Look beyond the words

Millions of people around the world each year have no choice but to flee their country and seek asylum in other countries to escape conflict and persecution. Yet, when these people attempt to seek asylum in Australia, they are labelled as ‘boat people’, words which carry an extremely negative stigma.

I can’t imagine the terrors that many of these people have had to endure in their homelands. They are fleeing to our country to start a new life, free of persecution. Unfortunately, when they arrive in Australia they are greeted by a large fence and small living quarters while they go through what can be a two-year process seeking entry into the country. There is another word for these camps; prisons.

I think a lot of us really need to rethink our position on asylum seekers and refugees and understand that it is legal under international law to seek asylum by boat. There have been a number of emails circulating the internet for the past few years comparing what a refugee receives in benefits compared to what an Australian pensioner receives. These emails are simply not true. A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefit as any Australian-born person in the same circumstances. There are no separate Centrelink allowances that one can receive simply by virtue of being a refugee, nor do refugees receive cash payments under either the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy or the Settlement Grants Program.

I was lucky to be born into a country of freedom where I can wake up in the morning without fear of war or persecution. My vote is to give those seeking asylum with a valid case the chance to enjoy a life where they wake up without fear.

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