Refugee deals start Asia ‘virus’

Jonathan Prearlman & Ari Sharp; 6/1/10; (2 Items)

Australia’s deals to deter asylum seekers have triggered an Asia-wide virus of ”xenophobia and amnesia” over refugee rights, a human rights group says. The refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch, Bill Frelick, has criticised recent moves across Asia to prevent the resettlement of refugees, which he says began with the agreement in October between the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to prevent a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers from entering Australian waters. ”The willingness to flout international refugee law and to ignore the entreaties of refugees not to be sent back to their home countries has become the mark of chummy bilateral relations between Asian states,” Mr Frelick writes in the International Herald Tribune. ”A virus is sweeping Asia. The symptoms are heightened xenophobia and amnesia about fundamental refugee rights.”


The evidence of racial targeting is troubling
Tony Barnett (Letters, 5/1) should follow his own advice. While I agree that, by and large, Australia, a country of immigrants, aims to treat its residents fairly, the evidence here is troubling: a number of attacks over many months in and around Melbourne affecting mostly subcontinentals. He is not suggesting, perhaps, that only a murder counts? Until this dastardly murder of Nitin Garg, the reactions of most people from the subcontinent (including student unions, community leaders, some Indian media and the inevitable conversation at get-togethers) have been measured: yes, rabid anti-social elements exist around the world and the Australian system is designed to deal with them, notwithstanding obvious imperfections. The media highlights, as is their wont, the inflammatory reactions as “newsworthy”. Consider how Australia would react if Australians were specifically targeted for physical attack, anywhere. Julia Gillard, who has proclaimed that “this is a nation that welcomes international students”, should tell that to the parents and friends of Nitin Garg. Ramani Venkatramani, Little Bay, NSW
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