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Old 06-24-2011, 03:39 AM   #1
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The plight of refugees and asylum seekers

SBS just finished broadcasting a remarkable three-part series here in Australia entitled Go Back To Where You Came From. It took six Australians, all with strong views on refugees and asylum seekers, and placed them in their shoes for 25 days. Among other places, they went to Kenya, Jordan, Iraq, Malaysia as well as meeting recently settled refugees in Australia.

Watch Online | Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS

I'm not sure if you'll be able to watch this, given it is an Australian website, but for anyone who is passionate about this topic, like I have discovered I am, it is worth hunting down. This should give you an idea.

YouTube - ‪Go Back To Where You Came From - SBS‬‏

I was brought to tears a number of times. I never used to think Australia was a racist country, but now I'm not so sure. There are literally thousands of people who harbour severely negative, ignorant, bigoted and just downright wrong views, and it is bitterly depressing. The lack of compassion for fellow man is infuriating, and when you see how these people are forced to live it is absolutely heartbreaking.

The series finished last night, I'm still reeling from it... I don't venture into here much so I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of this thread is. I certainly don't propose to have an answer for asylum seekers. I don't know nearly enough about the subject but a lot of others feel that because they're "Australian" they have some amazing sense of self-entitlement and the right to say "fuck off we're full".

What are your views? What is the situation like in your country?

I might see if I can become involved in some anti-racism or refugee support thing.
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Old 06-24-2011, 03:58 AM   #2
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Forgot to add the show was the #1 worldwide trend on twitter on Tuesday night, the first episode, and the NY Times also wrote this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/wo...stralia22.html

So some of you may in fact have heard about it already.
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Old 06-24-2011, 06:04 AM   #3
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The show sounds very interesting. I'll try to check it out sometime.
I think the issue of asylum seekers, illegal and legal immigrants etc. is one which concerns all developed nations, and in all these nations you see parts of society being sceptical or even outright racist about it. Though not every scepticism should be mistaken for racism, I think it's very important for our government and civil society to be honest, clear and informative about the reasons why these people often times risk their lives, leave their loved ones behind and take up any precarious employment to come over here, instead of going about it in the populist fashion that's currently en vogue in far too many countries.
After all, it's not like we are entirely innocent when it comes to why the economic and political situation in many nations in the South is such that people flee by the millions.
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:30 AM   #4
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I think it's very important for our government and civil society to be honest, clear and informative about the reasons why these people often times risk their lives, leave their loved ones behind and take up any precarious employment to come over here, instead of going about it in the populist fashion that's currently en vogue in far too many countries.

After all, it's not like we are entirely innocent when it comes to why the economic and political situation in many nations in the South is such that people flee by the millions.
Very true. A lot of European countries are downright racist. The EU has Frontex, a police border agency that regularly breaks human rights. I have been involved in meetings pro asylum seekers. The problem with that is that in our kafkaesque little country Austria people who defend asylum seekers (the subjects of so called charter-deportations) are persecuted by special forces and secret services. There were families with kids deported. The racist mood in my country, practised by a majority of idiots, is absolutely disturbing and reminds me of Austro-fascism and the years after that. The Christian church does a lot to help asylum seekers, going as far as hiding (no joke!) them in churches; while special forces appear at 4 a.m. in the morning with an assault rifle at a family with two girls, about 8 yrs old, to force them to go to the airport where another charter-deportation, this time the whole family, will take place. Every year or so, one refugee will be killed by police. Unfortunately, this has become a sad tradition.

So I don´t know what to say, it is a horrible situation and the corrupt conservative party (Mr. "of course I´m a lobbyist!" Strasser), in coalition with the social democrats (who are interested in keeping their highly paid positions) continues to rough it up and heating the emotions while touting their Christian values. Of course, they are adding a discussion about the right to wear burkas to fuel the fire. You know, last time I saw a nun she also wore a wimple.. want to forbid that too? Nah, its just against the muslims.

It is a shame and as soon as it is possible, I will move away from this country of narrow-minded racist haters, basically including all the EU with their centralised fascist Frontex policy, the French ain´t any better with Sarkozy chasing the Roma away, and look at the burning banlieus of Paris.
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:44 AM   #5
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I think racism is the single worst quality a person could have.
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Old 06-24-2011, 10:10 AM   #6
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Where we are at it, Sunday is the International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture. If you want to learn more about services provided in your country just visit International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
http://www.irct.org/news-and-media/i...=1&NewsId=3221
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Exactly 60 years after the signing of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, today there are more than 27.5 million internally displaced persons and nearly 15.5 million refugees, says the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).


