The Australian Context

What does seeking asylum in Australia look like and how is our nation responding?

An Overview

1. The Australian Government’s current response to people seeking asylum is one of ‘deterrence’.

2. The Australian Government’s own statistics show that the overwhelming majority of people who come to Australia seeking asylum are found to be genuine refugees and their applications are approved.1 

3. When you put these two facts alongside each other, a harsh reality emerges: As a nation, when Australia responds to people who are genuinely seeking safety in our country, our response is aimed at deterring other people from genuinely seeking safety in our country.

In fact, we’ve kept 'stepping it up' over the years, doing more and ore to deter genuine people from seeking safety in Australia. And yet they’ve still tried. Why?

Perhaps it is because, as Somali born refugee Warsan Shire’s poetic lines say,

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark 2

Every day, when we turn on our TVs and sees millions of people fleeing their homelands in search of safety, it has become increasingly clear that our policy of ‘deterrence’ towards people seeking asylum is just not OK. It’s a ‘head in the sand’ and ‘fingers in our ears singing la la la’ response at best. It’s utterly inhumane at worst.

We have seen their faces. We have watched them grieve. We are haunted by an awareness that, if we had just been born in another country, that would be us, on someone else’s TV screens, fleeing our homelands.

We know that we can’t keep pretending that stopping people from arriving in our homeland, changes the reasons they have to leave theirs.

We don’t want to keep ‘turning back boats’ when we know those boats are filled with people who are just like us.

So we know it is time in Australia for us to carve out a new response to people who seek safety on our shores. For us, as a nation, to commit to finding new solutions that treat people who are forced to flee their homelands with compassion and respect.

To regain our international reputation as a country that upholds basic human rights and is generous in giving everyone a fair go, rather than having to cringing in embarrassment at our human rights abuses. To give up this nonsense of ‘deterrence’ and simply be good, and kind and decent, like the average Aussie is.

As Christians, we are steeped in a rich biblical heritage that instructs us to welcome the ‘stranger’ and show ‘hospitality’ to foreigners. We have a deep theological well to draw from, as we call on our nation’s leaders to chart a new course. We know that loving our neighbour is powerful and transforming. We believe that every human is valuable and made in the image of God.

So it is us, as Christians, whose voices should cry out the loudest, and speak a new vision for how Australia responds to people seeking asylum on our shores.

1 Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? by Janet Phillips, 2 March 2015.
2 Home by Warsan Shire.