Friday, August 31, 2012

Kick the Football Overboard

With another 95 Indonesian footballs lost overboard and currently the objects of a search and rescue mission, I am wondering why after decades of illegal boat arrivals to Australian shores, we have not figured out how to play the game fairly. After endless debates, propaganda, political rhetoric, ill informed and bigoted public opinion, and through changes of government, and one report followed by another, the terrible problem of boat people is still a political football, and therefore the people themselves, the victims, the desperate refugees, have been and are treated like footballs.

The current Federal government, having been forced to ditch its controversial Malaysian solution, has finally decided to go back to the Pacific Solution (off shore processing) policy of the previous government. The theory says that if illegal footballs attempt to reach Australia by boat they will be intercepted and locked up on a Pacific Island, Nauru, or Papua New Guinea, where they will be stuck for months or even years while their claims for asylum are properly assessed. This is supposed to act as a deterrent. I'll bet that it doesn't work. These poor footballs will still have a better life even if they are imprisoned on a small island, and most of them will eventually make it to our great country, where they are welcome.

The millions of dollars being spent on the interception, rescue, transfer, detention and processing of footballs is a disgraceful waste of resources but we cannot kick them overboard, we cannot sink their boats, and we should not turn our backs on them. Do they present any danger to us? Ignore the Howard government's pathetic attempt to frighten us by telling us to be alert but not alarmed. Dismiss the racist cries of Australia's Chicken Littles who say we are being overrun. Think for yourself. Waves of migrants have been arriving on our shores since the birth of our nation and have helped construct the beautiful tapestry that we are. Do we really think that we may be the subject of terrorist attacks and must therefore lock up innocent women, children and men. Spend the money on helping them settle here, on helping them heal, on giving them a second chance. 

I'm afraid, but not of the footballs. I'm afraid we are too small minded and not generous enough to properly care for our fellow human beings.

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