Gippsland Portal

Gippsland Portal Feature:
Refugees May Reside In Gippsland

Possible plans in the works for Latrobe to become a Welcome Town

By Emma Kae - 26th June 2002 - Back to News

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The issue of refugees and their place in our society has instigated much heated discussion between those for and against their acceptance in Australia. Unsurprisingly, this great controversy has arisen close to home in Gippsland, following the announcement of local group Rural Australian’s for Refugees (RAR) proposal to elect the Latrobe Valley as a Welcome Town for Refugees. The pronouncement, published in last Thursday’s edition of The Express, illustrated that if the Welcome Town plan were to go ahead, Latrobe would allow refugees to be ‘introduced to the general community to await the processing of their visas’.

Those on side with the refugees argue that we should be sympathetic to the needs of the asylum seekers (people who have applied for Australia's protection and are awaiting a determination of their status). Carolyn Raymond of RAR calls for us to put ourselves in the shoes of the refugees and ask ‘what would I do if I were facing persecution and possibly death, and had a chance to escape?’ (The Express). Even when accepted into the country, conditions for the asylum seekers have been described as, amongst other things, an ‘inhumane, harsh and punitive system’* (more… The proposed ‘Welcome Town’ concept would allow refugees to reside in more open styles of accommodation.

Those in opposition to approving applications for refugees to stay in the country often do so as they consider refugees to be illegitimate migrants that drain Australia’s crucial resources and take opportunities from Australian residents. Much of this is unfounded. While many of us would admit to having a mental picture of a refugee as ‘a poor, homeless, uneducated person who decides to come to Australia to have a better life’** the truth is that refugees are people like ourselves. The only difference is that refugees are forced to leave their country to save themselves from ‘attacks, imprisonment, torture and death’**. The concerns of refugees are human rights and safety, not migration. A majority (about 80%) of recently detained asylum-seekers have been recognised as refugees.*

Currently, any person that arrives in Australia without a valid travel document is considered to be an unlawful arrival and is held in mandatory immigration detention (more...) Genuine refugees - for whom it may have been it is impossible to obtain the necessary travel documents - are being held in this detention until their claim for refugee status is assessed. This time can be very traumatic for those people who have a legitimate fear of persecution. There have been allegations of ‘abuse, ill-treatment and mismanagement, as well as hunger strikes, suicide attempts and breakouts’ in the Australian detainment system*

Perhaps the development of ‘Welcome Towns’ may be a ‘reasonable and safe solution to the treatment of asylum seekers who arrive on our shores,’* ensuring that real refugees can be supported and protected for the duration of application processing.

The Gippsland Portal wants to know what you think of stationing refugees in Gippsland. Click here to visit the Discussion Forum.

* Eve Stagoll, Writer for Amnesty International Australia, Feb-Mar 2001

** Chris Sidoti, Former Human Rights Commissioner, July 2000

*** Dr William Jonas, Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner, 2001


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Refugees May Reside In Gippsland
Promising Idea Emma Kae
Not Convinced Antony Svasek
Necessary Documentation A Dangerous Path Emma Kae
A Route For Escape? Adam Smith
Refugees For Gippsland Anthea Dacy
Send them from whence they came Dennis McGrath
Illegal immigrants for Gippsland Dennis McGrath
Perhaps Australians Are Just Slow Learners Jim Leslie
Once We Say Yes It Will Open The Floodgates Saichiko
Not To Let The Facts Get In The Way Dennis McGrath
A question of legality Jim Leslie
Clarification Dennis McGrath
... and further Jim Leslie
Are we talking about the same thing? Dennis McGrath
Reply to Dennis McGrath Jim Leslie

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