Asylum Seekers

Last week, I penned a missive in response to a vile letter directed towards an autism-diagnosed Canadian boy and his family. It was intended to highlight the essential need for respect and understanding when it comes to the differences between us.

Five days later and I am writing again. The circumstances are not the same. Sadly, the theme is.

My native homeland, Australia, is on the cusp of another federal election and immigration is once more a key issue. Not for the first time, both major parties have ably scratched the xenophobic underbelly of the nation, espousing zero tolerance to asylum seekers arriving by boat. Their promises are borne of ignorance, prejudice, false humanity and political expedience. Their policies have attracted ridicule from the Australian Defence Force and rebuke from the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Don’t take my word for it, though: there is plenty of considered, astute commentary out there to back these assertions. Read the editorials. I recommend you start with this and this.

As for myself, I could write about my nine years as HPE Teacher at Milpera State High, Australia’s only school for migrant and refugee students; or about how I taught young men and women who arrived by boat, seeking asylum; or about how they escaped torture and death and tyranny in a homeland which, without these circumstances, they would never have left; or about how they didn’t engage in terrorism, not even when everyday, unprovoked Australians shouted at them and threatened them and spat on them and demanded they go home; or about how they made me a far better person and my country a far better place, including for those who wished ill upon them.

I could write all this. But I’ve written it all before.

Instead, I’ll just borrow from the writing of another:

What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.