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Letter to Nambucca Guardian News September 2015

Dear Editor,

It is heartening to see the pictures on the news of Syrian refugees being welcomed in Germany. It gives one faith in humanity to see the way that ordinary people feel compelled to offer help to those in need. Thousands of Australians were involved in candlelight vigils around the country this week to show their support for the millions fleeing a devastating war.

So what should Australia do to meet our moral and international obligations?

Should we accept more refugees from Syria? Of course we should. We are a rich country and a country at peace. We can afford to take many more people above our current refugee intake at this time of need.

Should we become involved in bombing Syria? Since when has a country ever been bombed into peace? Why is it that we can always find money for bombs but not for humanitarian aid? The answer is definitely no.

At the very least the decision to bomb another country, without any mandate from the United Nations, should be discussed in parliament. That is what should happen in a democracy. As it is it will be yet another "Captains pick".

Where can we find the money for more humanitarian assistance? The UN budget for looking after Syrian refugees is $US931 million. This is less than half what is required which means that there are inadequate supplies of food and medicine. This is one of the reasons that so many are leaving the refugee camps and walking to Germany.

The Australian budget for locking up refugees in detention camps in Manus Island and Nauru is $US2,100 million. We recently spent $52 million to "resettle" four, yes four, refugees from Nauru to Cambodia. All that is just a complete waste of our money.

If we resettled all the people from Manus and Nauru into our community we would have plenty of money left over to make a genuine and generous contribution to the crisis in Syria without dropping any bombs.

I find it discouraging that so many people are (quite rightly) moved to action by the images of a little boy lying lifeless on a Turkish beach while at the same time little children are suffering a slow death in Australian detention camps. There they suffer from poor living conditions, inadequate health care and, according to reports, sexual abuse. The difference is that these children are kept out of sight of the cameras by a secretive government. They are Australias shame.

Peter Sobey

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