Countering the racist lies & building solidarity with refugees
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Countering the racist lies & building solidarity with refugees

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Talk presented by Peter Benedek, ...

Talk presented by Peter Benedek,
Focus of this is on countering the dangerous, racist lies – from politicians, from media – that create climate of fear, of scapegoating. Just what is behind this “fortress Australia” policy?

As Alex – Tamil spokesperson for the boat currently in Indonesia, where a recent hunger strike was held – told GLW: “When people are fleeing war and genocide, how can a country think protecting themselves is more important than helping these people? The world is for all of humankind, we are just like you except we do not have a country.”
“We are refugees and we want to get away from genocide”, Alex said. “There are women and children on board here. And we are not animals, we are people, but we are being treated inhumanely.”

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Countering the racist lies & building solidarity with refugees Countering the racist lies & building solidarity with refugees Presentation Transcript

  • Challenging the racist lies and building solidarity with refugees Alex, Tamil refugee “When people are fleeing war and genocide, how can a country think protecting themselves is more important than helping these people? The world is for all of humankind, we are just like you except we do not have a country.” “We are not animals, we are people, but we are being treated inhumanely.” Brindah, 9yrs old “ Please help us and save our lives. We are your children. Please think of us” “ This government makes no apology for a hard-line approach to people smuggling and border security.”
  • The Indonesia solution
  • MYTH: Indonesia or another country should take the refugees instead of Australia
      • Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention - no guarantee of rights;
      • Indonesia poorly equipped to resettle people
      • Reports of beatings at detention centres in Indonesia
  • Reports on Indonesian & Malaysian detention centres
    • "babies and children reside in maximum security third-world jails“
    • asylum seekers "treated like animals”
    • Beatings fairly frequently at the hands of Indonesian military and Immigration officials.
    • rats running around
    • extremely cramped conditions …no room to sleep at same time
    • Also Malaysia:
    • Hundreds of Sri Lankan asylum seekers at two detention centres
    • Sri Lankan embassy forced group of refugees to sign agreements for repatriation. Beaten when refused
    • While UNHCR Malaysian HRC denied access to the refugees, the Sri Lankan govt officials gain access.
  • The global refugee situation
    • 42 million refugees and internally displaced people officially
    • Amount of refugees globally is on the rise - wars, conflict, poverty
    • 1 person in 115 on the planet is a refugee
  • Global statistics on asylum seekers Major refugee hosting countries (end 2008)   Source: UNHCR (2009).  2008 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons .  16 June 2009. United Kingdom 292,100 China 301,000 Kenya 320,600 United Rep. of Tanzania 321,900 Chad 330,500 Jordan 500,400 Germany 582,700 Islamic Rep. of Iran 980,100 Syrian Arab Rep. 1,105,700 Pakistan 1,780,900
  • MYTH: Australia is a generous taker of refugees
  • MYTH: Asylum seekers are “illegals” or “queue jumpers”
    • UN refugee convention, and Australian law, make clear that it is legal for people seeking asylum to do so in another country
    • Over 85% of boat arrivals fulfil refugee criteria (more on appeal)
    • NO queue: No UNHCR in Iraq or Afghanistan
    • In Sri Lanka – UNHCR inaccessible and dangerous
    • Even with UNHCR status, can languish indefinitely
  • Asylum seekers arriving to Australia by boat or plane are vastly outnumbered by the number of people who illegal overstay their visa. Statistics of Visa Overstayers and Unauthorised Arrivals – 1991 to 2008. 1,451 25 1,476 48,500 07-08 1,388 135 1,523 46,500 06-07 1,598 56 1,654 46,400 05-06 1,632 0 1,632 47,800 04-05 1,241 82 1,323 50,900 03-04 987 0 987 59,800 02-03 1,193 3,649 4,842 60,400 01-02 1,512 4,137 5,649 60,000 00-01 1,695 4,175 5,870 58,748 99-00 2,106 921 3,027 53,150 98-99 1,558 157 1,715 50,950 97-98 1350 365 1,715 45,100 96-97 663 589 1,252 n/a 95-96 485 1,071 1,526 n/a 94-95 n/a 194 n/a n/a 93-94 n/a 194 n/a n/a 92-93 n/a 78 n/a 81,164 91-92 No. unauthorised arrivals by air No. unauthorised arrivals by sea Total no. unauthorised arrivals No. of overstayers Year
  • Myth: Refugees cost “us” greatly
    • “ Border control” highly expensive system
    • Millions more now to Indonesia to run torture camps, “outsource” refugees
    • Mandatory detention costs $104 per day
    • A humane policy that welcomed & helped settle refugees would be far less costly .
  •  
  • MYTH: Cracking down on ‘people smugglers’ will stop asylum seekers reaching Australia
    • “ People smugglers” fulfill a service that is absolutely necessary for those that use them.
    • The greater the barriers to refugees (low intake by rich countries, no UNHCR access), the more asylum seekers are forced to turn to people smugglers
    • What if your family faced torture, persecution or even death?
    • Oskar Schindler was a “people smuggler”
    • The only way to end people smuggling is to get rid of the need for them – by providing passage to safety.
    • Use the Navy that polices refugee boats to bring people safely to Australia.
  • MYTH: Won’t a humane policy ‘open the floodgates’ and we will be ‘swamped’ by refugees?
    • Pre 1992 – no mandatory detention, refugee applicants lived in hostels…yet NO flood
    • Refugees only come when FORCED.
    • East Timor example – people would rather be in their own country, even when poor, than in a rich foreign land.
    • Why WOULD you want to come here!
  • Want to get rid of refugees? Stop creating them!
    • Afghanistan war and occupation
    • Iraq war and occupation
    • Support for Sri Lankan government during genocide of the Tamils
    • Creating climate refugees
  • Role of racism under capitalism
    • Refugees – a scapegoat for the system.
    • Tampa overshadowed workers rights, GST & more
    • Racism used to draw support for those in power, and to distract from unpopular actions.
    • Media’s role in racism
    • Corporate media driving racist racist fear mongering
    • Use of racist language to fan hysteria: “boatpeople”; “illegals”; “flood”; “swamped”
    • Media failed to bring reality of Tamils to the people of Australia
    • Racism used by the system
    • Break solidarity between the poor and oppressed.
  • Conclusion – turn racism on its head!