Saturday, June 23, 2012

There's a Hole in my Life Jacket

Six asylum seekers have died and 90 more are feared drowned in the water off Christmas Island. The politicians have so far resisted engaging in their usual pathetic bagging of each other's boat people policies out of sensitivity for the deceased, but they won't hold their tongues for long, rest assured. The ignorant and politically opportunistic will soon screech again about us being overrun by illegal boat arrivals despite the fact that the UNHCR calls the numbers of arrivals modest and manageable. We can only hope the babies in Parliament mature quickly and begin to make rational, humanitarian and bipartisan decisions. Hope.

There was some hope initially for more survivors until Home Affairs minister, Jason Clare, talked about the search being scaled back after the critical 36 hour period had elapsed. He talked about victims surviving if they had life jackets. I thought his comment was ridiculous. The safety of the passengers was probably not a priority for either the captain or crew of that boat. I don't think they get paid delivery bonuses for their illegal human cargo. Apparently there were some life jackets on the boat as they were seen floating around in the water. Shows you the benefits of a life saving device when you don't know how to use it. Fat lot of good those life jackets were. There probably weren't even enough of them.

What desperation drives people to hand over their personal fortunes to smugglers and risk their lives in long and dangerous boat journeys? The ill informed and the heartless criticize these "queue jumpers" without realizing that there is no resettlement queue for refugees. Only 0.77% of the world's 10.4 million refugees gained access to resettlement last year. Hope makes people strong and brave and irrational. Hope makes people ignore reality and danger. Hope is, sometimes, the only thing a person can cling to when everything they have has been stolen from them. Hope can kill people but it's better than dying, or living for that matter, without hope. Hopeless, like those life jackets floating in the water, of which there were no doubt too few to save everyone even if they did know how to use them. Hope is a life jacket.

For more facts on the issue of boat people or IMAs (Irregular Maritime Arrivals) as they are officially called, you might like to follow the link below.

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