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?
Orator of the Year