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Letters on asylum seekers today

October 19, 2009

SMH : Question marks over queues and Tamils’ trip

Nice try, Hendry Wan (Letters, October 17-18), but there is not one but a number of queues which those coming by boat seek to circumvent.

First, those waiting patiently in refugee camps with the hope of being accepted under our refugee quota will now miss out because of those who paid people smugglers.

The next queue is to do with processing. Immigration staff must give priority to those who arrive illegally by boat. Those waiting in offshore centres get pushed further down the list while the impatient and the impetuous take their place.

Then there is the waiting list for public housing, which will be ignored in favour of immediate support of illegal arrivals.

As far as I know, none of those who wait in these queues threaten to blow up boats or go on hunger strike should they not be immediately attended to. One wonders at the cornucopia of legal and ethical options available to those with the means to pay people smugglers tens of thousands of dollars. Is the ability to seek out shady characters and avail oneself of their illicit services a skill we need in this country?

Peter Maresch Lane Cove

The asylum seekers from Sri Lanka who have travelled halfway around the world, and paid a lot of money to people smugglers to do so, claim they did this as the only way to “escape persecution”.

These people are Tamils, and not 100 kilometres from where they set off is the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, their traditional homeland and birthplace of their kin. Hardly much risk of being persecuted there.

Surely if escaping persecution was their only intent, they could have achieved it much more easily, safely and cheaply than by the perilous route they chose.

Andrew Gee Castlecrag

Not all Tamils were engaged in a “murderous terrorist conflict” with the Sri Lankan Government as David Knowles says (Letters, October 17-18), least of all nine-year-old children, well-trained or not. Many Tamil civilians were equally terrorised by the Tamil Tigers and now face even worse abuses by the Sri Lankan Government, including forced eviction, internment in concentration camps and summary execution – simply because they are Tamil.

The fighting may be over but innocent people are still paying the price, just as Czechs and Hungarians did after their revolutions were crushed.

To suggest all Tamils were involved in the extreme actions of a hardcore minority and now must pay for that extremist group’s defeat is like saying all Australians are insensitive, uncaring and ignorant on the basis of one letter.

Sunil Badami Rozelle

I am not sure of the precise legal status in Australia of the United Nations conventions our governments signed. But I am sure that in addition to the rule of law, keeping our word is equally a “bedrock of Australian law and politics” (“Refugee lobby’s 10 commandments”, October 16).

Is Paul Sheehan suggesting we should make a habit of breaking our word? It is a difficult issue, especially for the refugees, but Australia has much bigger opportunities and problems to deal with than the processing of a few hundred (or even thousand in some years) escaping persecution and attempting to find safety and security here.

The asylum seekers who arrived by boat this year are about 1 per cent of our total immigrant intake. Most are found to be refugees, and our experience shows they become model citizens. We need some perspective.

David Hind Neutral Bay

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