Monday, December 18, 2006

Human Rights in Australia: Sudanese not wanted in Tamworth, but welcome in Canberra

Chief Minister John Stanhope has indicated he will be writing to the Immigration Department to advise the ACT would welcome the Sudanese refugees being rejected by Tamworth.

I have recently met young Sudanese men who have come to Australia as refugees. They and their families have experienced dreadful hardship and trauma in reaching our shores. Some of the Sudanese young men find it difficult to settle, just as young men all over the world. They need friendship and support from within our society to find their feet. Some of their stories would horrify Australians unfamiliar with horrendous persecution.

On ABC talk-back in Canberra this morning the majority of callers were supportive. One man trotted out the Howard dog whistle line, accusing the Sudanese of being "Muslims" and unable to integrate with our culture. Of course, as usual, this kind of attitude reflects the narrow world view of Howard and his surrogates. This type of reflex response does not let the facts get in the way of prejudice. The religion of these people should be irrelevant, but, for the record, the Sudanese refugees are mainly Christians escaping persecution from Muslim militias. Human suffering is universal - it is shame that human compassion is too frequently qualified by religious, racial and ethnicity considerations.

Plaudits to CM John Stanhope and the Opposition Leader in the ACT, who has offered his bi-partisan support. It is time this country stood up for human rights and that the values underlying the dog whistle are relegated to a small but well lit corner of our national consciousness.

No comments: