There is a general discourse of demonising people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants that is often perpetuated by the media discourse, lack of good political leadership and understanding of nuanced dynamics.
When we hear the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, tasking his Department to look into a special refugee intake of white South African farmers, because “they work hard, they integrate well into Australian society, they contribute to make us a better country and they’re the sorts of migrants that we want to bring into our country”, suggests that other refugee groups don’t – a false and misrepresentation of majority of refugee stories who work hard to contribute to Australia.
While I would wholeheartedly support any government policies that assists persecuted groups of people to find a safe haven, I categorically stand against any such policy that is based on a fallacy or prejudice at the expense of others.
Peter Dutton is prepared to hypocritically ship refugees as dozens leave Nauru for resettlement in US and blindfolds himself to their refugee-ness by not resettling them in Australia.
The real question here to be asked is, what are the differences between the South African farmers and those detained in Manus and Nauru, aside from their skin colour?
This suggestion by Peter Dutton is purely a disgraceful attempt to dehumanise the thousands of refugees currently in detention in Nauru and Manus Island and thousands more who are in a limbo due to the draconian Temporary Protection Visa regimes.
Much like his Liberal Party leaders including Malcolm Turnbull MP and former leaders the likes of Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, and many Australia politicians have a long history of using language and political games, to dehumanise refugees and sway public opinion against people seeking asylum, particularly those who have resorted to the toughest journey to safety – by boat.
Australian politicians and the mainstream media have done a notoriously spectacular job in influencing public opinion against people seeking asylum – predominantly, speaking about them in relation to their mode of arrival.
Terminology such as ‘illegal boat arrivals’ and ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’ have become synonymous with the term ‘asylum seekers’ and this has an unprecedented effect on the people seeking refuge from persecution. It has painted asylum seekers and refugees somehow underserving and not entitled to our compassion and therefore, their ‘genuine-ness’ is often a question.
These constant hate mongering of people seeking asylum and refugee beating not only adds to the trauma refugees have faced fleeing their home countries but also draws the morale of the general populace to the ground, constantly feeding negative stereotypes and biased propaganda.
Such a discourse, undoubtedly, creates a culture of normalising hate and racism in a progressive society. By the same token, preferential treatment of refugees based purely on their skin colour, creates a divide from within refugee groups and akin to the culture of stereotypical, social class that has been the hallmarks of authoritarian occupations and colonialism.
Again, this is another indication of the purely racist attitude brewing in our society as a direct influence of politicians and lack of proper media representation.
I am personally appalled by the lack of leadership. But importantly I am concerned with the lack of cultural understanding and competence. I am a big believer of working from the grassroots upward.
The building blocks of our multicultural society are the grassroots organisations, ethno-specific communities and cultural hubs that celebrate our diversity. As such I believe the way forward is to work on local levels to portray solutions. A shift in perspective will eventuate only when issues are properly dissected and a better alternative is presented.
Refugees and people seeking asylum need our compassion. Those who are in Australia need our compassion. Those in Nauru and Manus need our help and I think the best way to dispel myths around people seeking asylum and refugees and gradually change public opinion is to show the society the success stories, the businesses and the contributions they make in making Australia a success story for multiculturalism.
Stay tuned for my next story which will explain how I am trying to do my bit in beating injustice and showcasing positive stories.