ben moretti on Mon, 16 Jul 2001 11:52:58 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Refugee focus doesn't match the facts: expert

((In other words, the White Australia policy is going strong. We'll take
in Asians if they are rich, but we'll prefer to take whiteys thanks))

Refugee focus doesn't match the facts: expert

2 July 2001 

Around 50,000 people - mainly Britons and Americans -
purposely overstay their visas in Australia each year and
become illegal immigrants. 

Some 4000 people arrived last year in Australia by boat -
mainly people from non-English speaking countries - and have
also become illegal immigrants. 

But the Federal Government treats these two groups vastly
differently, according to an Adelaide University researcher. 

PhD graduate (Politics) Dr Don McMaster, who is also the
author of Asylum Seekers: Australia's Response to Refugees,
describes the Government's treatment of refugees as verging
on "racist". 

"When the 50,000 or so people overstay their visas, the
Government doesn't put them in an isolated detention centre in
the Australian Outback," he says. 

"So why are the 4000 people who arrived by boat treated

"I think their place of origin has quite a bit to do with it: those
arriving by boat are mostly from the Middle East and Asia, and
they quite often can't speak English. This is compared to the
vast majority of people who overstay their visas; these people
are mostly Britons or Americans who do speak English and
who often do have that Anglo-Saxon heritage." 

"I believe the Government tries to paint these boat people
almost as invaders, it's like a return to the days of White
Australia - these people are invading us from the North; if we let
these people in too easily then whole hordes will follow, and so

Even the Government and media's use of the label "illegal"
colours public attitude towards the asylum seekers, according
to Dr McMaster; it denotes criminality and is a form of
scare-mongering and fear. He argues that there is no middle
ground where the public is getting correct and balanced
information on the arrivals and conditions in the detention
centres from both the government and the media. 

"The reality is that over 80% of recently detained asylum
seekers have been recognised as genuine refugees," he says. 

"So why is Australia, as a so-called civilised country, treating
these people so harshly when the majority of them are
genuinely fleeing persecution, torture and even death? It is
impossible for these people to safely obtain the necessary
travel documents, either because no office exists or it simply is
too dangerous." 

Dr McMaster says he is also concerned the problem of treating
asylum seekers poorly will get worse before it gets better. 

"The recent outbreaks and protests at detention centres have
exposed a system that is mismanaged and in crisis," he says.

"It doesn't matter that there's an election this year and there
could be a change of Government. From the research I've done,
the two major parties adopt a very similar position to the
treatment of boat people and I don't see that changing in the
foreseeable future." 

ben moretti

(*)/ (*)

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