Archived News Item
“Myth Busters … Putting Myths regarding Asylum Seekers and Refugees to the Test”August 10, 2011
‘Young Mercy Links’
*Young Mercy Links is an initiative of the Melbourne Mercy Congregation for young adults committed to mercy and justice
“Myth Busters … Putting Myths regarding Asylum Seekers and Refugees to the Test”
On Sunday 17th July Young Mercy Links held a Forum titled “Myth Busters … Putting Myths regarding Asylum Seekers and Refugees to the Test” at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. An invitation was extended to family, friends and students and it was well attended.
The Young Mercy Links’ team for this evening, Mairead, Nathan, Louise, Adria, Anhthuy and friends innovatively presented Mairead’s ‘Myth Busters’ script. This was based on a true facebook conversation which reflected the many ‘myths’ circulating about asylum seekers and refugees. They gave a very creative performance with the aid of Nathan’s well crafted audio visual presentations and visual grabs from media reporting. They presented well researched facts about the use of public money, the incorrect and negative language used to describe asylum seekers, and the struggle asylum seekers have to obtain adequate legal representation while awaiting assessment of their claims.
Each myth was examined in light of the facts. Are you aware of some of these key MYTHS and their corresponding FACTS?
- MYTH – Asylum seekers are ‘illegals’ or ‘illegal immigrants’.
- FACT – As a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, Australia must provide protection to people fleeing persecution, regardless of whether they arrive by air or sea. Asylum seekers are neither ‘illegal’ nor are they immigrants. Immigrants leave by choice and can return at any time. Asylum seekers are forced to leave their home country and cannot return for fear of persecution – such as torture, imprisonment and execution.
- MYTH – Asylum seekers should wait their turn in ‘the queue’.
- FACT – Only 2% of the world’s refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people are in a queue. If all of the millions of refugees worldwide were to join a queue, the wait for resettlement would be 135 years!
- MYTH – Australia takes its fair share of the world’s refugees and displaced people.
- FACT – In 2010, Australia accepted 0.03% of the world’s refugees, asylum seekers and displaced peoples; of the 43.4 million refugees globally we accepted just 13,750.
- MYTH – Asylum seekers are given income and free houses from the government.
- FACT – No asylum seekers are eligible for Centrelink payments of any kind.
- MYTH – We need detention centres.
- FACT – There is a more humane alternative to detention. At approximately 10% of the cost, and with far less damage to mental and physical wellbeing, asylum seekers can be processed while being cared for in the community.
Other myths and facts can be further explored and accessed on such websites as:
- Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Amnesty International
- Australian Immigration Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Following the “Myth Busters” presentation we were very moved by the personal stories of two young men who had come to Australia to seek asylum. One young man was only seventeen years old when his mother died. In 2007 he left Somalia, which has been ravished by war since 1990, because his father sold his house in order to allow him to escape. He was sensitively interviewed by Sr Catherine Kelly csb. After a very stressful time in detention, he was able to get a bridging visa because of the advocacy of Sr. Bridget who visited him often. He is now living in a house (sponsored by the Brigidine Sisters) with other young men. Over the past four years he has had no contact with his family back home in Somalia, and is unsure of their safety or whereabouts.
Vince is a volunteer with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne. He gave us an overview of the history and work of the Centre. ASRC was established in 2001 in response to the level of poverty of asylum seekers in Australia. ASRC now has 600 volunteers and 20 employed staff. Vince introduced to us a young man who first came to ASRC as an asylum seeker from India, and is now a volunteer. This young man shared his story of arriving in Australia as a student. Due to circumstances at home he was unable to return and at the same time lost his student status. For a time he was able to live with friends, but for almost eight months he was homeless, sleeping in public spaces and sometimes on the street. Throughout all this period he lived with the constant fear of being caught and sent home. He felt separated from society which led to dark feelings of isolation and attempts at suicide. He spoke of his feelings of fear, frustration and alienation while in detention. After seven months he was granted a visa and is now living in the community.
Following time for questions to our guests, everyone was able to continue the lively discussion over supper. There was the invitation to put our names to a petition to be sent to the Minister for Immigration, Mr Chris Bowen, in support of a more humane approach to asylum seekers in this country.
We are very grateful to all who participated in this very robust evening … to the Young Mercy Links team who worked long and hard to research a dynamic “Myth Buster’s” presentation; and to our guests whose powerful human stories exemplified the need for a more compassionate and humane response to such a critical issue for our times. This was an evening which informed us about justice, so that we can live more mercifully.
Val Mooney (Project Co-ordinator of YML), Margaret Moore RSM and Sally Bradley RSM