The Guardian • Issue #1981


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1981

Dear Editor,

Thanks for covering the issues that the big business media definitely won’t unless they have to and even then, when they do, they generally get them wrong.

I have not seen Morrison or previous “leaders” challenged on their violation of international law. The “illegals” are in the government and Clayton’s opposition.

When we signed the Refugee Convention in 1954, we undertook not to discriminate between refugees however they arrived, even “illegally” – you can come by boat, plane, submarine, or beamed down from the Starship Enterprise. To punish refugees for coming by boat (or via the Starship Enterprise) is illegal. This is what the ABC and many of the NGOs, even solidarity groups, do not mention. Perhaps because they think ordinary people cannot relate to international law.

We need to know and tell people where the Convention came from. It came from the persecution of minorities under Nazism and the terrible way they were often treated when they tried to escape as refugees. My own father was very lucky, sponsored from outside Austria, eventually finding a safe haven in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Many, like those on the Voyage of the Damned, were not nearly so lucky, and died in Nazi camps. So it is essentially an anti-fascist Convention that we signed. To violate it puts us in the camp of those people who we saw in the recent Sixty Minutes episode, with their flags and salutes.

We have to be confident and militant in talking about this, as was the admirable Diana Sayed (of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre) on the ABC’s recent Q&A episode.

As well, we have to banish propaganda terms such as “people smuggler.” No one has been smuggled into Australia, no one has been concealed. They have been taken to Australia’s border and claimed asylum, which is their right. “Mandatory detention” is another doozie. There is no “mandate” to torture. And detention is short term – remember high school?

All this is being used to divide and rule, and Labor being a part of this tells us something.

The issue is not about “compassion and generosity” (although I am all for them), but simple justice and international law. The Convention is our weapon. Let’s use it!

All of us refugee activists need to be more militant, less “cap in hand” and know our history, and truly be in solidarity with each other. I remember the friendship in the East Timor struggle. And as we said then: To Resist Is To Win.

Best wishes,

Stephen Langford OT

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