Last night I tossed and turned, and woke way too early. My mind was occupied with the current debate on Asylum Seekers, and how both major parties were about to reinvent the harsh policy of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
I know this subject is incredibly complex, and that there is a wide spectrum of views. Even so, I rose early and wrote this letter to my local MP, Melissa Parke. I should also say that I sent it to a few other MPs as well 😉
I wanted to share it with you, and encourage you to prayerfully remember those who for no fault of their own are fleeing for their lives. Please also remember that around 90% of people who come on ‘the boats’ are eventually recognised as genuine refugees. Further, many of them are unable to follow the standard channels of seeking a refugee visa through an Australian Embassy in their country. As the letter implies, in some places, Australian Embassies are in secret locations.
Anyway, here’s my email to Melissa Parke, MP:
August 15, 2012 06:48
Having spent a near sleepless night thinking through the current discussion in federal parliament re: asylum seekers , I wanted to write to you as my parliamentary representative and appeal to you to seek a solution on this matter that does not include indefinite detention on Nauru or Manus Island.
I must acknowledge that I do not have an exhaustive understanding of all the relevant polices, nor do I grasp all the complexities that face those seeking asylum or those government representatives and officials who are seeking to deal with their arrival and subsequent request for asylum. Even so, I am deeply disturbed by the option currently being discussed in Parliament.
My question: Given that our goal seems to be to stop the boats and stop the deaths at sea, why can’t the Australian Government develop a strategic partnership with Indonesia to process requests for asylum on Indonesian soil?
The typical track for most refugees arriving by boat is via Indonesia. It appears that most ‘people smugglers’ operate out of Indonesia, or have key staging operations there. If a collaborative Australian/Indonesian approach would establish processing facilities or camps in Indonesia, it would therefore stop the boats from leaving and immediately end the market for people smugglers. Asylum seekers would see this as a preferred option to risking their lives at sea.
These processing facilities could be staffed by Australian Immigration officials with a clear brief to expeditiously assess the bona fides of asylum claims. There should be clear time limits for each person’s claim so that people are not detained indefinitely.
It seems most people currently coming through Indonesian channels are people to whom the ‘normal’ paths of asylum request (seek visa via an Australian Embassy) are not open, for example an Afgan Hazara fleeing the Taliban cannot go to the Australian Embassy in Kabul because according to DFAT its location is secret. As the normal channels are not open to such people, we cannot expect them to use those channels. We must provide some other means for them to seek a life of freedom and peace.
Please consider my appeal, and act compassionately in the interests of those who have no voice, and who have no means to come to Australia via the proper channels.
Grace and peace,