Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A fair go for all refugees to Australia: Monsignor Rayner


Recent letters to “Your View” responding to my letter (The Leader 21/1/14) concerning boat arrivals have moved from clear comment to emotional, bigoted and/or even ignorant correspondence at times.

May I clarify a few points that have been tossed around erroneously? I have not tried to counter the magnificent advocacy by the Catholic Church on behalf of these “boat arrivals/refugees/etc”. Sister Annette Cutcliffe (president of Catholic Religious Australia), Bishop Saunders (Broome) and Bishop Hurley (Darwin) have spoken out constantly against various federal governments to provide basic rights to these arrivals.

My refusal to allow the Greens to put their posters on private church fencing (not the polling booth) at the 3/4/2011 election says nothing of my “political leanings” but rather my religious convictions that I do not support the Greens on their pro-euthanasia, pro-abortion, pro same-sex marriage issues and their opposition to funding of Catholic schools.

Also, I am Australian and my ancestry in Australia dates back to 1859. Yes, my ancestors came by boat!

The original understanding on “refugees” was that the first receiving country must provide asylum (not the fourth or fifth country!) Surely the comment that these arrivals to Australia are escaping terror, rape and torture loses impact when they have arrived already in Indonesia, unless their fear is of the Indonesians.

I have visited Burmese refugees on the border of Burma and Thailand and some of the 100,000 refugees in Malaysia on a number of occasions. Having taken medicine to the Jesuit Refugee Centre in Kuala Lumpur on various visits and offered to sponsor 14 families via the UNHCR to come to Australia (this was rejected as the refugees would then have joined a sponsorship list that could extend their stay for another 10 years), I was pleased that a family from Burma via Malaysia will be arriving finally in Melbourne on Wednesday, February 12. 

My first assistance to this family was in 2010. Now, would it have been fair on other refugees in camps or on waiting lists for this family to have just jumped the queue (some say there is no queue!) and flown to Indonesia and boarded a boat?

My original letter concerned just this point. Justice is the key in dealing with all people while ensuring a fair go for all should be the determination of and the motivation for each of us. For the negative-minded in our community who do not see Australia as one of the world’s most generous and caring countries, may I suggest you review such criticism. Sure, we can do better but what a great job our nation is doing already.

Finally, let us bring in more refugees who are persevering patiently in various countries under UNHCR processing.