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Letter to Nambucca Guardian News - Peter Sobey

Dear Editor,

This is Refugee Week (14-20 June) and I would like to take this opportunity to point out four facts about refugees and asylum seekers that are often misunderstood.

Fact 1: It is not a crime to come to Australia by boat without a visa and ask for protection. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are basic freedoms that everyone is entitled to and they are hard won by many people making huge sacrifices over a long period of time. They are not to be let go of because of a spurious fear campaign.

Fact 2: There is no official queue for people coming to Australia seeking a safe place to live. The United Nations process of resettlement is complex and changing. It is more like a lottery than a queue.

Fact 3: Only 1% of the worlds’ refugees are likely to be given safe haven in any given year.

Fact 4: There are almost 18 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world.

I think that the most important first step that people can make on this important issue is to imagine what you would do if you were in a situation where you were being persecuted because of your religion, your skin colour, your ethnicity, or your political beliefs. If your daughters were threatened with rape, your sons with being press-ganged into a militia.

Read the stories of refugees or watch some of the many documentaries. Through all the trauma and despair you will find a story of hope. Hope that ones children do not have to suffer the same traumas.

Is it any wonder that asylum seekers would like to come here. We have the rule of law, a country at peace, the only continent with no landmines, a generous people with “boundless plains to share”.

To be sure, we can’t take everybody, there needs to be a process, and that is a discussion that needs to continue. But let us not succumb to populist fears of invasion by the “other”.

Peter Sobey

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