Iman Safi, who lives in Australia, draws from his experiences of being caught up in the midst of the civil war in Lebanon, coming from a country/region formerly identified as Syria, divided by the Sykes Picot agreement a century ago, engulfed at times in debilitating sectarianism, international interference and agendas played out by various internal and external forces as well as all the issues related to Israel.
He believes that, through his experiences, understanding current/past events in Syria is sadly very clear to him and that Syria’s story serves as an incredible lesson on many levels for the entire world. He felt moved to write this Op-Ed as he saw debate around refugees and asylum seekers in Australia ignoring very important issues, issues which hardly are touched upon, if at all, in the current narrative occupying Australian media and debate.
Felicity Arbuthnot, July 29, 2013
Refugees are Humans
by Iman Safi
The issue of refugees continues to plague the world with a reality that it prefers to ignore. But the world will either have to face it or opt to continue ignoring it at the risk of having to deal with graver consequences sooner or later.
The number of registered refugees has risen significantly over the last few years, and the nations that are would-be recipients of refugees are confronted with policies they need to have in place, with growing concerns amongst their voters regarding numbers of refugees hitting their home turf. Whilst many of the would-be refugee recipient countries are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, the out-dated criteria and definitions of that 1951 Convention do not deal with the current problems.
The Australian government has recently signed a deal with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG). According to this arrangement, simply put, all refugees on boats journeying to Australia will never be allowed to settle in Australia.
With the current number of world refugees standing at 41 million, such a measure may deter refugees from seeking refuge in Australia. But what will happen when the world refugee figures is increased to 100 million, 500 million? Is this far-fetched? Not really.
It is easy for the Australian Greens and other humanitarians, as well as some NGO’s, to criticise governments or majot political parties. In fact, the position of the Australian Greens about the PNG deal had the hallmarks of political gain rather than proper criticism. A cynic can clearly see that the PNG deal gave the Greens a field day, but at the end of the day, they not only failed to address what makes refugees refugees – they offered no alternative policies.