Asylum seeker hysteria in the media, again.

There’s been an ad on tellie in the past couple of days, for one of those after the news “current affairs” type shenanigans. You know, the ones where reporters ambush people with leading questions and shouting like people are running around with their hair on fire in hysterics over someone returning a chicken at the local supermarket or getting a big bill and pretending that it’s really super important news. This particular ad is about a “special investigation”, so some poor bugger got to spend all day editing together footage from youtube and online newspapers about asylum seekers. Apparently Australia is girt by leaky boats full of rich people who risk life and limb to enter the country by boat rather than plane. It’s on the same channel that shows the Airline safety and Air crash investigation special reports, so you’d think they’d have some sympathy for people who are afraid of flying. Well, Kerry Stokes did make his fortune by terrorising pensioners so it’s not entirely surprising.

After the last election you may recall that Murdoch’s minions went absolutely spare. The voters elected a minority government that included some Greens senators and a few independents. Since then, there’s been nothing but bitching from the tabloids. How dare the citizens of Australia elect anyone other than the king whom Murdoch had selected! And he’s still promoting the Mad Monk Tony Abbott although most people seem to view the options offered by the major parties as scraping the bottom of the barrel. Kerry Stokes, unable, apparently, to concoct any agenda of his own, blindly follows the lead of the self-appointed king maker and evil overlord Murdoch. So while it’s fine and dandy for Abbott to make the promise that the “baby bonus” should be doubled, if Gillard goes ahead and does so, that’s vote buying. For our sins, to whit electing someone other than that ordained by the media, we’re now subject to continual foaming at the mouth, screeching and yelling until we cave in and vote properly. For a good Liberal. Like Menzies. Well, technically belonging to the same party as Menzies anyway. Just ignore that the party actually does and listen to their pre-election promises. She’ll be right. Promise.

So yeah. Apparently 22 million people isn’t enough so we need to pay people to have children. But at the same time, we don’t want any more people coming here. Except if they have skills we don’t. Then they’re skilled labour migration. That’s also a fine idea when a Liberal politician proposes it, but a terrible one when someone else does. If you’re confused at this point you’re not alone. Nobody has ever claimed that media hysteria makes any sense.

But since we’re encouraging young women to leave school and employment to take money and have babies, I had to wonder what was going on with all these asylum seekers and how come brown babies coming into Australia is so much worse than babies born to women who are already here. So I did a little digging. You know, because I’m one of those “difficult” people who won’t take the media’s word for it and I don’t believe what I read in the papers or see on tv ads. Suffice it to say it’s no wonder the media is throwing tantrums and ranting and raving while sweeping the rest of the story under the rug. I’m not expecting you’ll be surprised at all if I tell you it’s all just another big con job.

For a start, most of the people who migrate here don’t stay permanently. People come to study, do business or get jobs and after a while they move on. State and Federal governments keep cutting funding to public schools and universities, and religious schools tend not to be huge trainers of trades jobs, so the people to do this work have to come from somewhere else. Most of them come by plane, because it’s quicker. Most come on a business basis, because having money is the easiest way to get into Australia. Let’s just leave aside for the moment that this will actually make it easier for organised crime or drug business to get in… That doesn’t suit the border patrol or security image being pushed on certain channels.

Here’s a pie graph of people coming into Australia for the year 2008-09. As you can see, quite a few are migrants. Quite a few are births. If you squint really hard at that little pink section you’ll see the asylum seekers segment. You have to look hard because it’s so tiny.

Here’s another graphic for the calendar year 2009. Again, most of the incoming are either migrants or births. This one looks a bit different because there’ve been more births and it only takes into account permanent migration. Again, the actual number of asylum seekers who arrive by boat is very small.

These current affairs shows and tabloid scoops that focus on asylum seekers take great pains to make it seem like Australia is this kind of continental floating ark that is surrounded by boats. It’s a sort of gory image. A bit like an egg floating by, surrounded by sperm or something. They’re all out there, trying to get in. Ew. Plus they’re all made out to be “queue jumpers” or otherwise illegitimate. And Australia is vulnerable to them all. Or so it seems.

But just how many people are out there trying to get into Australia? How come we have to do it all? What about all the other developed nations? Why don’t they go somewhere else? Good questions. Let’s have a look at that.

