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Let us begin with an apology. We should be sorry. We should be sorry

that we live in a society in which human rights are breached on a daily

basis, because every day, refugees are turned back by the Australian

government, forced away from a life of peace, forced away from

opportunities, and forced away from their basic human rights.

Picture this. At the age of just 9 years old, you have resorted to

drinking detention centre shampoo in desperate attempt to poison

yourself. And if that’s not bad enough, your parents and younger

sisters were raped, then thrown overboard by pirates during your

only form of escape from the war zone that you once called home.

This sounds like a life that no one would have to live, but Iraqian

refugee, Samira, lives it everyday.

We have failed to protect, or even identify refugees by redirecting

them to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, breaching Australia’s

obligation under the International Refugee Convention. The

Australian Government’s belief is that, by keeping refugees out of

Australia, we are preventing sinking boats, deception and even

fatalities. But does this short term prevention outweigh the long

term damage deterring asylum seekers has on Australia?

Keep in mind that we are dealing with human beings; these

innocent people are the ones who have to deal with our mistakes.

While turning asylum seekers away we are discouraging unsafe travel,

but we aren’t really preventing the problem. Sending them to other

underdeveloped, unsafe countries is more dangerous than the risks

of sinking boats, and costs almost the same as letting them in. As

well as this, making it legal, makes it safer for refugees, which helps

tackle the issue of sinking boats anyway.

Take a good look at the person next to you. They are safe; away

from bombings, poverty, gunshots and sex trafficking threats. They

can go outside. They have freedom of speech and are respected and

loved. We are fortunate enough to experience these rights on a daily

basis, yet how do we still manage to take them for granted? Ignoring

‘boat people’ and turning back ‘queue jumpers’ is a violation of

human rights on our part, because everyone has the right to seek

asylum in Australia, whether or not they have a valid visa. We are the

10th richest country in the world, but in 2011 Australia hosted only

0.29% of the world’s 10 million asylum seekers. Why is it that we

pride ourselves on our fairness and multiculturalism, yet we turn

away refugees because of their circumstances?

Asylum Seekers

Claire Smart

Orator of the Year