I am once again ashamed to be an Australian.
Yesterday, the Immigration Minister in our country announced that the government has decided that it will allow no more Africans into the country. Notwithstanding the huge number of African refugees in camps in so many places and their desperate plight, he has decided that they are too much trouble.
They do not fit in, he says, and he has decided to change ‘the balance’ of our refugee intake, to take more people from Iraq and (in an all too obvious political touch) from Burma.
This is a national disgrace and is ‘dog whistle’ politics at its very worst.
I know there is great need to receive people from Burma. Almost every day I deal with people who have fled from the regime there, and they are wonderful citizens.
That there are so many refugees from Iraq is another matter. We keep on doing this! We invade other people’s countries, to ‘help’ them out by bombing their buildings and infrastructure, until the cities are unlivable and their country un-governable, and then we make ourselves out as such good guys because we take in a small number of their refugees. We were amongst the first of the ‘coalition of the willing’ who went into Iraq and our leaders insists on the virtue of ‘staying the course’, even though it is blatantly clear that we have made such a mess of their country.
Not that refugees from Iraq are in fact all that welcome here! Since 2001, the situation of Moslem people in many parts of Australia has been very precarious, again ever so cleverly manipulated by the government’s agents. They pretend to be caring, but their implications are that these people are inherently suspect.
But now, in appalling hypocrisy, the need of people from Iraq is used as a reason to keep out, let’s say it, black people.
The minister claims that African people, as if all the people from that enormous continent are one great mass of people all the same, are finding it too hard to fit in here, to ‘assimilate’, because (he observes) many of them have a lower educational background, and many of them are very young. Der!
Many of them have lived their whole lives in refugee camps, some 15 years or more.
Does that make them somehow unworthy? Inappropriate?
I could take the minister to numerous local churches and community groups where African people, from Liberia or the Sudan or Ghana or Angola have not only ‘fitted in’ but are actually working really hard at community building. They not only do the cruddy jobs that we won’t do, and live in crowded houses, many of them unable to access welfare housing because (for example) there family groups are larger and we no longer allow for larger families, where eldest sons support their parents and siblings … That is, they work like this if we will let them work. Asylum seekers of course are not allowed to work, OR to receive public support. But for those who can get a job, along with supporting their families, they work in the community: caring for their young people, children, providing community: because in their cultures community is everything. As much as the land (that beautiful continent), what they miss most is the sense of close, caring community.
There are so many individual stories which would be told, to negate the minister’s absurd claim.
We have no right to treat them like this. We will be held accountable for this sin.
God expects us to attend to the ‘stranger within our gates’, ‘the widows and the fatherless’, and as Isaiah 1. makes clear, all our religious performances and lovely prayers are worth not a thing to God, indeed they are disgusting, unless we will indeed care for them.
God forgive us. God help us.