How many asylum seekers were there, in the whole world, in 2010? Just over one and a half million. On a planet occupied by 7 billion people, a bit over 1.6 million were displaced by war or other threats and sought asylum in other countries. Who took most of them? The USA, France, Germany, Sweden and Malaysia. The stats on detention periods is also interesting, partly because of the trauma involved to the refugees and partly because of the cost. In Canada, 8 days. In Australia over 200 on average. You can tell the Murdoch and Stokes families aren’t being hit with that bill. But that only reflects our arse backwards approach to funding, like spending $200,000 keeping a kid locked up in juvenile detention but not wanting to spend half that on education or housing that could prevent the crime in the first place. 8,000 people in total applied for asylum seeker status and a fraction of those came by boat. Eight thousand out of over a million and a half, and yet the media represented this as us being swamped by boat people. Well, remember what we were saying about not believing what you read in the papers?

This one is a bar graph that shows asylum seekers as a proportion of the total population. Look carefully because it’s not what it seems. At first you think the total is 100%, but this is focused on detail. Here Lebanon is the highest but their total up the top there isn’t 100%, it’s just over 1.2%. Again, you have to look way down the chart to see where Australia figures. And there we are. With a massive total of less than 0.2% of the entire population as asylum seekers ever having come here. That’s less than one fifth of one percent. That’s for all the years asylum seekers have been coming here, by plane or boat. Swamped, I tell ya. We’re swamped.

Apart from the sheer numbers, or lack thereof, there are other arguments about asylum seekers in Australia. One that was hinted at above was that they’re all actually criminals or terrorists. The reply, which was also hinted at, is that if someone really wants to come into the country and start a drug syndicate or terror cell, all they need is a front company and a bit of investment money. It doesn’t take much to turn up at the desk in a suit with a briefcase and say you’re here on business. And what do drug lords and organised criminals have if not money?

Despite the fact that claims are made that “boat people” pay lots of money to “people smugglers” to get them in here, what is it really that’s happening? Why on earth would a person leave a home, uproot their family and take a hell ride on a leaky boat to a nation renowned world wide as “White Australia”? Why do they have to apply as asylum seekers? Where are their papers?

Again, there’s some pretty simple, straightforward reasons. (Just ignore for a moment that straight forward and rational doesn’t sell papers, ok?) If you want to travel overseas, what do you do? You queue up for a while, fill out papers, take photos and apply for your passport. Then you apply for your visa. You need i.d., photos, papers and what not. It’s a hassle even if you’re in a stable, democratic country just looking to take a holiday to Bali. If you’re being targeted as a member of an ethnic group or if your country is a fucking war zone, you’re not going to be standing in line with your birth certificate, waiting for the next bored, pasty public servant to eyeball you while bombs and rocket launchers may or may not be going off in the street outside.

Your country may not even technically be at war. Is Afghanistan even a war now? Or Sri Lanka? When you start to look at internally displaced people, the situation gets pretty muddy. No one declared war on the indigenous Tamil people any more than the British declared war on Australian Aboriginals or native Americans or Africans.

Here’s an x-ray of a woman who had nails driven into her hand. If you thought standing in line at a government department was torture, try that on for size. Apart from the problems with even seeking a passport or visa when you’re in a state that has identified you as a “problem” or an “ethnic problem” there’s the added bonus of not only being denied application for either passports or visas but the threat of detention, torture or death for yourself or your family if you’re apprehended.

Plenty of people don’t make it out alive.

But what if you’re not even an “ethnic”?

This little girl was tortured for refusing to be married off as a child bride.

While Australian diggers are being blown up by roadside IEDs in the service of our imperial overlords, just like Gallipoli or Vietnam, the Mujahedeen, now known as the Taliban, are still trying to force implement the same fundamentalist religion as the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia, where women can’t vote or drive a car.

Oh wait, hang on… That was blood from a US sponsored torture and murder of a “suspect”. Because, you know, when the US starts wars and invades other countries over resources and puts people in death camps and Australia jumps on the band wagon and goes along with them, that’s just totally different from what Japan did in World War 2 that everyone remembers every April 26th and swears to never forget and never make the same mistakes.

This is just a guy. A guy who happened to be apprehended by the US and imprisoned and tortured by our allies…

So sure. Watch the current affairs shows’ special investigations about all these illegal, evil, wicked asylum seekers who jump the queue and try to invade Australia as an easy target and a soft… whatever catch phrase the media are using this week to try to set your hair on fire with worry about a whole thousand people in boats. Jesus tapdancing christ, if I’m losing sleep tonight it will be about how on earth my children are going to be able to afford to pay off their own homes, not some other poor bastard who’s desperate enough to cross an ocean to find somewhere safe for her/his babies to sleep.

Kerry Stokes can kiss my arse if he thinks I’m gonna buy that shit. Go scare some more pensioners, you cheapskate fear monger.


About Syburi

Witch, bitch, creatrix; hippie, dreamer, gardener. Lover of books, music, rescue animals, piss and vinegar.
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