No Room For Playing Politics In Asylum Seeker Debate

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23rd April 2009, 11:37am - Views: 424

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Media Release


22 April 2009

No room for playing politics in asylum seeker debate

The Melbourne  Anglican Church’s Social Responsibilities Committee has called on

both sides of Australian politics to address the real issues at the heart of the asylum

seeker debate and to stop trying to score political points off the back of human


“Much of the current debate ignores those at the heart of the matter – the men,

women and children desperate enough to risk their lives fleeing worn torn countries in

search of a better life,” said Chair of the Committee, Dr Ray Cleary. 

“Instead, front page articles, opinion polls, television and radio news stories

concentrate on the supposed influx of asylum seekers and the best way to

discourage them from landing on Australian soil.”

Statistics released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

show Australia only receives a comparatively small number of asylum seekers. In 2008

the total number of people seeking asylum in industrialised countries was 383,000.

Australia’s share of that total was just 4,750 or 1.2 per cent.

“To put that in some context,” said Dr Cleary, “the United Kingdom took 30,500 or 8

per cent. The total land mass of the United Kingdom is roughly equal to that of the

state of Victoria and is already home to more than 60 million people.

“There is no influx of asylum seekers to Australian soil and there should be no hysteria

about border protection or hard line policies. A much more useful conversation

would be one that seeks to understand why people are unsafe in their homeland and

how a comparatively rich, stable and peaceful nation like Australia can help.

“While we do not want to encourage ruthless entrepreneurs to exploit the vulnerable

and put their lives at risk in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels we mustn’t turn our

backs on those same vulnerable people and reduce their plight to a sandbox

argument over territories and borders.

“Each refugee is a person with a history and a future. We do them a disservice if we

ignore their history and place our own interests before theirs when considering their



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