Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Newbies

Today I watched the July 9 episode of Q and A.  Once again, they talked about asylum seekers.

I'm still trying to figure it all out.  My head is spinning, just like it does with the subject of mental illness.

One minute I feel one way.  Then someone says something, and I change my mind. Then someone says something else, and I change my mind again.

This is what I'm thinking right now.

A.  The main goal of the Gillard government, and the coalition, is to prevent the boats from coming.   They say this is about saving lives...preventing drowning.  I disagree. I think it's about them not wanting to deal with the problem.

It's not like these people are tourists looking for a fun place to hang out. They're desperate. They're in danger. They're looking for safety.

There's talk of dangerous boats and evil criminal people smugglers. We need to stop this business.

Yes.  Of course.

But if that was really the goal then why not provide an alternate form of transportation?

Some people on the Q and A Twitter thing suggested airplanes. I may be wrong, but I think ships would be cheaper.

Couldn't the government charter some cruise ships?

It's probably too much for the budget, so maybe some private organizations can help out a bit.

B.  On the program I watched yesterday, someone asked if it were British people seeking asylum, would it be as much of an issue?

I think the answer is no. Racism is definitely involved.

But I think the desire to turn back the boats, and the desire to send people back where they came from, goes beyond racism.

Do you know that saying, Save your drama for your mama?

Well, lots of people don't like to be around people with problems. They like to be around happy and healthy people, because it makes them feel more comfortable.

When we bring asylum seekers into our country, we're not only bringing in people with a different skin color and different language, we're bringing in people who have been through great drama and trauma.  Because of this,  many of them could be classified as mentally ill.

It might be that they're more likely to be angry and/or crazy.  Would we rather have these people as our new neighbor, or would we rather have the happy-go-lucky migrant family with a working visa?

Sometimes, for some people, race trumps all that.  They'd rather have the traumatized white people than a happy-go-lucky black or brown family.

What am I trying to say here?

I'm not sure.

It's definitely NOT that we should shut our hearts and borders to hurting people.

I'm just guessing that some of the hesitation in welcoming newbies is due to wanting to avoid all their war torn baggage.

C.  I personally think Australia (and America, of course) should let in as many refugees as possible.   I DO think we should open our arms.

I think we should welcome newbies and help them through their troubles.

However, I think the newbies need to have realistic expectations.  Fruitcake has talked about this.  I can't remember if it was on her blog, or a comment on my blog.  She does have an interesting RECENT post, though, about past refugee camps.  


Asylum seekers complain a lot about the conditions in Australia.  They don't stick to quiet verbal complaints. They attempt suicide.  They sew their lips together. They go on hunger strikes. They start fires.  I think there's been some riots......

I still don't know if they're doing this because the conditions are truly horrible. Or are they doing it because their expectations are too high?

I'm picturing the Titanic.  Are the asylum seekers expecting first class accommodations and instead they're getting third class accommodations?

I think third class is at the level they should expect.  They should expect winters to be a bit too cold and summers to be a bit too hot. They should expect to wait in long lines and have to do an annoying amount of sharing.

This is so wrong for me to say since I'm typing away on my own computer in an air-conditioned room, and when I need to use the toilet, I don't have to stand in a line.  

But one day my country might be invaded. Or we might have a civil war.

Comfort isn't guaranteed to last forever.

If my family ever has to flee, I hope we'd expect and understand that the conditions in which we're rescued aren't going to be pretty.

Our lives will be really shitty, but hopefully they'll be less shitty than our war lives.  

I know we'll complain. I know we'll bitch about it.

But I hope we'll be able to put things into perspective and be somewhat gracious about the whole thing.

Now I could be wrong about all this.  Maybe the detention centres aren't like the third class of the Titanic.   Maybe they're like the convict ships in the first and second fleet.  Or worse, maybe they're like a Nazi death camp...minus the gas showers.

