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"We are all boat people"
The ongoing dispute between the main two political parties on the boat people arriving in Australia, makes one wonder: Haven't our politicians got any other issues to talk about to get voter support? What difference will it make if asylum seekers are processed in Malaysia as Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants or Nauru, which is the preference of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott?
The Federal Government announced earlier this year through Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP that it budgeted for a sustainable annual level of net overseas migration – in the region of 170 000–180 000 over the next few years. This is consistent with Tony Abbott's statement just before the 2010 election, that the Coalition would aim for net overseas migration of 170,000 people had it won the election. (The numbers include the refugee quota).
According to official Government data, a comparatively small number of 2432 people took the desperate journey across the oceans and made it to Australian waters from January until September 2011.
Australia's annual refugee quota is 13,750. The 2432 asylum seekers will eventually be included in this quota. We, therefore, are at a loss to understand what the argument about the processing location is all about.
The arrival of boats at Australian waters will not stop regardless of who is in Government and what policies they implement to stop them. But our politicians must not exaggerate the issue because the 2432 who crossed the deadly oceans in rickety boats and came to Australia so far in 2011 are only a tiny fraction of the number of refugees crossing continuously into parts of Europe because of its proximity to conflict zones of Africa and the Middle East.
So, let's stop the arguments and start processing the refugees on shore as we did in the past. Then our politicians might be able to spend more of their valuable time on real issues affecting the everyday lives of the 22 million Australians.
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