April 02, 2013
Once again we have witnessed the tragedy of people dying in their attempts to reach Australia.
This time it was Hazara families.
This tragedy brings out the best and worst of responses.
Reactions are varied from compassion and commiseration to some of the most hateful and brutal of comments.
Most of this is driven by ignorance of the reasons people take a risky boat journey.
So here are some facts.
Right now in Quetta, Pakistan, many Afghan Hazaras have fled after being driven out of Afghanistan by Taliban and Pashtun militia.
Now they are being bombed and killed daily by Lashvi-i-Jangvi another terrorist group.
This is why families are trying to get to Australia.
For those who have a husband and father in Australia, there is a waiting list of five to ten years for family reunion and years even for a spouse visa.
To fulfil the visa requirements, Australian immigration demands that people travel to Islamabad 900 km away to do health checks with an Australian Approved Panel Doctor and that they have DNA testing at great expense with swabs taken in the presence of an Australian immigration officer.
Many have no documents so cannot fly but have to take the dangerous bus journey 900 kms overland.
The roads are controlled by Taliban who extort taxes from the bus drivers.
When they see Hazaras on the buses they take them out and kill them.
In addition Australian immigration is asking that the wives go to Kabul, another dangerous overland journey back into the country from which they have fled to get their taskeras (birth certificates) stamped.
Immigration and politicians know the problems because lawyers and migration agents keep telling them.
So when the politicians and media talk about sending people to Nauru and Manus to stop the dangerous boat journeys ask them what they are doing to stop making these dangerous boat journeys the only choice for people fleeing for their lives.
If your choice is being bombed or killed by Taliban on a bus or street in Quetta which you have witnessed happening or taking a chance on a boat to Australia which you have never seen before what would you choose?
If our politicians really cared they would start managing the arrival of asylum seekers, process their refugee applications fairly and settle those people who proved that they had valid claims – as we promised to do when we signed the refugee convention.
We have done it before and we could do it again if we changed the toxic debate on asylum seekers and refugees.
Craig Beifus, Mount Riverview