If you take away the gas showers from the death camps, the conditions were still absolutely horrible.  

Let's say the conditions of the detention centres are absolutely horrible. I'd want to know why. Is it lack of funding?  Do they not have enough money to take care of all these people coming in?  Are funds being mismanaged?   Are they hiring abusive and incompetent people?

Or is the government purposely making the detention centres awful as a way to deter people from coming.

Yes.  It's awful here.  My brother was just beheaded. My sister has been sold to slavery.   I haven't eaten in days.  There are people shooting at us.  But we don't want to go to Australia.   We'll be sent to a detention centre....indefinitely.   And it's complete hell there. We're better off here.   

I've decided it's time to summarize my thoughts.

So here we go.  

Australia should let in as many asylum seekers as possible, and make the conditions as comfortable as the budget will allow. And keeping in mind what I've learned from Fruitcake, if you add too much to one group's budget, you're likely to take away from another group of needy people. Asylum seekers aren't the only ones going through a rough time.  

Asylum seekers should try their best to accept their conditions, but also work in peaceful, creative, and gentle ways to improve their conditions.  


  1. I think this actually ties in a lot to the post you made recently about racism. Everyone is terrified of 'the boat people' but they account for less than 5% of our illegal immigrants each year. Our bigger problem there is actually Chinese/Indian students entering on a student/working visa and not leaving.

    There are issues at the moment with recent Sudanese arrivals, they continue to drive without a license because in their minds, just a fine isn't a real punishment. But again, the media jumps on a small group doing this and now everyone hates all the Sudanese. Funnily enough, the only time I ever see Sudanese people is on the bus.. no problems about them driving illegally there.. but yes there are cultural differences that make it hard for some Australian's to accept them.

    I wish there was more awareness here as to what these people are fleeing. I always tell people you don't just jump into an over crowded boat with nothing heading for a country you know very little about just for fun. These people are desperately scared for their lives. I'd like to see more Australian's aware of what these people are fleeing, then I believe they'd be more willing to accept them.

  2. I feel somewhat overwhelmed by our population growth and the lack of infrastructure to deal with the numbers. Our living standard has certainly deteriorated in many ways over the last couple of decades due to population growth and the government not keeping up. Generally people would welcome a refugee who moved in next door to them. But I don't think they welcome whole suburbs of people from one country. There are refugees all over the world. Why do we take so many from one country at the same time? The number of refugees who arrive by boat is tiny compared to the number immigrants Australia takes in. Everyone knows how our immigration system is being rorted by those who have the knowledge and money to come here. I could go on forever, but if we are to take in many refugees, then the government needs to create a good environment for them and those who already live here. A the end of the day it is big business who love population growth, and will increase our population in whatever way they can. Australia's whole economy is built on increasing the population but it is going to have to stop at some point. These are kind of two different matters, but it is hard for people, myself included, to separate boat people arriving from our overwhelming population growth. I think if you scratch deeper, many people would agree that it is not refugees that are the problem. They just get the blame.

  3. Hi Dina, thanks for the link to the heritage site... looks like it will be interesting to explore.

    Oooh, it's a subject that's bigger than Ben Hur.

    I would be concerned about making any policy public that gave the tiniest piece of encouragement to asylum seekers. And I agree Dina, people who are in detention here should take a little responsibility for their own happiness, knowing that detention is not indefinite and given the proportion of successful applications.

    I'm getting the impression most of the trouble is from people who are in detention after their applications have failed - including visa overstayers.

    And I'm 100% behind Andrew's comments about us having an economy dependent on growth for its own sake. Also that the 'boat people' issue is providing a means for people to vent a great deal of frustration with lots of other issues.

    The whole thing is a dog's breakfast and being mismanaged with the usual vote-seeking flair.

  4. Kate: I think that's a good idea...getting people to see what the asylum seekers are going through before they come here.

    When SBS had the series "Go Back To Where You Came From" their website had a game where you got to see/feel what people were trying to escape.

