Nothing is more depressing than the argument over refugees, which seems to have come down to ‘do we leave them to rot on a remote island, or pen them up like cattle on an Indonesian feedlot?’
I am a migrant several times over. I was born in the north of the UK but moved south as a child. I lived for several years in Holland and the USA, before finally settling in Australia 17 years ago.
I believe you have a right to live wherever you choose, especially if your home country is a war zone, ineradicably poor, or hostile to you because of, say, your sexuality.
So long as you are not a criminal and are respectful of your new neighbours, moving countries ought to be no more difficult than moving from Birdsville to Newtown.
Politicians are always lecturing ‘the unemployed’ to go where the work is, as my father did when he uprooted our family from a dying industrial town in northern England for a job in London.
The move put us into debt for years. And we copped it rough from stupid people who thought anyone from the north of England was an ignorant savage.
But we were not blamed for seeking a better life. Quite the opposite. My father was praised on all sides for his daring, courage, initiative and fortitude.
How much more daring, courage, initiative and fortitude must it take to uproot yourself from a country in civil war, a dictatorship, a foreign invasion? A country where to apply to leave ‘through proper channels’ can get you shot? Where being gay is effectively a death sentence?
Australians are supposed to be about ‘a fair go’. Let’s stop getting worked up over a few thousand people who pay us the compliment of wanting to live and work among us. Give them a fair go.
By all means hold them — briefly — while we check them out, but in camps close to major cities, with easy access to migration, legal and medical services, existing communities from their home countries, jobs and education. It’s so much cheaper, faster and easier to sort the sheep from the goats than paying foreigners to build and run concentration camps overseas.
Then welcome those who pass the tests, teaching them our language and our way of life. Ask them what their skills and experience are, and help them find work. Give them a trial residence and if it doesn’t work out after a few years, then send them back.
It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the sensible thing to do. That way we create new friends. All we’re doing at the moment is creating new enemies.