Monday, April 20, 2009

Amnesty deplores dog whistle media banging the old erroneous 'boat people' drum

Amnesty International released the following on 16 April in an attempt to hose down some of the worst of the media reporting on the asylum seeker boat sinking - and to slow down the bandwagon Turnbull and his pygmy warrior brigade jumped on with great alacrity:

"Amnesty International rejects the notion that the Rudd government's attempts to make immigration policy in Australia more humane - including easing the policy of mandatory detention, ending Temporary Protection Visas and moving away from the Pacific Solution - have been responsible for any increase in asylum-seekers arriving by sea.

Amnesty International also deplores the sensationalist and erroneous reporting on the broader asylum-seeker issue in certain media outlets. This detracts attention from the human dimension of the asylum-seeker issue and the severe risks that people take when they embark on boats in order to escape persecution and human rights abuses in their home countries.

The tragic deaths of a number of asylum-seekers on a boat off the coast of Western Australia this morning highlights the heavy price that asylum-seekers sometimes pay in trying to rebuild their lives in a foreign country.

While the exact details remain unclear, the incident is a reminder of the need for policy makers and commentators to always bear in mind the fact that human lives are at stake in the asylum-seeker story.

"It must be remembered that asylum-seekers are human beings who have been forced to take real risks in their search for safety and security," said Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia. "Asylum-seekers do not take lightly the decision to undertake perilous journeys to Australia. Today's tragic incident underscores the very real dangers they face."

Amnesty International believes that any increase in the number of people seeking asylum in Australia is part of wider global trend, and not a result of changed government policy.

"A recent report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees shows that there has been a significant increase worldwide in asylum applications over the past year," said Graham Thom.

"Increased instability and conflict have forced more people to flee their homelands and it is those countries in serious crisis, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which account for the large part of this increase."

It is often argued that Australia's small population size means that this country is harder hit by increases in asylum seekers. However, the UNHCR report's analysis of levels of asylum applications on both a per-capita and GDP basis indicates that Australia still does not make it into the top 10 affected countries.

"Australia, as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, has made a commitment to protect people fleeing persecution. Seeking asylum is a fundamental right that should be available to all human beings," said Graham Thom."

Sadly, the 'hate refugees' crowd don't want to hear this. They wait for the high pitched whistle to sound from Liberal boroughs around the country and then stream on to the main stage to celebrate their fear and loathing. Their little eyes get a glow about them as they answer the call and break out the bludgeons yet again. If you doubt what I say just take a look at some of the commentary on blogs like this one.

Oh, they say, its great to be one of the mob again!

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