With escalating conflicts throughout the world, their numbers are only expected to increase.
Austria frightens me. But so does Holland with Wilders, France with LePen, Belgium with Vlaams Belang or Denmark with its far right party (now closing off their borders again). And mostly Hungary. What happens there right now is the worst you've seen from the far right in decades.
In Germany, we have larger problems with racism in East Germany. Though one has to be careful because all too easily people start dividing the country into the dangerous East and the better West. In the western part of the country, intolerance and racism do exist as well, but they tend to cover it more than in East Germany. Yet, perhaps mostly due to our history the far-right parties only draw small numbers of voters, keeping them out of most parliaments. And it's our task to make sure it will stay that way.
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:36 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by cobl04 View Post
SBS just finished broadcasting a remarkable three-part series here in Australia entitled [i] I never used to think Australia was a racist country, but now I'm not so sure. There are literally thousands of people who harbour severely negative, ignorant, bigoted and just downright wrong views, and it is bitterly depressing.

What are your views? What is the situation like in your country?
Yeah I always knew that Australia was racist. I live in Canada and I am not saying that it is perfect because it is not but at least there is a positive record of welcoming refugees here.

However, you really have to ask yourself about the drain on social services. Taking anyone in from anywhere can really deplete a nations resources.

Secondly, Australians might hold on to those beliefs as a shield. They might know that we are equal 'under the eyes of God' but might not like the practical realities of housing and integrating anyone from anywhere.

There is more to this than just racism. It is about pulling your own.

Sensitives can make their rebuttal here:
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Old 06-24-2011, 12:11 PM   #8
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deplete a nations resources.
We are doing just the same to their countries, but much worse.
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Old 06-24-2011, 03:19 PM   #9
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Very true. A lot of European countries are downright racist. The EU has Frontex, a police border agency that regularly breaks human rights. I have been involved in meetings pro asylum seekers. The problem with that is that in our kafkaesque little country Austria people who defend asylum seekers (the subjects of so called charter-deportations) are persecuted by special forces and secret services. There were families with kids deported. The racist mood in my country, practised by a majority of idiots, is absolutely disturbing and reminds me of Austro-fascism and the years after that. The Christian church does a lot to help asylum seekers, going as far as hiding (no joke!) them in churches; while special forces appear at 4 a.m. in the morning with an assault rifle at a family with two girls, about 8 yrs old, to force them to go to the airport where another charter-deportation, this time the whole family, will take place. Every year or so, one refugee will be killed by police. Unfortunately, this has become a sad tradition.

So I don´t know what to say, it is a horrible situation and the corrupt conservative party (Mr. "of course I´m a lobbyist!" Strasser), in coalition with the social democrats (who are interested in keeping their highly paid positions) continues to rough it up and heating the emotions while touting their Christian values. Of course, they are adding a discussion about the right to wear burkas to fuel the fire. You know, last time I saw a nun she also wore a wimple.. want to forbid that too? Nah, its just against the muslims.

It is a shame and as soon as it is possible, I will move away from this country of narrow-minded racist haters, basically including all the EU with their centralised fascist Frontex policy, the French ain´t any better with Sarkozy chasing the Roma away, and look at the burning banlieus of Paris.
Excellent post. I am very concerned that Europe is returning to its racist past. The majority of Europeans are irreligious these days so a politician that talks of 'Christian values' is almost always, in reality, touting for the racist vote, pure and simple. People like Strasser, Sarkozy and, for that matter, Berlusconi are irresponsible. While they may not personally be racists (I doubt if Sarkozy is, as he is Jewish), they are more than happy to exploit and stoke up racist tensions for political advantage, albeit in a sly and clever way.
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Old 06-24-2011, 07:24 PM   #10
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Some 2010 stats from UNHCR, possibly pertinent to discussion:


-- current top 10 destination countries for asylum-seekers, by absolute number of asylum-seekers:
1. South Africa (predominantly Zimbabweans)
2. US (predominantly Chinese)
3. France (no one group predominates; Serbs, Russians, Congolese)
4. Malaysia (Burmese)
5. Ecuador (Colombians)
6. Canada (Hungarians, Chinese, Sri Lankans)
7. UK (Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Sri Lankans)
8. Sweden (Serbs, Somalis)
9. Ethiopia (Eritreans, Somalis)
10. Germany (Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis)

-- current top 10 originating nationalities of asylum-seekers, by absolute numbers:
1. Serbia
2. Afghanistan
3. China
4. Iraq
5. Russian Federation
6. Somalia
7. Iran
8. Pakistan
9. Nigeria
10. Sri Lanka

-- # of asylum-seekers per US$1 GDP (PPP) per capita, for selected destination countries:
Pakistan 710
Kenya (predominantly Somalis) 247
Uganda (predominantly Sudanese and Congolese) 108
Ethiopia 26
South Africa 23
US 5.6
France 5.4
UK 3.9
Canada 3.7
Germany 3.7
Belgium (Serbs, Iraqis, Russians) 2
Austria (Russians, Afghans, Serbs) 1.6
Netherlands (Somalis, Iraqis, Afghans) 1.5
Hungary (Afgans, Serbs) 0.8
Australia (Afghans, Chinese) 0.7
Denmark (Afghans, Syrians, Iranians) 0.4
New Zealand (Fijians, Iranians, Sri Lankans, Chinese) 0.1


