By one of those strange quirks of electorate boundaries, our local representative in Federal Parliament is George Christensen who resides in the city of Mackay, some 380km to the South. Every month or so George has a letter featured in the Townsville Bulletin criticising the Government’s policy on refugees.
George’s letter earlier this week accuses the Labor Government of being “desperate and clueless” and presents the Coalition’s simple solutions for dealing with asylum seeker arrivals – turn the boats back and re-introduce Temporary Protection Visas.
In each of his letters George repeats the Coalition mantra that asylum seekers are either queue jumpers or economic migrants seeking a better life in Australia.
I have requested a meeting with George the next time he visits the Northern end of his electorate. I would like to point out to him that things are not always that simple in our world today.
I intend to introduce George to the web site of the Refugee Council of Australia which has a section devoted to “Myths about refugees and asylum seekers”.
George would discover that rather than being queue jumpers or economic migrants, the vast majority of people arriving by boat (between 70 and 90 per cent) are later determined to be “genuine refugees” – i.e. people who would be at risk of persecution or worse if they had remained in their country of origin.
Hopefully George would also stop referring to these people as illegal arrivals. He would be reminded by the web site that the UN Refugee Convention recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents.
If George could find the time to read this web site, he would see that his regular letters to the Bulletin on this issue perpetuate these myths.
I would like to think George as my elected representative, sees his role as helping people get a better understanding of the issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, rather than contributing to the misinformation that abounds.