Essay - Refugees at Sea
The recent issue involving the Tampa boat people has raised two persisting questions. Who is a refugee and where should he or she find refuge? A refugee is a person who is being persecuted, be it for religious, ethnic or political reasons. Traditionally, refugees sought sanctuary in their own geographical or cultural environment to return home as soon as it was safe. However, the revolution in transport and communications, continual poverty and prolonged internal conflicts have combined to create a feeling of discontent in the Third World. Consequently, this has led to a globalisation of population movement.
A combined mass of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrants, mostly of Middle Eastern origin, are paying smugglers thousands of dollars a head to arrange illegal passage to Australia. Within this mass of people only a small minority are genuine refugees in need of sanctuary. The vast majority are either refugees who already have asylum and are in no danger of persecution, or illegal migrants trying to pass themselves off as refugees.
Generally you would expect that a refugees main purpose would be to leave, however, increasingly the purpose of most these people is not so much to leave as to arrive. In the case of the Tampa boat people, the group is mostly comprised or Afghans, coming from Pakistan. It is possible that these Afghans were indeed refugees, but they had received asylum in Pakistan. They had then arrived in Indonesia, with the sole purpose of departing Indonesia to illegally arrive in Australia. These people are therefore not refugees, as the only danger to which they were submitted was self-induced when they embarked on an unsafe journey in breach of Australian immigration laws.
In another case of boat people attempting to illegally enter Australia, children where thrown...