In the latest case of Australian border security relating to illegal immigrants and people smugglers, 78 Sri Lankans were rescued from their sinking boat that illegally entered Australian waters four and a half weeks ago. They were taken aboard the ship Oceanic Viking, with the intention of being taken to the Australian detention centre on Christmas Island however were in the end taken to an Indonesian detention centre to have their refugee claims processed. This was meant to be a standard exercise, it has happened many times before however in this instance the Sri Lankans refused to disembark the Oceanic Viking.
The previous Liberal government, lead by John Howard were criticised by the opposition heavily at the time being overly heavy handed. It was unconceivable at the time that we’d set up a detention centre for processing and essentially hold the refugees captive until their claims were processed and they’d either be granted refugee status or sent home packing. Now that the Labor government is running the show, they are now being criticised by the Liberal party for being too soft however in the grand scheme of things, little has changed.
In the latest incident, we’re seeing the asylum seekers refusing to leave the Australian ship that saved their lives after their boat was sinking. During the last four and a half week ordeal, the Sri Lankans have threatened or have gone on hunger strikes to have their case heard – essentially blackmailing the government into action.
I appreciate that it is a very delicate situation, most Australians couldn’t possibly understand the conditions or environment they were living under which would cause an individual or an an entire family to uproot and head to a foreign land in a tiny boat but how the latest case has panned out just doesn’t feel right. The Australian government has now set a precedent, act like a child and stomp your feet and the government will bend to your will and give you what you want. In my opinion that isn’t the right message to be sending at all, not to the illegal immigrants or to the filthy people smugglers who bleed them for what limited wealth they have and more.
I understand that Australia is a geographically large county with a small population and appreciate that we certainly have the space for individuals and families seeking refuge here after leaving their home lands, but the Australian government must be in control of our borders and its security. We certainly can’t leave the doors wide open or we’d be flooded by illegal immigrants, but we certainly cannot close the door either.
Australian citizens have said they don’t want the door closed and that we should and want to help these people. However, there is a clear undertone from what I’ve heard and read so far that suggests that while we want to help – we also want to be protected. Clearly the challenge is going to be balancing those two desires but I find it increasingly difficult to justify saying no to someone that is fleeing their country for their own peronal safety and a better future.
What’s the answer?