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A letter to the local Bellingen newspaper

Seeking asylum: refugees tell their stories

The Bellingen Librarian happily accepts a copy of Seeking Asylum

As we head towards the federal election in the months ahead, it will be more important than ever to be wary of the misinformation, sloganeering and deceit which, these days, go hand in hand with political campaigning. This is particularly relevant in relation to   the depiction and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. For the   past two decades, we have shifted from a focus on compassion and our   human rights obligations to one of fomenting fear and spreading   misinformation. Securing votes at elections, whatever the human cost, is now all that matters.  Honesty and integrity come a very poor second. In all this fog of misinformation and scaremongering, the real stories of refugees have been excluded from the national narrative. 

A new book, _"Seeking Asylum: Our Stories"_, put together by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, seeks to redress the balance through the voices and stories of real refugees who have arrived in Australia
during the past twenty years. The twenty-three people who tell their stories in this beautifully illustrated book have one thing in common, in that all of them had been forced to flee their homeland.
Thereafter, each of their stories is unique and deeply personal.
When Ghofran was just nine years old, her family was forced to flee Iraq. She spent six years in a refugee tent in the Saudi Arabian desert, before arriving in Australia at the age of twenty with no English and limited education. But, like so many refugees, she was  determined and resilient. She was eventually awarded a Bachelor of Science degree with high distinction, and later completed her PhD. She
now works as a university lecturer, training biomedical students on their way to becoming doctors.

Another refugee, Danijel, tells us that he has gone from milking cows in a war zone to representing blue-collar workers in Australian courts!
 It is important that the stories of refugees be heard. To that end, some members of our local refugee advocacy group purchased copies of  the book and have presented them to Macksville, Nambucca, Urunga and Bellingen libraries. We do hope that members of our communities will enjoy reading the refugees' stories, which will hopefully contribute  to a better and more empathetic understanding of the issues, and help  us to respond with greater compassion and humanity to these people.They are seeking a hand up, not a handout, and, with support, have so
much to offer to Australian society.
Let these stories be an antidote to the inevitable drumbeat of racism  and fear as the federal election approaches.
Mike Griffin

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