sorryasylumseekers.com

AKA Why I started sorryasylumseekers.com

There is a serious debate to be had in Australia about asylum seeker policy.

Millions of people flee persecution every year, and their passage from danger to safety needs to be regulated. Most people agree with this, even if their views on exactly how  then to manage the issue differ.

Hence the debate that’s currently raging across our nation’s homes, pubs and halls of power.

Valid questions are being asked in this debate.

How many asylum seekers can Australia sustainably accommodate? How should we, as a nation, deter/manage/encourage asylum seekers? Is ‘stopping the boats’ Australia’s only policy objective? Is mandatory detention a useful policy measure?  Etc etc

These are complex issues worthy of detailed examination.

However, my website sorryasylumseekers.com wasn’t established for that purpose.

Instead, sorryasylumseekers.com is based on a philosophy that Australia’s asylum seeker policy debate — while worthy and necessary — should take place on a bedrock of humanity.

Whatever your views on the Pacific, Malaysia or PNG solutions, surely we can all agree that basic human decency is a worthy objective?

However you assess Australia’s obligations under international law, surely we can all agree that as a rich country we should treat those in our care with respect?

The website is about saying sorry for harsh or inhumane treatment, which is entirely avoidable.

I want compassion for those fleeing persecution as an agreed starting point, something considered sacrosanct by all Australians. Only then can we  have a mature and fruitful debate about real-world policy solutions.

Australia’s asylum seeker policy debate — while worthy and necessary — should take place on a bedrock of humanity.

The public response to sorryasylumseekers.com has been overwhelming. We have contributions from every state and territory, as well as Australians living overseas. Dogs, cats and babies have also featured in people’s posts.

The website has been written up on The BBC WorldBuzzFeed, Al Jazeera, The New Daily, The Guardian, SBS and News.com.

But let’s be frank here — a few feel-good pictures aren’t going to change the world.

However, at the very least, I want asylum seekers to know that not all Australians are lacking in compassion.

There are people with big hearts all across the country (and of all political persuasions).

sorryasylumseekers.com may not achieve anything.

It may raise some awareness, it may eventually raise some money, or it may make just one person fleeing persecution feel more welcome in Australia.

But it’s better than doing nothing.

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10 thoughts on “sorryasylumseekers.com

  1. Hello Ryan. You are right, of course. There is a serious debate to be had about asylum seeker policy, and it should take place on a bedrock of humanity. That bedrock of humanity… well, it is certainly something clearly many of us wish to see. For many, you are preaching to the converted. However, your site sorryasylumseekers.com is another way to get our voice out there, to make people- all over the world- see that there are many and varied people in Australia passionate about this, and willing to do whatever they can to lend a hand in their own way. It empowered us to help, to speak out. It helped us get through the horror of last week. And I just wanted to thank you for that. I participated in the hope that it might make a difference to just one asylum seeker. Then I hoped it might make one citizen look at the situation differently. Then I realised it had helped me feel that I had contributed something, however small. You certainly did something a far cry from ‘better than nothing’. Raising awareness seems to be the key to this. Thank you again.

  2. Your website and message are great, but you should please consider guidelines of submission that disallow messages being held by babies, pets and toys. These particular submissions come across as illegitimate and essentially trivialise this very serious issue. That said, I have great respect for what you are doing and it is tremendous to see the public show of kindness and understanding of Australians regarding this sorry state of affairs.

  3. How many of the world’s 40 million refugees do we let in? Then we can become a third world country as well and they may as well bring all their problems and fighting with them!!!!
    Come on….. lets be a bit realistic. How long will it take to get them all here with a great new open door policy. How many do you have in your home. If every family took in 6 refugees should solve the problem. Unfortunately if we open the door I suspect that the number of refugees in the world may well double.
    Ross

    1. Hi Ross, could we at least take in a share commensurate with our income levels, space and compassion rather than saying “it’s too hard so we won’t do anything”?

      Really, though, the main point here is that we could at least be treating asylum seekers with care, dignity and compassion.

    2. “they may as well bring all their problems and fighting with them”

      Yes, come on, let’s be a bit realistic. People who want to get away from those problems and fighting probably don’t want to bring it with them. Also, detainees on Manus Island come from numerous cultures and work together, they teach each other their respective languages and English, and put aside any previous tribal or racial prejudices to do so. Indeed, some of the Iranian detainees were attempting to do the same thing: to change the culture back home and that’s how they became refugees in the first place. Likewise, when the detainees on Christmas Island recently went on a hunger strike, they did so because Reza Berati was killed and others injured and they wanted to show solidarity with the Manus Island peoples, and similarly have multiple ethnocultural backgrounds to overcome in doing so.

      It is clear to me that these people want to get along with each other, want peace, want security and have learned some valuable skills we can all do with learning ourselves here in Oz. Yeah so they riot sometimes, but if you’d just been told you would be in that hell-hole for the rest of your years – you and CHILDREN around you as well – and the women around you had no sanitary napkins or bras, you were malnourished (not enough veggies) and people ignored you and/or treated you with disdain (as some but not all workers there do, according to whistleblower workers) and even violence….I’d be pretty sure I’d be chucking a stink as well….a stink that would not be repeated the moment safety was actually reached.

      We have every reason to be sorry and no reason not to let the people in who are trying to get here.

  4. Hello there. I saw news relating to your site on the SBS website and _then_ I looked at the comments there. A few were uttering the old line that “they take our welfare and jobs” or “we should take care of our own first” so I composed a response to them. Somehow I cannot interface with the SBS site right now so figured I would add my words here to remind others that prosperity is _not_ a zero-sum game.

    “Asylum seekers cannot even access welfare initially. They rely on the support of family and community. Once they become Australian residents and citizens they make a huge contribution. Studies show that immigration has a neutral-to-positive impact on employment for instance. How can that be you may ask? The problem is too many of us think economics is a zero-sum-game but prosperity works differently. A new Australian is a consumer (notice how the Stimulus Package insulated us from global recession because it boosted consumption). Every consumer even if on welfare helps keep the cash moving. Likewise they become workers – often very keen ones. Likewise they become employers thereby offering new jobs to others – look at all those milk bars and fish-n-chip shops. This has gone on since the Gold Rushes and has been a key source of our prosperity. The current government just panders to those who mistakenly think that they only have what they have because others lack it. Thus poor economic literacy generates poor cultural understanding.”

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