It must be election time.
Today a mutual ‘Facebook friend’ shared this image:
I bit my digital/hypothetical tongue on it (because honestly, Facebook debates are the worst) but anyway, here we are….
Given that you’ve read past the headline, I don’t suppose I need to get into how you probably shouldn’t get your facts from a Facebook post that God-knows-who wrote. We know we’re living in the era of fake news, and Lord help us.
What I will say is this. Hate-fuelled sentiments like this one are widely shared across social media under the guise of ‘patriotism’ or ‘putting Australia first’ but actually, this spread of misinformation about Australia’s national identity / immigration policies (that are accepted as fact) are causing damage to the fabric of our communities – and therefore, the fabric of our nation. Inevitably if we believe something we read on Facebook is true, we will develop opinions accordingly, act accordingly and ultimately, vote accordingly.
With just 6 weeks until the federal election in Australia, this post is sure to be the first of many as another political campaign driven by Muslim hate and “fake news” rears its ugly head.
So let’s look at that Facebook post again…
Firstly, we are comparing Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum to North Korea (off a winning start already), Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, China, and numerous other countries who are famous for their human rights violations.
We’re also using the term ‘illegals’ in irritating repetition. Hopefully by now we all understand that it is not illegal to seek asylum by boat in Australia (Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention). In fact: no offence under Australian law criminalises the act of arriving in Australia without a valid visa for the purposes of seeking asylum. So to be clear, there are no laws being broken – contrary to the term Aussie racists love to use for asylum seekers.
What actually surprised me the most about this Facebook post is that despite all of the press coverage in the last 12-18 months, people actually still believe that we treat refugees who arrive by boat with the privileges that are listed here. Namely: “…a job, a drivers license, health care card, welfare, food vouchers, $70,000 grant, rent assistance, free healthcare… billions of dollars worth of public documents printing in your language…” I think we can hold it there.
I’d love to see the reputable sources behind these claims. Because guess what… there are none.
Do you know what we actually do with people who arrive by boat to Australia?
We lock them up indefinitely. Women, men, and children in concentration camps, where they are quite literally sent to rot – offshore of course, where we can’t be easily held accountable. People are tortured, raped, beaten-down, and eventually (in so many tragic cases), murdered in our name. Moral and ethical reasons aside, this policy costs us – the Australian people – billions of dollars.
In fact, if you were angry about the (false) claim on that Facebook post that asylum seekers receive a $70,000 grant, how about a claim that has some truth to it: it costs the Australian government more than $573,000 per person, per year to hold somebody in offshore detention (see sources below) or $346,000 per person to hold them in detention here in Australia. (Think of how much we’d be saving if we gave them the $70,000 instead? Bad joke, sorry).
I have listed a range of reliable articles at the end of this post in case this is new information for you, or sounds too outrageous to be true of a lucky nation like ours.
Our treatment of people who come to Australia seeking asylum could (quite fairly) be called state-sanctioned murder. No Medicare card for the ‘boat people’, no place to live, no hope of ever being settled in Australia. That’s what we do with “the illegals” who arrive by boat.
I don’t know if I’m the only one who sees the sad irony of this Facebook post. Despite the point the writer is trying to make, Australia is actually up there with Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea in regards to its treatment of people seeking asylum. (Ps I wonder if my Facebook friend would be glad about that – I doubt he’s reading this though). Here’s an even more unsettling thought: if you’ve ever wondered what you would do in the face of another holocaust, you’re probably doing it right now.
The government released their draft budget last night, and with it, their intention to close Christmas Island after spending a casual $180 million on reopening the detention centre. (Note that the refugees languishing in the hell that is Nauru and Manus Island haven’t been moved since the Medivac Bill was passed). That is what our taxes are paying for. If you want to get angry about something, get angry about the billions of taxpayer dollars spent torturing vulnerable people in the name of political gain.
It really is time to wake up.
If you’re someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time checking your facts, I implore you to start doing that – especially over the next 6 weeks while there is a LOT of fake news in the digital air.
This campaign is going to get ugly.
I’m just being real.
The race card is a cheap political tactic, but unfortunately it works.
HOWEVER… being armed with the facts, and having a willingness toward open and honest conversations with our fellow Aussies, I truly, truly believe that there is a better way forward.
I believe that the heralded Australian values of a fair go, compassion for those in need and mutual respect can be upheld in all spheres of government policy, including immigration. Why not?
We are one of the most beautifully culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world. We can do this – without the hate, without the fear-mongering, without torturing families in need, without buying into the madness of the election campaign to come and without turning on each other in suspicion, prejudice and racism. Without sharing shit like this on Facebook.
Wake up, Australia. We are better than this!
Who are asylum seekers? Via the HRC [https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/asylum-seekers-and-refugees-guide]
Is it illegal to seek asylum by boat? [https://www.asrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/it-not-illegal-seek-asylum.pdf]
How much does it cost to detain asylum seekers?
ABC Fact Check on Offshore Processing: [https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-14/cost-of-offshore-processing-united-nations-fact-check/6609764]
Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Cost for Australia’s offshore immigration detention near $5 billion’ [https://www.smh.com.au/public-service/cost-for-australias-offshore-immigration-detention-near-5-billion-20170717-gxci97.html]
The true cost of Australia’s offshore detention policies: [https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/at-what-cost-unicef-save/]
The Guardian, ‘UN: ‘health crisis’ demands closure of Australia’s offshore detention centres’ [https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/13/un-health-crisis-demands-closure-of-australias-offshore-detention-centres]
The Nauru Files, Via The Guardian [https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/nauru-files]
Time Magazine, ‘Refugee Author Behrouz Boochani Documents the Plight of Offshore Detention’ [http://time.com/5520913/behrouz-boochani-manus-asylum-australia-book/]
COVER IMAGE via Peter Drew. See ABC article ‘What is a real Aussie?’ [https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-27/peter-drew-poster-street-artist-what-is-an-aussie-campaign/7205024]