Tuesday 27 July 2010

Dispelling Myths about 'Boat People'

Australia is about to have a Federal election on the 21st August. Sadly, once again, the topic of immigration is high on the list of some people's concerns, and politicians in both of the major parties are far too ready to exploit people's fears (and at times ignorance) about a perceived influx of refugees.

By definition a refugee or asylum seeker is "a person with a well-founded fear of persecution". The focus of public statements (in particular) by the Liberal and National opposition parties has been a pledge to "stop the boats". The boats of course carry 'boat people', those who seek asylum by paying large amounts of money to corrupt people to cross dangerous oceans in rotting boats; all in the hope of starting a new life in Australia. There have been many lies and distortions of the facts. Since the Labor government was elected in 2007 about 4,500 'boat people' have arrived from countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. While those who exploit the tragic circumstances of people seeking asylum need to be stopped, it is easy to lose sight of the human misery that drives people to risk their lives to reach our shores. 

In an interesting video interview (see below), Associate Professor in Law at The University of New South Wales Jane McAdam, attempts to dispel some of the popular myths about refugees.

Myth 1 - Refugees arriving by boats are queue jumpers stopping legitimate asylum seekers from gaining entry. She explains how this is incorrect and in fact there is no orderly system for the processing of asylum seekers around the world.

Myth 2 - Refugees are terrorists. In reality, the stringent checks made as part of the UN assessment processes make this the most risky way for any terrorist to enter the country.

Myth 3 - The number of 'boat people' and refugees in general is exaggerated and in effect is quite small as indicated in a recent article in The Australian newspaper (read the article 'Who's Afraid of 4,500 Boatpeople?).

You can view the interview with Associate Professor McAdam below.

My hope is that Christians will inform themselves of the issues as they seek to live as people who know from God's word that we are to welcome the alien and the stranger (Leviticus 19:34). Micah 6:8 is a good reminder of what is expected of us in terms of justice and kindness:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?


Catherine said...

Thanks Trevor. So glad you wrote that.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Cathy,

Glad you found it helpful. It's nice to hear from you.


Timaahy said...


Good post...

I personally find it staggering that Tony Abbott has listed "stopping the boats" as one of his four main policies. It reeks of populism... The press has a lot to answer for on this issue.


Trevor Cairney said...

Yep, it's a bit sad and worrying that in a nation of immigrants (except for Indigenous Australians) that so many people are so convinced that this is one of the most significant issues that our nation faces. I also agree that the media hasn't helped by failing to challenge the major parties about their policies as well as the lack or shallowness of others.

Thanks for your comment.


Anonymous said...

I work for the navy. My main concern about boat people is the risk these people put themselves at to get here. I dont care about people immagrating to australia. I never want to have to wrap someone in a body bag ever again, there needs to be measures put in place to stop people travelling to australia by boat. Its to dangerous