too extreme on immigration”Source.
Just run that last part through your head for a second, the leader of the anti-immigration party in the UK said Australia’s immigration policy and attitude toward refugees was too intense. That’s like having Hitler tell you that you’re too anti-Semitic or Joseph Stalin telling you that you’ve taken too much of the peasantry’s food. I for one welcome an end to the unlawful detention of asylum seekers in Australia and would like to believe that this culture of fear and hatred towards those who are different might see an end in the not too distant future, unfortunately with both major political parties advocating offshore detention I can’t help but feel less than optimistic in that regard.
How other countries process asylum claims: http://www.smh.com.au/national/asylum-seekers-what-other-countries-do-20120813-244fs.html