Dispelling Myths about 'Boat People'

July 27, 2010

Australia is about to have a Federal election on the 21st August. Sadly, once again, the topic of immigration is high on the list of some people's concerns, and politicians in both of the major parties are far too ready to exploit people's fears (and at times ignorance) about a perceived influx of refugees.

By definition a refugee or asylum seeker is "a person with a well-founded fear of persecution". The focus of public statements (in particular) by the Liberal and National opposition parties has been a pledge to "stop the boats". The boats of course carry 'boat people', those who seek asylum by paying large amounts of money to corrupt people to cross dangerous oceans in rotting boats; all in the hope of starting a new life in Australia. There have been many lies and distortions of the facts. Since the Labor government was elected in 2007 about 4,500 'boat people' have arrived from countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. While those who exploit the tragic circumstances of people seeking asylum need to be stopped, it is easy to lose sight of the human misery that drives people to risk their lives to reach our shores. 

In an interesting video interview (see below), Associate Professor in Law at The University of New South Wales Jane McAdam, attempts to dispel some of the popular myths about refugees.

Myth 1 - Refugees arriving by boats are queue jumpers stopping legitimate asylum seekers from gaining entry. She explains how this is incorrect and in fact there is no orderly system for the processing of asylum seekers around the world.

Myth 2 - Refugees are terrorists. In reality, the stringent checks made as part of the UN assessment processes make this the most risky way for any terrorist to enter the country.

Myth 3 - The number of 'boat people' and refugees in general is exaggerated and in effect is quite small as indicated in a recent article in The Australian newspaper (read the article 'Who's Afraid of 4,500 Boatpeople?).

You can view the interview with Associate Professor McAdam below.

My hope is that Christians will inform themselves of the issues as they seek to live as people who know from God's word that we are to welcome the alien and the stranger (Leviticus 19:34). Micah 6:8 is a good reminder of what is expected of us in terms of justice and kindness:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

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