Friday, 31 August 2012

SBS, Asylum seekers and our failure to act

Last night the final episode of 'Go back to where you came from' series two aired on SBS.  This has been an important program in raising awareness of the plight of refugees trying to seek asylum in Australia. During Wednesday nights episode the burning of the Quran by American soldiers in Afghanistan was highlighted. The incident caused widespread uprisings and demonstrations throughout Kabul and many Afghans and foreigners were fearful for their lives as a result.
The cast of SBS's Go back to where you came from

Now, the Australians, who were in Kabul at the time as part of the program, where fearful for their lives.  They seemed genuinely scared, but some still would not accept that any of the people who live in Kabul might need to seek asylum illegally in Australia as a result of such incidences.

Yesterday (the day after this episode aired) The Age newspaper published an article saying that none of the American soldiers responsible for the burning of the Quran were charged criminally. This really got me thinking.

The American armed forces have gone into Afghanistan under the guise of a peace keeping mission. Yes, peace keeping. They go in there and burn what is a highly sacred text to most Afghanis and cause a riot. Not very peaceful really. Then, these people suffer no consequence as a result.

This brought to my mind instances in the US when the American flag has been burned by protesters. It is a criminal offence in the United States to burn an American flag. People responsible for this act have been sent to prison as punishment. Yet, it would appear that it is perfectly okay for Americans to go into another country and burn a sacred symbol, without repercussion.

In this instance, the American 'peace-keeping' soldiers were responsible for the loss of lives and the displacement of Afghani civilians. And this made me wonder, how many other times have US, Australian or British troops been responsible for the violence they sight as the reason for intervention in an area? How many times have they been responsible for the desperation of the refugees they then turn away from their shores?

Asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat
Yesterday, 5 Australian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. This week two Asylum seeker boats sunk at sea on route to Australia.

Such tragedy's are often sighted as the reasons for Western intervention or the reason for 'turning the boats away,' but how many times are these actually the fault of Western armed forces?

If these events were reversed, if Afghani soldiers had invaded America or Australia and began burning flags or the Christian bible and forced Australians or Americans into dangerous boats, what would the government say? What would our media report? I don't know, but I think we all need to ask ourselves whose fault these things really are.

If there is one thing the SBS has proved through Go back to where you came from it is this: there has to be more we can do, there is further discussion to be had, more education needs to be done. Asylum seekers coming to Australia illegally by boat are desperate. They have no options left. They either attempt to make it to Australia, or they will be arrested, tortured and killed. They need another option and it is the responsibility of everyone. Not just the governments. Not just America. Not just Australia, but everyone in the whole world. We are no longer citizens of a country. We are citizens of the world and we need to be there for each other. We need to be willing to support and help one another. I don't have all the answers but I know for sure we are not doing enough.

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