by Emeritus Professor J. ZubrzyckiNews Weekly
Letter: Refugees - coarsening of attitudes
, March 10, 2001
Along with other journals News Weekly
has been rightly agitated about some negative aspects of 'globalisation'.
We are concerned about a coarsening of some public attitudes regarding asylum seekers and specifically their treatment 'onshore'.
Unless there is a radical change in regard to justice and solidarity on a global scale, the refugee problem will not disappear but intensify in the years to come. Detention and concentration policies have failed, and were flawed in the first place.
A campaign of scaremongering and vilification of asylum seekers is not less worthy of condemnation.
The denial of elementary freedoms to any group within the Australian community runs counter to the principle of recognition of the "inviolable character of the person" (John Paul II). It is an abuse of power, and we should not collude with it.
No matter what policies are pursued in treating asylum seekers it is clear that global conditions will ensure a certain movement of people seeking freedom from oppressive regimes.
It is our common task to cope with this emergency. Australia must do what it can to ameliorate the conditions that give rise to this often distressful diaspora.
Our actions should be both in the international forums and domestically, and, of course, imply certain sacrifices on our own part.
Some of the asylum seekers are clearly engaged in a heroic attempt to recover the human value and dignity to which every human being is entitled.
All of them deserve the generosity of spirit which is deemed to be our national characteristic.
Our attitudes need to be carefully reassessed. In any case, can brutal, cruel, unjust or illegal treatment be tolerated whether by "people smugglers", government, security organisations or private contractors?
What is at stake is not only Australia's international reputation, already damaged by the detention regime, but our responsibility as members of the human family.Emeritus Professor J. Zubrzycki,
Adviser to Minister of Immigration (1968-99)
Professor J.J. Eddy SJ,
Australian Institute of Jesuit Studies,