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Refugee and Immigration Policy

To :
Mr Patrick Conaghan
Nationals Candidate for Cowper
Friday 10th May, 2019

Katherine Morrison
36 McNally St
Bellingen, NSW 2454

Dear Mr Conaghan,

I am writing to you about our refugee and immigration policies.

I have been very concerned at the Australian government’s lack of compassion to people who have come to Australia seeking political refuge, in fact I find it unbelievable.

The planet is in crisis with millions of refugees now needing urgent help, with nowhere for them to call home in sight.  The U.S. under Trump has appallingly halved it’s refugee intake. Australia should be doing it’s fair share. There are now an overwhelming 69 million refugees in the world awaiting placement (UN 2018) with continuous increases via current conflicts and natural disasters in many parts of the globe, particularly Syria, South Sudan and the brutal persecution of the Rohinga people of Burma.

How can we hold our heads up when we are so relatively wealthy and ignoring this situation, when other much poorer countries (eg Bangladesh - accepting 650,000, Turkey - accepting 700,000) receive so many thousands and we only allow such a small number.

Of course people will continue to try to come here by boat as we are an island and we could not accept all that come (still a small number in the context of our overall migration programme) but it is our human duty to process their applications speedily and take thousands more than we already do. 50,0000 annually would be closer to a fair share. We know that many people arrive here by plane claiming refuge and receive a kinder, different treatment.

Boat arrivals are not a simple dilemma I understand due to the danger to the refugees of their transit and the unknown numbers, but right now our treatment of them as criminals is appalling. We should not be turning these people back to face further risks at sea with the unscrupulous ‘people smugglers’ who have likely taken the last savings of these refugees and any support given them by extended family or friends in their countries of origin.
How will they fare languishing for their remaining lives in countries like Indonesia or Malaysia, if indeed they make it back there? How inhumane are we to rob them of their last hope? 

“Vulnerability should remain a cornerstone of our Humanitarian Program. Our priorities should be aligned with those identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” (Refugee Council of Australia 2018-19 – Intake Submission)
Limiting the media coverage of the boat attempts is Orwellian, does not help anyone, nor does penalising those health workers and staff who describe conditions in offshore detention.

We as a nation cannot be led by what the fearful lowest common denominator thinks, those influenced by Pauline Hanson and the “shock jocks’” xenophobia. They are an ignorant and unempathic minority who need educating about the conditions that force people to take a boat and that there is no orderly process as an alternative, no “queue”. We need moral leadership here.

 I believe the majority of Australians would not do as you have been doing. I am part of a large ‘Rural Australians for Refugees ‘group, and at our fortnightly roadside demonstrations over half of the passing motorists toot their horns and wave their support.

Seeking asylum is not “illegal” as some media and (shamefully) politicians have labelled it, rather as you would know it is a legal right, as Australia is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, as we should always remain.

I cannot bear the thought of so many people enduring deprivation and continued trauma effectively jailed for no crime in our offshore detention centres. It is madness and it is cruel. It does not sit well with Australian values let alone Christian values.  

Whatever happened to the “do unto others” principle? This could be our fate at some time in the future – invaded and scrambling to find a safe haven, with our poor international reputation for a lack of compassion as now a definer of ‘Australian’. The idea of furthering this poor policy by building another offshore processing centre in New Guinea will only perpetuate these damaging situations.

Several times when I have been overseas in the last decade I have been approached by the people in other countries demanding to know why we Australians do this to vulnerable people asking for our help. Why indeed. The ancestors of white people in Australia have all come here only in recent history as refugees, political or economic.

Refugees are our brothers and sisters in this human family.

Many applicants could be re-framed as ‘assisted migrants’ (particularly family reunion applicants connected to former refugee families here)– by and large refugees and migrants become our hardest working Australians, paying taxes, caring for their extended family well, enriching our culture immeasurably and expressing gratitude to be here and safe. (Only a rare few turn to terrorism.)

Australia now needs a bigger population to afford to be able to care for our ageing population and support our needed public spending on health care, education and defence.
These people should not be perceived as a ‘cost’, rather as a ‘benefit’.

Clearly it is a priority to increase our overworked Department of Immigration visa processing staff, and support them with further training to facilitate sensitivity, timely processing and transport of offshore detainees to safety in Australia. 

To approach other countries to accept these people is very unreasonable and a demonstration of our racial intolerance when they are really “our problem” and deserve our protection. (If people arriving by boat were European in appearance, I imagine many Australians would not countenance the treatment that these off-shore detainees currently receive.)

Children are an obvious priority.

I feel that a Royal Commission into the damage our past and current policies area doing to people’s lives could be useful so we can face this situation honestly, and could assist us in a way forward to positively respond to the unfortunate people rendered homeless by war who will continue to need safe haven here. 

 It is a very complex problem compounded by racism and hysterical fears about those small numbers who happen to arrive by boat. We need a rational look at how other countries handle this same issue in better ways than we have done. This is the reality of our world now.

