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I had a visit this morning from a member of the Rural Australians for Refugees, who are organising a meeting here in a few weeks. Their flyer is very interesting, and I thought I would share some of it with you. If those who know more about this could comment on the validity of the facts they present, I would be most grateful.

Nikki, Goulburn.

* nearly all refugees are genuine. 93% of Afgan and 97% of Iraqis are found to be legitimiate assylum seekers. Anyone who does not fulfill the criterion of having a “well founded fear of persecution” is sent back to their homeland.

* Boat people are not illegal. Under the UN Refugee Convention, which has applied for 50 years, Australia has an obligation to take assylum seekers and assess their claims. They are in a totally different category from immigrants. The real “illegals” are the 14,000 Britons or Americans caught each year for overstaying their visas. These people are not put into detention centres.

* There is no queue to jump. Australia has no embassy in Iraq or Afganistan for people to apply for a visa. In overseas refugee camps there is frequently no resettlement process available. Where one exists it is often adhoc, agonisingly slow or corrupt.

* Australia receives very few assylum seekers compared to other countries. Last year it received 4,174. Sweden, with about half our population, receives the same number as Australia. Iran and Pakistan, two of the worlds poorest countries, each hosted over a million Afgan refugees.

* No other country imprisons assylum seekers. In Australia they are placed indefinitely in detention centres in harsh conditions without access to services. Canada allows its assylum seekers to live in the community. In Sweden they are allowed out of detention as soon as they have gone through identification and criminal screening.

* Australia does not even fill its small quota of 12,000 refugees per annum. Not one of the 400 allocated “women at risk” places has ever been filled.

* Almost one in five people in detention centres is a child. In Sweden the maximum a child is kept in custody is 6 days. In Australia we keep children in detention indefinitely.

* 60% of assylum seekers is the victim of torture or severe trauma. But in Australia they are treated like criminals, rather than people fleeing persecution.

* Let us not confuse Refugees with the terroists and murderers they are fleeing. Australia is now sending troops into Afganistan. Many of the boat people are fleeing the regime we are now fighting and they deserve our protection. Iraqi’s too are escaping from the excesses of Saddam Hussein. Assylum seekers see Australia as a safe and democratic country in which they hope to have a far better future.

* Remember the Snowy Mountains Scheme? After World War II it was built largely with the labour of thousands of refugees. Let us again give refugees a chance to contribute to this country in the 21st century.


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Nikki Coleman Goulburn, NSW, Australia

Since life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it, the better. Soon enough the time will come when you are too tired to move farther than the terrace of the best hotel. Go now. Simon Raven. 1968.


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