-- 80% of the world's refugees (as opposed to asylum-seekers) actually live in developing countries. Currently, Pakistan and Iran house by far the world's largest refugee populations (due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).
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While they may not personally be racists (I doubt if Sarkozy is, as he is Jewish), they are more than happy to exploit and stoke up racist tensions for political advantage, albeit in a sly and clever way.
Which in some ways is the worst type, because they're the most readily emulated by others, and most people are opportunistic to some degree or another when it comes down to it. You don't necessarily need a huge base of hardcore 'true believers' to create the conditions for mass expulsions or other forms of persecution.

Kind of an aside, but I doubt Sarkozy's Jewishness is all that relevant one way or the other; it might increase the statistical likelihood that he'd hesitate where Strasser or Berlusconi mightn't, but nothing more than that. When my father was asked to help find more local hosts for visiting civil rights workers who were organizing black voters back in Mississippi in the 60s, he started with the local Jewish community, and the responses he got varied from "Of course, how can I help?" to "Look, I know your heart's in the right place and all, but you could get us in a lot of trouble here" to "David you've lost your mind, let the Negroes do this themselves if it's so important"--the last in the scornful tone of someone who basically thinks "niggers" but is well-bred enough to say "Negroes". And these were, for the most part, German-American Jews who'd lost most of what had been the European branch of their families just a couple decades before, and who knew perfectly well they were talking to an Auschwitz survivor. Most people, regardless of background, are going to run a cost-benefit analysis of the impact on their own social standing before weighing any other concerns in a moment like that, without really even grasping that that's what they're doing. I know the European social climate is different, and deportations aren't the same thing as internal repression, but once someone calculates they're better off throwing in their lot with the xenophobes, they seldom remain as sympathetic as they once were. Even on the inside.
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Old 06-24-2011, 07:43 PM   #11
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I never used to think Australia was a racist country, but now I'm not so sure.
I hate to say it, but the perception outside of Australia that I've always come across is that it's a horribly racist place. Maybe unfair, but I don't think it's an uncommon view.
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Old 06-24-2011, 07:50 PM   #12
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did you hear this from a person of color?
you know those people are not very reliable.
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Old 06-24-2011, 09:07 PM   #13
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Yeah I always knew that Australia was racist. I live in Canada and I am not saying that it is perfect because it is not but at least there is a positive record of welcoming refugees here.

However, you really have to ask yourself about the drain on social services. Taking anyone in from anywhere can really deplete a nations resources.

Secondly, Australians might hold on to those beliefs as a shield. They might know that we are equal 'under the eyes of God' but might not like the practical realities of housing and integrating anyone from anywhere.

There is more to this than just racism. It is about pulling your own.

Sensitives can make their rebuttal here:
That's why I said I don't profess to have the answer. I realise "opening the gates" would create problems. I don't know nearly enough to propose a solution, I just wish people had more compassion.

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I hate to say it, but the perception outside of Australia that I've always come across is that it's a horribly racist place. Maybe unfair, but I don't think it's an uncommon view.
That hurts me to read... but I don't think I can deny that anymore. One of the people in the doco, 21yo Raquel, openly admits at the start of the show "I am racist, I don't like Africans" and says things like "maybe they're used to this cos they grew up like it, I didn't, I'm a fuckin' 'strayan [sic]". She was told by another of the contestants to perhaps cover herself up a bit more when they arrived in Malaysia, and she said "I'll dress how I fucking want, if they wanna wear a fuckin' tea towel that's their decision".

Amazing how many people feel they have the right to comment on issues they know nothing about.
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Old 06-24-2011, 09:17 PM   #14
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I hate to say it, but the perception outside of Australia that I've always come across is that it's a horribly racist place. Maybe unfair, but I don't think it's an uncommon view.
Australia is the only country that I've travelled to where a person, on being told of my nationality, commented unfavourably in a manner that I interpreted as borderline racist. That said, it could have been a reaction against the unruly drunken behaviour of Irish backpackers in some urban areas in the country.

Australian cultural attitudes and the forthright upfront manner of expression can sometimes be misinterpreted by foreigners as racism. On the other hand, in some cases, it is racism.

The term 'blackfellas' when used in relation to aboriginal Australians is seemingly not de facto racist, and aboriginal Australians use it themselves.
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Old 06-24-2011, 09:18 PM   #15
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Australia is the only country that I've travelled to where a person, on being told of my nationality, commented unfavourably in a manner that I interpreted as borderline racist. That said, it could have been a reaction against the unruly drunken behaviour of Irish backpackers in some urban areas in the country.
What did they say?
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