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THE SUCCESS OF SURVIVAL

It’s a mystery how the personal stories of the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who make their way to Australia – by boat or air – rarely manage to make it to the media.

There’s the odd success story that gets written about. But what about when the real success is actually surviving?

The preferred default position of media in this country is to play along with the dehumanising of asylum seekers as queue jumpers or potential security risks.

Razor wire on Christmas Island, image via sbs.com.au.
 

This month, Medicins Sans Frontieres, the internationally acclaimed humanitarian medical group, has been on TV  and online unashamedly trying ...

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16 Comments

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Dee

    Thanks for this story Monica. I think I’ll be buying that book to find out more.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Julie

    Yes, a book to put on the National Curriculum. It’s horrendous how we are treating refugees – there is more concern for the live cattle trade.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    DeeDee

    “If it were compulsory reading on the high school curriculum, who knows – the next generation of politicians might actually make the world a better place.”

    YES, BRILLIANT!!!

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    ro.watson

    Bless the seekers who get an idea Australia is safe and can transform that vision into something better for all of us.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Tony W

    “And there are no queues; there are UNHCR processing camps that are bursting at the seams in which refugees can languish for years on end waiting to be processed.”

    That doesn’t mean we should encourage the dangerous practice of maritime people smuggling.

    This is a book about immigrants since 1947 – I don’t believe it should be conflated with present day concerns around refugee boat arrivals. It’s a complex problem which compassion alone will not solve.

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    Monica

    Tony, the point about the queues is that we are constantly fed a line which goes to creating a negative image about asylum seekers…that they are queue jumpers when in fact there are no queues. The Point further being that these demonised asylum seekers are real people, who have for the most part triumphed by surviving, whether close to 1947 or 2012. Listening to them rather than demonising them, doesn’t mean we need to support the practice of people smuggling. But the people smuggling trade has just given lots of pollies a chance to beat the asylum seeker drum a little louder.

  • Reply November 2, 2012

    Tony W

    Monica, I agree with you about the appalling demonization of so called “queue jumpers”, and crocodile tears from many politicians over deaths at sea. I find it interesting to reflect that neither of these arguments were used against Vietnamese boat arrivals during the “Asian invasion” of the ’70s and ’80s, when bipartisanship prevailed in Canberra. John Howard changed the public debate irrevocably with one sentence: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”

    I do believe however that the scale of maritime people smuggling seen today, and the appalling human toll it extracts, makes it a first order issue. And whilst there may be no “queue” per se, there is nonetheless an attempt by the world to provide safe shelter for its refugees whilst awaiting orderly resettlement – insofar as that can ever be possible given the numbers involved.

    Thus I find myself supporting Labor’s “Malaysian solution”, as the most effective way to eliminate maritime people smuggling, and support the world effort to provide for its refugees safely, and to the extent possible, fairly. Imagine if the billions spent on naval patrols and detention centres were to be spent on facilities in UN refugee camps.

    I hold to my view that this book has little relevance to these issues. No doubt it contains many great stories of survival and subsequent contribution to the community, but Australians are not ignorant of the migrant experience, nor entirely unappreciative of their contribution. Many are migrants themselves, or descendants thereof. I don’t believe they necessarily lack compassion for refugees, I just think they’re looking for solutions, and many like me have changed their position in recent times. Watching children getting smashed to death against rocks was enough for me.

  • Reply November 4, 2012

    Robyn Oyeniyi

    I try to humanize the situation through my web site. I married an asylum seeker and am writing a book about what he and then we went through. It is not a pleasant experience.

    Even now, all settled, we experience odd times, such as this minor one: http://teamoyeniyi.com/2012/10/12/a-little-bit-of-bigotry-just-disconcerting/

    Living with the aftermath of mandatory detention is not easy either.

    Thank you for highlighting this important topic to bring some balance to the media coverage.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Robyn Oyeniyi

    Perhaps the low number of comments is an indication of the general public perception of this topic. I read Corinne’s article this morning (love her work!) and cannot help but compare the level of interaction.

