Asylum seekers in boats are all over the news again, this time for a boat that was stopped rather than one which arrived.  Philip Ruddock has provided a bit of nostalgia, talking about ten thousand people heading for Australia – exactly the same figure he was using ten years ago.

This latest boat, reportedly stopped by the Indonesian Navy at Australia’s behest, was carrying 260 asylum seekers, which is quite a large number compared to most of the boats that have arrived in Australia in the last year or so. Tellingly, all the asylum seekers are from Sri Lanka.  The human rights situation in that country is at a low point at the moment, with mass internment of Tamil citizens in atrocious conditions occurring for many months.  When a government kicks out the Red Cross, as the Sri Lankan government has done, you know things are not good.

The Australian government has been spending money trying to dissuade people in Sri Lank from trying to come to Australia.  It would have far more effect if the Sri Lankan government could be persuaded to start respecting basic human rights – although that is obviously much easier said than done.

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Meanwhile, the inflexibility of Australia’s migration laws is on display again, with some more local level ‘let them stay’ campaigns happening.

Liberal Member for Hume, Alby Schultz, has voiced support for Mr Jing Bang Zou and his wife, Mrs Litang Fan, who are currently living in the New South Wales town of Young.  Mr Zou is reportedly a “world renowned apiarist”, but doesn’t have the required professionally recognised qualifications, thus making him ineligible for a permanent visa.  Earlier this decade, Young was one of a number of towns in rural Australia which had trouble finding enough labour for their local meatworks, and relied heavily on refugees from Afghanistan – all of whom would have come here by boat – to keep their meatworks profitable.

Meanwhile, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, a family of four originally from South Africa, who run a small business in Buderim, are facing removal because they have assessed as not meeting the minimum assets requirement of their business visa.  The local paper, the Sunshine Coast Daily, is going in to bat for them, with their coverage giving a strong emphasis to the unpleasantness of life in South Africa, with its  “barb wire-fenced homes with security cameras, guard dogs and streets deemed too unsafe for their children.”

An opinion piece in the Daily supports the family’s cause, while at the same time highlighting some readers’ comments attacking asylum seekers.  Somewhat ironically, but none the less appropriately, it ends with the following comment:

We all need to realise that Australia is built on the principle of the fair go – and that some of our best businesses have been created by immigrants, who are often more hard working than us laid back Aussies. In the end it means more jobs, not less, for all.

A good and simple principle, which I very much agree with.  Hopefully we can apply it to all who seek to settle here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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