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Correspondence: ‘Propaganda and asylum seekers in Australia’
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Correspondence: ‘Propaganda and asylum seekers in Australia’

Illegal immigration has divided public opinion in Australia between those who feel the government should offer more support to refugees and those who want economic migrants arriving on boats turned back. Seventeen-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent Sarah McCauley from Canberra reports.

This April, violent riots took place in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, in New South Wales, causing serious damage to buildings and facilities.

As a result the high profile issue of asylum seekers in Australia has resurfaced yet again. Just a few months ago this same topic was brought to light following the highly publicized sinking of an asylum seeker boat, as well as comments made by the opposition immigration spokesman.

In the midst of these events, a teacher of mine asked for a show of hands of who thought Australia should be more lenient on the issue – only three hands out of thirty were cautiously raised.

Propaganda is defined as a form of communication used to persuade the recipients into a point of view. Some of the most notable propaganda regarding asylum seekers and refugees is deployed by politicians who use ‘The Refugee Issue’ as a political tactic to gain the public’s vote.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott claims he would use his powers to ‘Stop the Boats’ if elected – the propaganda in this being that refugees have existed, and always will exist until our world is transformed into some kind of war, conflict, hunger and natural disaster free utopia.

Yet less than 10% of asylum seekers arrive by boat, and the rest come here by plane. However by suggesting that the country is being overrun by these ‘boat people’, politicians and media are pursuing the idea that refugees are invaders. They claim this rather than reveal the truth that the majority arrives by the exact same means as the 5.6 million tourists that come to our country each year, and that Australia ranks 24th in the world for accommodating refugees per GDP size.

Does the fact that refugees are still arriving by way of sea not exemplify the desperate measures that they feel they need to take in order to gain safety? Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said that the most effective way of stopping asylum seekers from coming to Australia is to stop the boats from leaving ports in Indonesia and East Timor and has put a halt on the processing of some refugee claims.

Following the deaths of 30 asylum seekers off the shore of Christmas Island after their boat sank; opposition immigration minister Scott Morrison criticized the government for allowing relatives to attend the funerals in Sydney. How has this issue become so strategic that a government could be condemned because they have allowed tax payers’ money to be used so that a family can gain some closure in a most traumatic time of their lives?

Refugees, conversely to taking our jobs as many suggest, in fact are able to provide much needed skills in professions which help our society succeed. Perhaps we need to challenge the propaganda presented to us and to recognise that we are being fed misleading information? Maybe then will Australians be able to make their own, fully informed decisions.

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please click here.

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