How to make an issue out of nothing at all

One of the biggest political issues in Australia today is the question of the ‘illegal boat people’.  This topic continues to occupy front page headlines week after week, month after month.  It constitutes large chunks of the argument between our political parties.  There is nothing like this issue to get people upset, rallied against the overpopulation of our country, rallied against the ‘obscene’ social security benefits they will receive, rallied against the ‘illegal immigrants’ taking our hard earned jobs, rallied against the terrorism surely to arise from people entering our country under such suspicious circumstances.

‘Illegal boat people’ really get folks hot under the collar around here.

The disturbing thing about the whole issue is that the issue does not exist.  It’s a smoke screen, a little toy the public has been given to fight over to keep them distracted from caring about things that actually matter.  It’s scary and oh so wrong.  Because the people who are suffering because of this little game have already suffered enough.  Which one of us is really the terrorist?

Before I get too carried away I would like to take a moment to break it down into the basic facts that have been forgotten or buried so that at least here, in this space of mine, it will be shown in black in white the difference between truth and fiction.

  1. It is NOT ILLEGAL to seek asylum in Australia.  End of story.  We are a signatory to the Refugee Convention which allows persons fleeing persecution, war and violence to seek asylum with us regardless of how they get here.  They are not ‘illegal boat people’ a term invented for maximum xenophobic effect;  they are persons legally seeking asylum.
  2. The newspapers (and Tony Abbott) will tell us that oh my god 6,879 people arrived by boat in 2010.  6,879 people!!  That sounds like a lot.  But this figure is never given any context.  The number 6,879 means nothing on its own.  If we’re talking about how many people showed up to your last BBQ then shit, yes this is a huge number of people.  But if we’re talking about how many people showed up to the last cricket match at the MCG then it becomes, well, it becomes this:
  3. Ie: nothing at all.  Yet this number has been used to divide a nation and incite hatred toward the persecuted.   All over a few seats at the MCG.
  4.  The reality is that asylum seekers make up just 2% of Australia’s overall annual immigration figures.    2 percent.  There are no newspaper headlines about not having enough room/money/energy for our annual migrant population.  There is no concern.  Yet somehow we have changed the laws of logic and swallowed the new set, whole.  Eg: If we do not have an overall immigration problem, and asylym seekers make up just 2 percent of that non-problem, then how did we end up with………….a problem?
  5. We didn’t.  We’ve been duped.  And the already terrorised are the victims of it.
  6. We are geographically far larger and far less populated than most countries in the world.  Yet when it comes to protecting and sheltering people on our empty shores this is how we measure up against other industrialised nations:
 Comparison of asylum seekers in industrialised
countries in 2010:
Australia……………………..8,250…………………………. 4.4%
UK…………………………..22,090………………………..    11.7%
USA………………………….55,530………………………..  29.4%
France……………………….47,790……………………….. 25.3%
Canada…………………….. 23,160………………………..12.3%
Sweden……………………. 31,820………………………..16.9%
 
And we wonder why the rest of the world looks at us like this:
 

7.    Overall, Australia takes on just 0.03% of the world’s refugee population and are the only country in the world that has an offshore processing scheme or a detention centre.  We are a hostile country to steer a boat towards, to do so means you are desperate.  Pray that you are never that desperate.

 I believe that we are actually good people, that just haven’t had access to the right information to encourage the good side of us.  The general public is bombarded by misinformation.  If we all knew the real facts, then politicians and the media would have less power to fear-monger us into making an issue out of nothing at the expense of the very vulnerable.

It’s Refugee Week this week.  It’s time to debunk the myths where you find them and find out more information here, here or here.  Spread the word.

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