Yours faithfully
Katherine Morrison

Open letter to the voters of Cowper - poster

click on poster to enlarge to be able to read it 


Newsletter for 14 May 2019 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Report on our Jetty Foreshores Rally
Where do the parties and candidates stand?
Funding our recent advert
Letter from the CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre
General meeting and lunch: Sunday 26th May at 11.30 am

Report on our Jetty Foreshores Rally
A pretty good turnout of just under thirty people at our rally on Saturday in Coffs Harbour. Our key message was “Vote Compassion”, and we had a special banner and lots of new placards to get our message across to people as the election approaches. You can see some of these on our Facebook page. We had a number of speakers, together with readings of letters that our supporters have had published in the local press in recent months. Mike did an interview with the ABC which went to air on the local radio yesterday, and reports have been sent to the local newspapers. All agreed that the event had been very worthwhile. A big thank you to all who attended.

Where do the parties and candidates stand?
You will recall that, a few weeks ago, we published a range of questions which we sent to candidates in the Cowper election, in the hope that we might get some detailed responses. In addition, many of us attended the candidates forum in Bellingen last week. Add to that the lengthy document “I Choose Humane”, which we posted some time ago, we have a good picture of where the parties and candidates stand on the question of offshore detention.

In relation to the questions sent to the candidates, we received two brief responses, which did not address our questions. Andrew Woodward, the Labor candidate, directed us to the Party’s policy document, which can be found at:

We also received a two-sentence response from Alexander Stewart, the United Australia Party.
The very clear position of both the National Party and the Labor Party is that the current policies in relation to offshore detention will continue. 

Both parties frame their policies around ending the people smuggler trade, preventing drownings at sea, and keeping our borders secure. To that end, offshore (indefinite) detention will continue, boats will be prevented from entering Australian waters, and no asylum seekers or refugees currently held offshore will be allowed to resettle in Australia. 

Both parties ignore the fact that the naval armada to our north has turned back 33 boats carrying more than 800 asylum seekers since Operation Sovereign Borders began operations. Not a single boat has arrived on our shores from Indonesia in the past four years. No lives have been lost at sea. 

The people smugglers have been thwarted. There is therefore no humanitarian or security rationale for the continuation of a cruel, inhumane and unlawful policy which has destroyed so many lives in recent years. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the policy of the main parties in relation to offshore detention is purely political. 

Each party strives to convince us that they are tougher than the other. The refugees and asylum seekers are seemingly the collateral damage that they are willing to pay in order to maintain or win power. Power trumps principle every time, sadly.

The Greens have a long-established and well- documented policy to end offshore detention on Manus and Nauru, to close the centres permanently, to bring the remaining people from the islands to Australia for resettlement here or in other safe countries, and to end the policy of boat turnbacks. Their policy was articulated by the Greens candidate, Lauren Edwards, at the Bellingen forum.

Also, at the recent forum in Bellingen, Rob Oakeshott, the Independent candidate, made clear his opposition to the cruel policy of offshore detention and committed to seeking an end to it if elected, and to evacuating people from Manus and Nauru.

The Animal Justice Party candidate, Kellie Pearce, expressed similar views.

So, if you want to “Vote Compassion” you do have some choices.

Funding our recent advert
A huge thank you to our generous supporters who donated to help fund our half-page advert in the Coffs Coast Advocate. Amazingly, the donations exactly matched the invoice of $975! 

We have received positive feedback about the advert, which has been widely shared. Let us hope that it has helped people to think about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.

Letter from the CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre
“Thank you very much to the Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR for raising an amazing $3,700 at your recent lunch and auction. Your ongoing efforts and support for the Asylum Seekers Centre is really appreciated.

ASC currently provides practical and personal support for over 3,900 people from over 90 countries. 25% are children aged 0-17 years.

With your support, we are able to address people’s immediate needs by offering a range of services under one roof, including health care, legal advice, emergency housing, financial relief, food, social support, and employment. 

With the right support at crucial times, women, men and children can improve their health and wellbeing, regain independence and find community connections.

Once again, thank you.”
Frances Rush, Chief Executive Officer OAM
General meeting and lunch: Sunday 26th May at 11.30 am
A reminder that, following the federal election, we are organising an important meeting to review our work and to plan our future strategy. We don’t meet very often, so these occasional meetings are important in ensuring that all supporters have the opportunity to discuss and help shape our future activities. 
The meeting will start at 11.30 am and last about an hour, followed by lunch on the deck to enable us to socialize, enjoy one another’s company and meet new people. 
We do encourage all of you to put the date in your diaries and make a commitment to joining us.
The event will be held at 39, Rogers Drive, Valla Beach. If you are able to come along, then please let Mike know by emailing him, or phone him on: 6569 5419.

Please bring a plate to share. Drinks will be provided.

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