G'day folks,

No doubt most of you have read harrowing stories of refugees flowing into Europe in recent days. Well, the subject of refugees fleeing to Australia, has been a hot topic in Australia for some years now. Sadly, both major parties are on the same page of a book that smacks of inhumane treatment and a pathetic attitude towards folks who deserve better. 

Australia has granted no more than 6501 refugee visas in each of the past two years.

Germany, as mentioned, could take in 800,000 this year alone.

Germany has a population four times larger than Australia.

Germany has a landmass 20 times smaller than ours.

Together, these two metrics mean that Germany is already a whopping 80 times more densely populated than Australia.

Yet while Australia begrudgingly accepts 6000 of the world’s poorest, most unfortunate souls each year — and repels or detains countless others — Germany has just offered the best part of a million of the world’s most needy people a permanent home.

Can you imagine if we upped our intake to even a fraction of Germany’s level? Wouldn’t happen. No government here would do it.

But Australian governments used to be very different in their approach to refugees. Very, very different.

Australia was not always so reluctant to take in asylum seekers. In fact we once welcomed them.

 However, the government’s “full resources” nowadays go not into resettlement, but into offshore detention centres and the recent creation of a highly militaristic 6000-strong entity called Australian Border Force.


That’s a long and complex story. But a really interesting recent work goes a fair way towards explaining it.

Ben Doherty is an Australian reporter who just spent three months at Oxford University penning a lengthy but very readable essay which you can access here.

In it, he charts the changing language used in Australia’s debate over asylum seekers. As our language has changed, so has the way we think about asylum seekers.

Example. The moment we call an asylum seeker an “illegal” rather than a refugee, we perceive them as someone opportunistic, criminal even, rather than a victim of war or other misfortune whose life has been uprooted through no fault of their own.

As Doherty writes: “By constructing the debate as one of ‘national security’, or of ‘illegal’ activity, any alternative framework — asylum viewed through the prism of humanitarian obligation or of international legal commitment — is removed from public discourse.”

In other words we’ve shifted the goalposts. We talk about stopping the boats, not helping the people or doing our bit to help out with a global problem.

We dehumanise asylum seekers and banish them offshore at enormous taxpayer cost. Out of sight, out of mind. This is now the Australian way.

Importantly, this is not to pick on the current government or governments of any particular persuasion. As Doherty points out, both Labor and Coalition governments have played their part in hardening the language used in the asylum debate over the years. And both sides of government have behaved this way, Doherty argues, because the mood of the Australian people has dictated it. Good governments listen to their people, after all. The key question for Australia this week, after the slap-in-the-face reminder coming from Europe this week, is whether it’s time to change.


The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.

The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum. 

A second image portrays a grim-faced policeman carrying the tiny body away. Within hours it had gone viral becoming the top trending picture on Twitter under the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (humanity washed ashore).

Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year. 

 Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: “This tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”

Greek authorities, coping with what has become the biggest migration crisis in living memory, said the boy was among a group of refugees escaping Islamic State in Syria.

Turkish officials, corroborating the reports, said 12 people died after two boats carrying a total of 23 people, capsized after setting off separately from the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula. Among the dead were five children and a woman. Seven others were rescued and two reached the shore in lifejackets but hopes were fading of saving the two people still missing.

Clancy's comment: This is what I wrote on Facebook yesterday when I saw that picture of the boy on the beach, "I have two spare bedrooms, fresh air and a great community. All I have is available to a desperate family - NOW!" 

Sure, this is not an easy problem to fix. However, as an Australian who has taken a keen interest in the history and political machinations of my country, I can say one thing: AUSTRALIA CAN DO A LOT BETTER THAN IT IS CURRENTLY DOING. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am an outspoken advocate for kids - Kids anywhere in the world. 

How obscene it is that we as a nation throw millions of dollars at sports men and women, yet we turn a blind eye when it comes to humanity. What a bloody disgrace!

Anyone wishing to sign a petition to crank up and shame my government can do so here:

I'm ...

Aylan Kurdi 

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