Martin Luther King is attributed with statements in relation to the need for a tough mind and a tender heart. The tragic events of this week on Christmas Island suggest that there is a need for such in dealing with this problem.
Australia has an immigration process and quota which allows citizens of other countries to make an application, and after the appropriate processing of the application to be allowed (or not allowed) to migrate to Australia.
In times of conflict there will be people who are forced from their land of origin through no fault of their own, but in genuine fear for their lives and for the lives of their family. A compassionate and civilised word recognises that we need to make space for these people.
Some – and indeed maybe many – of the people who arrive at our doorstep (Christmas Island) are genuine refugees, and human beings being human beings, some are not. In order to ensure the safety of our own citizens it is appropriate that there be a process which allows us to say ‘no’, otherwise we have no border control and run the risk that people will bring to us the fear that genuine refugees are fleeing.
John Howard’s Government took a very hard stand and that did appear to reduce the number of people arriving by boat. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have taken a softer line and the numbers have swelled. Suggestions that this represents a worsening in conditions overseas seems unlikely, rather our policy is now seen as soft and manipulatable. I now read that very few of those we reject are returned to their place of origin, but rather remain clogging in the system and living at the taxpayers expense.
There are not easy answers to this, however it seems we need to have a better solution than providing people smugglers a massive income for putting the lives of vulnerable people at grave risk in dodgy boats.
Surely this is an area where the UN could be a better agency, providing a process in or closer to the source, and sharing refugees, and providing safe passage. On suspects that some who arrive are coming to Christmas Island because they think the Big Island is Christmas.
It would appear that there is a chronic need for better solutions than we have in place at the moment. We should be putting some tough minds and tender hearts to work together to produce a better solution, fast.