Australias refugee disgr.., p.1
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       Australia's Refugee Disgrace, p.1
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           John Ellison Davies
Australia's Refugee Disgrace
a’s Refugee Disgrace

  Some things must be said. Refugees are dying because Australian politicians lack the courage to do the right thing.

  I am printing here the text of two articles that I wrote three years ago. (No Australian newspaper would publish them.) The situation has not improved in three years. With the election of a new and even less compassionate government the situation is likely to get worse.

  John Ellison Davies

  28 September 2013

  Let Them In

  Let us try to be wise. Let us at least try to be logical. We have nothing to fear from asylum-seekers.

  Boat people, more sympathetically known as asylum-seekers, pose no security threat to Australia. They are risking their lives, running for their lives, to get here. They are simply trying to get somewhere safe. Why would they want to hurt us? Why do we treat them so badly?

  Our politicians assert their hairy-chested security credentials by making these people prisoners - guilty until proven innocent. This is insanity elevated to policy and law. The loss of dignity we suffer as a nation is incalculable. The blame is shared by both major political parties.

  If MPs were forced to sit in a quiet room for one hour each day viewing scenes of human suffering and reading history, perhaps then they might be capable of thinking and acting with compassion and imagination. Then they might understand something of the human heart and the desire for freedom, shelter, peace.

  (If my attempt at eloquence is too sissy for our politicians, let me try to put it another way. We are not winning any friends in the world with our current policy. A radical change of policy will help to win friends and hearts and minds.)

  ASIO’s astute assessment, in a nutshell, is that some asylum-seekers may bring their prejudices with them. In other words, if you’re a Tamil from Sri Lanka you might still be a bit touchy about the people who burned your house down. Who wouldn’t be?

  A history lesson: Serbs and Croats who migrated here after WWII brought mighty and ancient prejudices with them. They didn’t like each other much but they got on with making new lives here for themselves and their children. There was an occasional brawl. A group of fantasists called the Ustashi blew up some letterboxes in the 1970s. That was it.

  Over the past thirty years or so many white South Africans have migrated here. Some of them are lovely and sweet people. Some of them are the most obnoxious and bigoted people I have ever met. They are so appalling that I have felt physically ill talking to them.

  We cannot screen people on the basis of their prejudices. Thought is not yet a crime.

  If security is not a credible issue, what do we have against the boat people? That they are queue-jumpers? How quaint. As if it were a case of bad manners to be running for your life.

  Let’s go back to the beginning. People-smuggling is a cruel form of organized crime. It is a problem above all for the people being smuggled. Let’s get really tough and take over the business. We can have a plane waiting at Djakarta airport every Friday afternoon and charge asylum-seekers something like $10 each for their fare. All aboard! We can offer them hope and safety and a welcome.

  This would be compassionate, and imaginative, even noble. To balance the numbers in the mythical “queue” we should simply cut back the quota for other intending migrants, those who come here on little more than a whim to live in a sunny climate and see kangaroos. We should give priority to the fearful and the desperate.

  When our safe and hopeful asylum-seekers are here, where will we put them? If we must put them in camps in the desert for some symbolic reason we can at least take away the security guards and the fences. The refugees have nowhere to run. They have already escaped.

  Otherwise we can reopen or rebuild transitional hostels of the type that were common in our cities sixty years ago. From there they can be assisted into other accommodation and jobs (as were my own English family who came here as ten-bob Poms in the 1950s).

  From there our new Australians can get on with the job of creating a new life for themselves and a newer Australia – as our parents and grandparents did.

  We have done all this before. We imagined our future and welcomed the new. We can do it again.

  Let them in.

  Let Them Out

  (Author’s note: It is difficult to inject any logic into the debate on asylum-seekers and migrants, but one must try. Some people are so paranoid that they believe migrants and even their children pose a long-term security threat to Australia. This kind of nonsense must be resisted.

  The court case referred to in this article involved five Australian citizens, the children of migrants.)

  In February 2010 five Australian Muslims were given long prison sentences – ranging from 20 to 28 years - for engaging in a terrorist conspiracy. The sentences are excessive. I pity the trial judge, bound by a bad law, the result of misguided policy, itself the result of an ill-judged strategy.

  These five men will be forgotten for the moment, and for a little while into the future, by most of us. As they pass the time in jail next month and the month after that and next year, and as the absurdly named War on Terror continues, and as we ask ourselves what is the true nature of this war and how can we win it, these men will become a symbol of our failure to frame intelligent policy and law, of our failure to understand the world we are living in.

  They will become heroes to some, despite the fact that they did nothing more than talk, excite each other in their ignorance, and play at soldiers.

  Some of the evidence at their trial was disturbing, some of it comical.

  One talked about killing a politician. One believed sharia law should apply in Australia. They had a supply of chemicals, instruction manuals, guns, a bush property where they “trained” and they apparently watched videos of people being executed.

  Yet no target was ever defined. No date was set.

  Even the trial judge could not conclude that these five naïve, delusional or simply stupid men truly intended to kill anyone.

  No target. No date. I could work out a better terrorist plot myself.

  These men should be released before they become an inspiration to other young men and women who are even more stupid and delusional.

  An excuse can easily be found to review their cases. I suggest they be released to perform some useful community service on weekends.

  Their jail sentences are ridiculous for another reason. Whatever the true nature of this war is, we must be able to imagine an end to it, and soon. They will still be in jail for a long time after.

  The Americans have a colloquial line: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a… you know the rest.

  Who is dying in this War on Terror? Mostly Muslims, in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Who is doing most of the killing? Mostly Muslims.

  Have you spotted the duck?

  There is no war, though bombs and bullets rain and armies are on the march. There is a conflict of ideas and values. The conflict is within Islam itself. The United States is an incidental target because it has been interfering in Arab and Islamic affairs for a very long time. So are we potential targets, for the same reason and by virtue of our old alliance with the interfering British and our more recent alliance with interfering Americans.

  I almost pity George Bush. Faced with the atrocity of 9/11 he reacted predictably, with massive force in a foreign adventure which delivered thousands of young Americans conveniently within shooting distance. And some of our troops too.

  Never do what your enemy wants you to do or expects you to do.

  Now is the time for us to prove ourselves a clever country and suggest to our allies that there is another way of winning this non-war in
which people are nonetheless dying.

  The first step is to engage Arab leaders in finding a solution to an Arab and Islamic problem. The ground fighting is in their back yard. They should be dealing with it. The conflict of ideas and values is also their problem. There is no good reason for “us” to be there at all.

  We must imagine a time when the United States and its allies, including us, are totally disengaged from military follies in the Arab and Islamic world. And next time around perhaps we can all think before we start planning troop movements.

  Perhaps this strategy is already in place and nobody has told me or you about it. Did you notice in the news recently that both the Australian and U.S. governments have suddenly discovered in themselves a new resolve to explore our own offshore oil resources?

  Perhaps someone somewhere is being clever after all.

  The desire for peace and goodwill is common to all major religions. Murder is a sin in all. Excessive punishment is abhorrent to all.

  Which brings me back to five young Australians who will still be in jail long after, God willing and if reason prevails, this peculiar non-war is over.

  They will not mature in jail. They will not emerge better or wiser. They will be as naïve and delusional as they were the day they went in, in a future world they understand even less than this one.

  They should be released soon, assigned to some form of community service, perhaps sponsored by their local mosque, restored to their families and the chance of a useful, normal, happy life in our relatively peaceful society.

  I pray they will be given that chance. I hope they read this. For their God is also my God, if I understand my theology. Am I wrong?

  Let them out.

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