Sunday, May 22, 2011

Don't Get On The Boat?!

Extra baggage?  No, lucky enough to be considered people.
I've only seen the bumper sticker on one Ute so far.  But it's parked outside our school every morning so I get to see it often.

And, honestly, it makes me laugh.  It's just so AMERICAN!  And, being one of the fortunate few to be here legally now, I too have jokingly said that they can close the ports and keep this fantastic country with its unlimited possibilities and hope for the future to ourselves.

Shhh!  Just don't remind them that we're here.  This country is the best kept secret in the world!

The bumper sticker has an outline of the Australian mainland.  With the words "Fuck Off.  We're Full." printed over it.  I mean, that's kinda funny.  IF you are already here.  And if you have already seen the same words printed over an outline of the USA mainland. 

The Australian Dream.  For us, attainable.

And if you aren't one of the 800 illegal refugees the Australian government had decided to send to Malaysia to ease overcrowding in their facilities here.  Most of these people come from war-torn countries, mainly Burma but also Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan.  They were desperate enough to risk their lives and the lives of their children to come here.  Only a few months ago a boat of 50 refugees was filmed smashing into the cliffs at Christmas Island.  To be fair, the Coast Guard did try to rescue them, but conditions made it impossible.  They died violently, crushed on the rocks, in their desperate quest for freedom from violence and oppression.

It's like the Haitians in the USA who have risked everything to climb into wooden fishing boats, come over shark-infested waters and arrive on our shores only to be told that 'sorry, you folks are just a little too dark for us.'  If you were Cuban you might stand a chance, politics being what they are.  But Haitian?  Eh.  We got enough of those. 

Qantas over Singapore.  Video games and DVDS.  Do they have those on the shipping boats?

I admit that neither the USA or Australia can become home to everyone.  But I do argue that anyone desperate enough to brave death in a rowboat to make it there should be allowed to stay.  I've been in one of those boats.  To cross to an island for a wedding reception.  And while the Haitians in the boat thought it was really funny when the Best Man stood up and said 'next stop, Miami'  I couldn't laugh.  I was already thinking about what would happen if this boat tipped over and I was surrounded by 100 people panicked people who didn't know how to swim.  Mind you, we were in sight of shore. 

The argument is that people-smugglers are profiteering from these poor souls.  And that sending them to Malaysia - which is a developing country that doesn't recognize their rights as UNHCR refugees - sends a message.

Layover in Singapore.

'Don't get on the boat.'  says Julia Gillard.  'Or else you risk going to the back of the queue.'

THE BACK OF THE QUEUE?  THE BACK OF THE QUEUE?  With all respect Ms.  Gillard, I don't believe there is a queu for illegal migrants in Malaysia. 

I don't have all the answers. 

But I do believe we are sending a message.

'Don't get on the boat.'  Because we don't give a shit about you either.

THIS, Leute, is a burger!  Only a car ride from Germany - in England - and already world's away!

Do countries like the USA and Australia and Canada and countries in Europe owe it to refugees to take them in?  Obviously there has to be a sustainable policy.  But obviously those more fortunate DO have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate.

I say this as a legal immigrant here.  Because I was fortunate to marry an Aussie, have enough money to pay for VISAs and plane tickets and because I fit the bill of what Australia is looking for in an immigrant.  I mean, really, if we HAVE to let anyone in, let them look and act and be like us. 

But I also say this as someone fortunate enough to be born a USA citizen. 

Look into these people's faces.  And imagine it could be you.

The 'ship' we came in.  The same day another Qantas plane lost bits of itself over our airport in Singapore.  As we were landing.  Ignorance is bliss, folks.  We thought it was a goat on the runway!

'Don't get on the boat? Go to the back of the queue? '

Go to jail, go directly to jail.  Do not pass 'Go'.  Do not collect $200.

These are people.

Please, let us be human enough to treat them as such.

1 comment:

  1. Love it :) it mainly is a race thing. They are told to go to the back of the queue, but in some of those countries there is no queue to join! Per capita Australia takes in the least refugees. It's also political - our climate of fear buys votes during election years. It's the bargaining and politics we don't see in the media which is more concerning. Our government kowtow's to others in the region to keep the peace... And the profit.