    It made me more sympathetic. But then other times I'm skeptical and wonder if it's that bad for everyone who gets on a boat. It probably IS for most.

    Andrew: Australia would be better off if no more immigrants came. I'm not sure about the economic part...but definitely better for the environment. And it would be much more comfortable for everyone...physically and socially.

    It would probably be even better if everyone left except the first Australians and their descendents.

    I think the less people the better.

    But there are people needing somewhere to go.

    As you say...the people from the boats is a tiny group compared to the full intake of immigrants.

    It seems the obvious solution is to stop the intake of regular immigrants...the working visa people, and use the immigrant spaces for people desperate for a place to live.

    I really can't understand why these people can't become the needed skilled migrants.

    They probably already have skills, and just need some English-training.

    Fruitcake: Yeah. I agree. It's all mismanaged.

    It's a mess.

    I don't think you can come up with a solution that's perfectly lovely. The world is a mess. Australia is part of that world; so it's going to be a mess too...by default. But I think if people put their hearts forward and their heads together, they could come up with something that improves the situation.

  5. "Our bigger problem there is actually Chinese/Indian students entering on a student/working visa and not leaving."

    I just arrived in Melbourne and there are so many Chinese students. It is to the point that every other restaurant in the CBD is Asian. I do not mind since I love Asian food and my husband is also Asian, but I was quite shocked considering I have heard that Australians are more xenophobic than other countries. I suppose like all generalizations, it just isn't true?!

  6. K,


    My husband is Asian too. He jokes that the main Australian cuisine is Thai food. Although I'm not sure there's a lot of Thai students.

    There are a lot of Indian and Chinese students in Australia. You're seeing it with your own eyes. I'm seeing the statistics on my computer.

    This gov. website here


    says that only 1/2 a percent of temporary visa people overstay their visa.

    So like asylum seekers....I'm not sure they're a huge threat to raising Australia's permanent population.

    There's also a lot of skilled migrants in Australia. Again lots of Chinese and Indian. But there's also a lot of British folks. I think it's easier for them to stay under the radar.

    I'm honestly not sure if skilled migrants and students are more of a benefit or a detraction for the economy.

    Since students can work, they may be taking up jobs that citizens could have taking?

    I'm not sure....

    Are there lots of Aussies trying to find jobs, but failing because students are taking those jobs?

  7. Aha... a lot of overseas students work at jobs Australians don't want to do. They tend to be lower paid and not full time or a guaranteed amount anyone could base a budget on, or just plain scary.

    Melbourne CBD after dark is not the safest place to be, and I would not want to drive a cab and risk letting half of these grog/drug addled idiots into my car.

    I am sure race has been an issue in some of those attacks on Indian students a while back, but they are over-represented in the late night not so safe jobs group and therefore at greater risk. Nitin Garg, an Indian accountancy graduate, worked a late night shift at Hungry Jacks and was stabbed in a dark car park on his way to start a shift. Some teenage ratbag was after his mobile phone.

    On the other hand, maybe we are just xenophobes with good taste?

  8. oops, by good taste I wasn't talking about Hungry Jacks cuisine...

  9. Fruitcake,

    What DID you mean by the good taste thing?

    I think you're right about the crimes not necessarily being racist things. Did you say this before; or did someone else say it?

    My mind is swimming with too much information and too many sources.

    Maybe it was from Dumb, Drunk and Racist? (Again I was about to write Dead, Drunk and Racist).

    I'd say most dumb racists are relatively harmless unless they're drunk.

    Drunk violent people are going to be harmful whether they're racist or not. If not picking on Indian students, they might be raping a woman or killing an innocent young man who's out minding his own business.

    Then you have people who are not drunk, and they're not dumb. But they're very evil. And in America, they can easily get guns.


    I think I'd rather have dumb drunk racists....as long as they're not violent and they don't have guns.