bad time to be a refugee (as if there ever was a good time)

by tobybee

it’s a bad time to be an asylum seeker, trying to come to Australia. I suppose there’s never really been a good time, seeing as there has been an official White Australia policy, and there still continues an unofficial desire for a White Australia on the part of the various lawmakers and many members of the population. So last week a new report was released, commissioned in order to provide advice to the government on how to deal with those people who come to these shores by boat, seeking escape and safety. And instead the report recommended, and the government agreed, that offshore processing and indefinite detention should be embraced, to try to ensure that asylum seekers are not able to make it here, and that they are punished if they work with people smugglers to seek out freedom.

One thing is clear though, amongst all this demonising of people who do whatever they can, and pay whoever they can, to escape: if there had been more people smugglers working in Poland in the late 1930s and early 1940s, I’d potentially have more family alive.

And in the Jewish community, as I posted the other week, we’ve had to reckon with the unholy words of Robert Magid, who says that we shouldn’t show compassion, and that refugees are not refugees. So many, it turns out, in the community disagreed – there are now over 600 signatories to the open letter that was initiated by the AJDS. Quite an amazing thing, and quite an inspiring demonstration of the existence of a Jewish community that I’m happy to belong to.

Our friends over in Kingston who run the radio show radio613 interviewed me about the goings-on. You can listen to it, if you want. And you can come along to the next Jews for Refugees meeting, which is taking place at 4 pm, Sunday September 9th, Melbourne Multicultural Hub, White room. 506 Elizabeth St, opposite the Vic market.