    I shared this article on Twitter and received a response asking why are MSF not on Nauru “if it is so bad”.

    So sad. :(

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Tony W

    “Perhaps the low number of comments is an indication of the general public perception of this topic.”

    Yes, the public are now very much “over it”. They just want the problem “out of sight out of mind.”

    The truth is we’ve been on this course for 20 years, and the result was always inevitable. Mandatory detention was introduced by the Keating Labor government, with bipartisan support, in 1992. Minister for Immigration Gerry Hand stated: “The Government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community.”

    Once that moral threshold was crossed there could be no turning back. Increasing boat arrivals led to increasingly “clear signals” – lengthier detention….harsher detention conditions…offshore detention….and ultimately, refusal of entry unless via formal UNHCR resettlement program (proposed Malaysia solution).

    The policy has now gained moral force as a means to save lives at sea.

    A brief attempt was made under Rudd to reverse this policy direction. It failed. The debate is now over. Even Paris Aristotle recognizes that.

    Anyway I’m glad your husband made it through before the door slammed shut. Good luck with the book, it will be a valuable contribution I think.

    • Reply November 6, 2012

      Robyn

      Thank you Tony. Clarification, though. My husband did not make it through. He was held in detention for two years then “removed”. The removal timing may have been co-incidental with my arriving on the scene, who knows.

      I spent 14 months never knowing if my husband would still be alive the next morning, aside from the months we had him in Qatar for safety.

      Oh, he did arrive by plane originally, not by boat!

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Rhoda

    People have been fleeing goverment dictatorships, religious bigotry, war and famine since the beginning of time. It’s a different world now though. There is only so much earth to go round and so many resources left to us. Every new birth makes our personal slice of the pie smaller. Indeed the largest proportion of our world population exists on crumbs rather than a slice.

    We need governments that can show us solutions and light the way. We need hope that there is a future for every one on the planet and not just the lucky ones. That there is room for all of us. Then I think you’ll find a more open and generous spirit will counteract these aggressive and inhumane policies. At the moment people feel angry and helpless and want it to just go away. That comes from all the money being thrown at it for no result. Same story goes for the plight of our indigneous people. It’s a story we don’t want to hear because the picture being painted is all negative.

    Another good book for young people to read is “The Happiest Refugee”? Just a story but gives great insights.

    More stories like yours need to be told, Robyn. I wish you and your husband the best.

    • Reply November 6, 2012

      Robyn

      Thank you Rhoda, for your kind words and encouragement.

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Tony W

    “It’s a different world now though.”

    It sure is! Not so long ago you could simply hop on a boat and go anywhere in the world you liked without papers. Passports were virtually unknown in the world until WW1, when they were introduced as a temporary measure for security and manpower reasons. It took some years before they became accepted as necessary in peacetime, mainly due to the dramatic rise in world travel. Interesting to note that in 1950, Australia issued 30,000 passports, and fifty years later in 2000, the number was 1,450,000.

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Tony W

    “Clarification, though. My husband did not make it through. He was held in detention for two years then “removed”.

    Sorry Robyn, I didn’t know he’d been “removed”. Or more accurately – expelled. I take it then he wouldn’t be here but for the great good fortune of meeting you. Sounds like you’ve been to hell and back together.

    I mentioned “boat arrivals” because that’s how the refugee debate has always been framed. I hadn’t assumed your husband arrived by boat, as I believe it’s numerically more likely he arrived by plane. Not that I make any distinction myself – I find it bizarre that we prosecute impoverished 16 year old boat hands as “people smugglers”, while Qantas accepts millions from asylum seekers.

    Anyway Robyn all the best for the future and good luck with your book – it sounds like an amazing human story of struggle and survival with a happy ending.

    • Reply November 6, 2012

      Robyn

      Thanks, Tony. I was clarifying for the general readership moreso than you. I figured it wouldn’t matter to you. :)

      Yes, we refused to cloud the protection visa with a relationship, to our cost as it turned out. We still do not back down on our contention the PV decision was wrong.

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