Federal Politics


Asylum seekers deserve same help as Vietnamese

I was appalled that Don Nguyen (''Cleric wary of new wave of asylum seekers'', June 25, p4) thought it appropriate to announce his appointment as deacon to the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn by airing views on asylum seekers that are directly contrary to those of the Catholic Bishops Conference and many Catholics in his diocese.

Refugees from Vietnam benefited from Australia's involvement in the Comprehensive Plan of Action, an international effort to resettle refugees from Indochina, as well as the Orderly Departure Program Australia negotiated with the Vietnamese government. Australian immigration officials sent to countries of first asylum processed people like Nguyen, and our government was sympathetic to the distress of those displaced by a war in which Australia had taken part. No such national or international program has been established to resettle refugees who have fled to Pakistan and Iran from Afghanistan and Iraq, despite Australia's involvement in war in their countries. Desperate people with no alternatives risk dangerous boat journeys to claim asylum in Australia. When Australia signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, we committed to treating such arrivals humanely while considering their claims for protection. The 2000 Vietnamese who arrived in Australia by boat from the late 1970s, were not detained and were granted permanent residence immediately on being found to be refugees. Current boat arrivals are detained for lengthy periods and granted only temporary visas on release into the community, gravely impeding their resettlement prospects. Nguyen's claims that asylum seekers could be terrorists or communist subversives are both ridiculous and un-Christian.

Ann-Mari Jordens, Red Hill

I am extremely concerned at Deacon Don Nguyen's comment ('' Cleric wary of new wave of asylum seekers'', June 25, p4) that today's refugees ''are playing games''. So often we hear or read that these people may be communist agents or terrorists. I am a Vietnam veteran, I think I understand why these people flee persecution. I know some of these boat people and their stories, both from postwar Vietnam and some more recently fleeing from Sri Lanka and other war-torn countries.

Today's refugees are no different to the people that Don escaped from Vietnam with. Such ill-informed comments only serve to muddy the debate even more. Where is the Christian compassion and charity please?

Gavin O'Brien, Gilmore


I disagree with both Labor and the Coalition's respective positions on asylum seekers, but the time has come for all of us to put aside opinions and demand that our politicians find a solution.

Surely somewhere in the self-interest that forms the soul of modern politics, there remains a remnant of bi-partisanship that will put the lives of desperate people ahead of ambition.

Bart Meehan, Calwell

May I suggest that if our politicians are unable to reach a joint decision on the handling of asylum seekers arriving by boat by Wednesday of next week, then as many as possible people of Australia gather in Canberra, place the Federal Parliament under siege and only let the pollies out when a decision has been reached.

John Bonnett, Belconnen

Once again we are supposed to sit back as a nation and cop it when a boatload of illegal immigrants founders in another people-smuggling attempt to reach Australia.

I simply ask why we are not seeing articles indicating the Indonesian ambassador has been ''called in'' and given an absolute rocket by the Gillard government, as an indication of growing Australian disgust at his government's overt complicity in criminal people smuggling by allowing the craft to sail in the first place.

Michael Doyle, Fraser