Sean David Burke__________
(Listen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7_1R_b4x7Y )______
In 1951, Australia signed an international treaty to promise that we would take care of refugees. Sometimes our government seeks to evade or get around that treaty.
Years ago, back when I was just a kid, a group called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a song called Refugee. Good song. I don’t remember exactly how it went..
"We got somethin' we both know it, We don't talk too much about it..... Yeah, it ain't no real big secret all the same, Somehow we get around it..."
With all the talk of stopping refugees coming here, we seem to have forgotten our promise. The promise is partly that of non-refoulement. That’s a fancy French way of saying we promised not to send people who are running away from persecution back into the persecution. We didn’t sign a treaty saying we’d maybe ‘turn back the boats’. We promised, rather, to help.
"....Listen it don't really matter to me, baby, You believe what you want to believe, You see you don't have to live like a refugee..."
Some people think that most of the refugee applicants are just coming here for a better life, that they’re coming here as economic migrants, that they aren’t running away from anything. That’s not what the immigration department and the review tribunals have found. They have found that the great majority of boat arrivals are people who really did have something to fear back at home.
"...Somewhere, somehow somebody Must have kicked you around some, Tell me why you want to lay there And revel in your abandon..."
A large number of refugee applicants are now held in immigration detention. Detention is like jail, except that when you go to jail you have a pretty good idea of how long you will be there.
"...Listen it don't make no difference to me, baby, Everybody's had to fight to be free, You see you don't have to live like a refugee, Now, baby, you don't have to live like a refugee..."
The other thing about people stuck in detention is that, like jails, the detention centres aren’t on our street corners. We don’t walk past them as we go to the shops. They are out of sight and out of mind. They are easy to ignore.
"...Baby we ain't the first, I'm sure a lot of other lovers been burned, Right now this seems real to you, But it's one of those things You gotta feel to be true..."
It’s easy to simply live our lives without a thought, a feeling or a care for people in detention. Maybe it’s also easy to feel that they must somehow deserve it, that maybe their border incursion is a ‘crime’ that can somehow be punished. But this is just tripe. A refugee is defined under the convention as a person who:
"...Somewhere, somehow somebody Must have kicked you around some, Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped Tied up, taken away and held for ransom..."
Indefinite detention, unnecessary detention and arbitrary detention are ills in a democratic nation. The detention of children adds a further level of immorality. Living up to our promise involves accepting the legitimate claims of those who come here and not turning them away or locking them up. This needs to be done in a timely fashion. If a person is truly a refugee, then our duty is to accept them forthwith, and to make a place for them in our own community. That’s what we signed up for.
"...It don't really matter to me, Everybody's had to fight to be free, You see you don't have to live like a refugee, I said, you don't have to live like a refugee."
Delay is injustice. And, as soon as we decide that someone is a refugee, then suddenly, they are no longer a refugee. They are a resident then, part of the family, and they don’t have to live like a refugee anymore.
Sean David Burke
Lyrics by Tom Petty. Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7_1R_b4x7Y
Photo credits : wallpaperfactory.com and learningtoplaytheguitar.net
This article is free to publish as is.
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