Australians, per capita, have nothing to boast about with regard to helping refugees. On the contrary, UNHCR statistics show that we are an embarrassing 27th place in the world or 46th if you consider our relative wealth in GDP. And it is a concerning long term trend as is our asylum seeker policy of pretending that those who seek asylum by boat are somehow not real refugees, a strategy which allows us to put them into prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island where they must endure the punishment of indefinite detention and brutality at the hands of guards to teach others a lesson.
In 2013, moreover, Australia took a giant step backwards when our incoming ultra-right Abbott government made a politically expedient cut to our total intake of refugees of 30%. It was one of the first acts of the new government. Yet to hear our politicians on our ABC currently and to hear journalists such as James Carleton on RN Breakfast this morning, you would think we were a nation of over-achieving humanitarians, doing so much heavy lifting in refugee resettlement that we are all in danger of developing compassion fatigue. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And while we are far from the truth, let’s start with our PM and his ministers Robb, Dutton who are so morally irresponsible, so blinkered or indoctrinated by their own propaganda that they can repeat the claim that Australia ‘takes more refugee and humanitarian entrants,’ than any other country, as Tony Abbott put it on radio 5 September.
It is grossly irresponsible not to add that this claim is true only if you ignore 96.9% of refugees in the world and confine comparisons to the miniscule 3.1% resettled by the UN.
If you redefine who is a refugee, in other words, if you exclude roughly 97% of all other refugees, you can brag. Most Australians would be ashamed if they knew the truth. Instead, a shameful lie is perpetrated upon the unwary.
It is more than shameful, moreover, that this pernicious lie is repeated on our ABC Monday and Tuesday. Australians trust their ABC. But, then, that’s the tactic. Repeat the lie until it is believed; accepted as truth; received wisdom. No-one will bother to check the facts – even if all they have to do is visit the UNHCR website.
In 2014 UNHCR data shows the 14,350 refugees recognised or resettled in Australia during 2014 made up 0.43% of the global total. Australia ranks 22nd overall, 27th on a per capita basis and 46th relative to total national GDP.
It has been much the same for the previous ten years. 141,047 refugees were recognised or resettled by Australia. This was 1.16% of the global total of 12,107,623 which earns Australia 23rd rank overall, 27th per capita and 46th relative to national GDP.
Australia’s PM has earned international censure for his party’s stance towards refugees, most recently in an editorial in The New York Times 5 September.
‘Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.’
The editor notes that European officials have travelled to Australia recently and quotes an International Organisation for Migration spokesman who explains that while politicians may love fences, the fences such as those built by our asylum seeker policies in fact create further suffering, adding to, rather than alleviating the world’s growing refugee and humanitarian crisis. It is inexcusable that people fleeing emergencies should end up finding themselves in conditions more desperate, more hopeless and degrading than those which forced them to flee their homes.
Australians deserve better than to be fed lies which cruelly distort the truth about its policies towards refugees. Now we are experiencing a wave of compassion for refugees from Syria, a compassion triggered by images of a three year old boy washed ashore on a Turkish beach.
Compassion is to be encouraged, however, belated its discovery, provided it is not confused with sentimentality. Now that we have glimpsed the truth, perhaps, been helped to understand the truth about what it means to be one of the 19.5 million refugees in the world today, more of us will demand an end to indefinite detention and the daily brutalities of our camps on Nauru, Manus Island. But only if we demand the truth from our politicians, expect the truth from our national broadcaster.
Shame on the ABC for lamely accepting the lies of its politicians for in repeating those lies it allows itself to become an instrument of propaganda. Shame on our political leaders who in seeking power through manipulation and deception demean all Australians.