Online Poll Highlights Issue of Asylum Seekers, Refugees

Article excerpt

THE online poll on The Chronicle story C[pounds sterling]City has heart to aid refugeesC[yen] posed the question, C[pounds sterling]Would you be happy to have asylum seekers living in your suburb?C[yen]

It highlights the problem with debate around asylum seekers and refugees in particular.

I could safely say that the vast majority of those who clicked C[pounds sterling]YesC[yen] or C[pounds sterling]NoC[yen] have never met let alone heard the story of an asylum seeker.

I would presume that those who voted yes believed that asylum seekers are some of the world's most vulnerable people and deserving of compassion and fair treatment.

I also presume that those voting no would have a range of reasons for doing so.

Some would hold the view that they are C[pounds sterling]illegal queue jumpersC[yen] taking advantage of Australia's better nature and prosperous way of life.

Others would believe that they are dangerous rag heads cashed up and ready to begin a campaign to convert us to their deranged brand of religion.

Most of our opinions have been formed by media portrayals of asylum seekers or something we have heard second or third hand.

Little of it is based on the refugee/asylum seeker experience.

One of our funniest and most successful former boat people is the comedian Anh Do.

His brother, Khoa Do, has also made a name for himself.

He is a writer, film director, teacher and philanthropist.

In 2005 he was named Young Australian of the Year.

Khoa Do recently told the story of his family fleeing Vietnam.

His father played a role in the Vietnam war which included freeing two uncles from a concentration camp.

His family fled to Australia on a nine metre fishing boat.

They were attacked by pirates twice. On the first occasion all belongings were taken.

On the second occasion the pirates believed items were being withheld and dangled a baby over the side of the boat threatening to drop him into the ocean if no valuables were produced.

That baby was Khoa Do.

You won't read stories like this in the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers report.

The language masks the experience of seeking asylum and uses terms such as C[pounds sterling]packagesC[yen], C[pounds sterling]deterrentC[yen] and C[pounds sterling]solutionC[yen].

And with its recommendations we return to a time when the humanity of asylum seekers will be well and truly kept from the public's view. …

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