Boundless Plains?

Refugees from Sudan's Darfur region staying in...
Refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region staying in the Rose garden in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

At All Saints Belmont, on the 4th Sunday after the 8.00 am Eucharist we have a discussion group to discuss a ‘Hot Topic‘.

The way it happens is that Fr Daniel writes a short paper to introduce the topic and we get to think/research/pray/prepare so that the discussion can be meaningful.

This Sunday the topic is ‘Boundless Plains to Share’ – a quote from our National Anthem – and raises the question of Asylum Seekers and how welcoming we are. Perhaps if we don’t want to share them the National Anthem could see us up on a charge of false advertising.

Currently there are believed to be about 43.3 million refugees in the world. The population of Australia is around 22.6 million.

A refugee is a person who is outside their country of origin or habitual residence because they have suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted ‘social group’. Such a person may be referred to as an ‘asylum seeker’ until recognized by the state where he or she makes his or her claim.

There is another group who are inside their country of origin and may face the same issues, and these are referred to as IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons). Once an IDP fees their country of origin they can become an Asylum Seeker. There are thought to be around 0.8 million IDP’s in the world.

There is thought to be around 1.9 million Asylum Seekers in the world today.

That makes a Grand Total of people in this sort of trouble around 46 million, around twice the population of Australia. On a world scale in means that 1 in 180 people is a refugee/potential refugee at the moment.  Together they would make a not insignificant nation.

Do We Need to Respond?

Since King Ethelred of Kent around 600 AD declared that there must be a place where people could claim safe haven or sanctuary and decreed a law that permitted people to claim sanctuary it has been in the mind of a civilised world that we do need to respond. Last year we accepted over 40,000 Asylum Seekers and refugees, around 11.3% arrived by boat through Christmas Island. In reality that is less that 0.1% of the world population of refugees.

The level of services and support we provide Asylum Seekers we accept is described by the Indonesian’s as ‘Honey on the Table’. Their argument is that if we want fewer Boat People Arrivals we should take the Honey off the Table. Of course the other risk of accepting Boat People arrivals is that we are accepting those who can afford to buy an expensive passage rather than wait for a process. Mind you with 43 million refugees and the current rate of refugee acceptance that could mean a very long wait – 10 years or more.

We also need to be realistic about the impact of significant refugee intakes, including but not limited to Economic, Social, Cultural and Political Impacts. The policy of multi-culture has been a mainstay of the Australian life for over 30 years, and that has carried with it a tendency to value every body else’s culture as if we had nothing to bring to the table.

Yet surely we do need to respond, and we need other nations to respond. Greece stands out as a nation with a population half that of Australia and a refugee intake of twice that of Australia, where as the USA with a population 10 times Australia takes 5 times as many refugees. Tony Abbot suggested that he would raise the Refugee Intake from 14,000 to 20,000 – yet last year we accepted 40,000 and this year we look on track to have 12,000 people as Boat arrivals, before we start on the deserving cases waiting in refugee camps.

Homeland is Important

For most of the world’s inhabitants homeland is important. It is the matter of having a place where you belong. Part of our response must be to try and improve the situation of the world so that we create fewer refugees. If we could halve the number of refugees being generated and double our intake of the refugees we accept globally, we might beginning to make an impression. Russia and China and India are not countries that accept refugees, and the truth is if more nations could play a part that would help as well. Resolving situations in troubled homelands would enable people to return to their roots, the heritage and the place they call home. That has to be a better outcome than re-settling them in places where they will for a long time feel like guests and travellers away from home. None the less we also realise that for some that is not possible for the moment and whilst that prospect s realistic we need to find them a Temporary Asylum, a place to be, to grow, contribute and develop, and for some that solution will need to be permanent.

It is Clear

That there is a real problem that is not being addressed adequately

Some Nations are responding better than others

We all need to do better

If we only talk about it as border protection their will be a huge cost, yet if we ignore border protection we make no sense of it.

If we don’t start talking about it, we wont get it fixed, and if we leave it to politicians it will only get worse.


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