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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4357..


MS TUCKER (continuing):

I am not quite sure where Mr Pratt got his figures from, but the figures I have on the ratio of refugees to host country population are quite different from Mr Pratt's. Mr Pratt's figures must include family reunions and other categories. Australia has a ration of 1:1,130; Canada, 1:572; the Gaza Strip, 1:2; Germany, 1:456; Indonesia, 1:1,754, Iran, 1:36; Japan, 1:33,000; Pakistan, 1:75; Sudan, 1:76; Thailand, 1:285; Uganda 1:111; the United Kingdom, 1:681.

I will read part of an article by Robert Manne in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is a perspective on border control. It reads:

There are a number of puzzles about the way this country routinely treats asylum seekers. The first is of an almost technical kind. As I understand it, the system of dispatching all asylum seekers to highly unpleasant detention centres was originally designed as part of a deterrent strategy, a warning to those who dreamt of coming to Australia about conditions they might be forced to endure.

As it turned out, for a variety of reasons, this deterrent failed. As a consequence, last August the Howard Government embarked upon an even harsher policy of deterrence-the use of the navy to drive all asylum seekers from our shores. This policy appears to have worked. In the first four months of both 2000 and last year hundreds of Middle Eastern asylum seekers reached Australia. This year not one boat has arrived. The implication is clear. The Government could release the several hundred asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran who have not been accepted as refugees but whom it is unable to deport, without endangering in the slightest the deterrent strategy operating successfully at the border. According even to the brutal logic of the Government's own post-Tampa strategy, continued imprisonment of hundreds of men, women and children, who have fled from some of the worst tyrannies in the world, has become completely purposeless.

In conclusion, I pick up again Ms Dundas' reminder that we are talking about human beings. I want to read a short poem from Mohsen Soltany Zand, a detainee from Iran who has been in detention for four years. He sent this poem to me in the last week. It is called "Drought". It reads:

In the midst of the parched desert

No one can come with us

We cannot journey hand in hand

There is no green place to rest the eye

And the scorching wind of destiny

Lashes at our backs.

A call from DIMA is like the smell of rain in the desert

Hope like black clouds building in our thirsty hearts

Quickly turns into grief

Rejection like lightning reveals the empty promise

And still we follow the shimmer of democracy and liberty.

A mirage tempting and alluring

All of us converge from afar

All have taken many different paths

In search of its beautiful lie.


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