Real refugees

“Refugee entry is also selective. As with immigrants, refugees had to be seen to be able to fit into the national ethos. For instance, rural people were not wanted. Both categories represent front door entry.

The initial post-war batch of refugees (these were, in the main, real refugees) were Europeans displaced by the war. I studied and, later, worked with some. The first girl to befriend me in Australia had come out of a Nazi concentration camp. A year later, I went out for a while with a lass who had a number etched on her arm, and got to know her family (also numbered). A country which had decided to collect immigrants had to take some of the displaced persons. Australia did very well by taking its share.

The ones I met were middle-class, educated, skilled. For a few years, in the 1960s, my wife and I entertained one of these, an elderly man. He had, he said, 2 doctorates, but worked as a clerk in my agency. I believe that he too was Jewish. My Holocaust-survivor friends and I never discussed their experiences; I felt very sorry for them. My life under the Japanese could not have compared with their plight.

Yet, there was one exception. In 1948, a Polish ex-serviceman and I talked deep into the night on a few occasions about his experiences as a resistance fighter. I saw some of the false documents he had used. Later, I also got to meet a few Czech and Hungarian refugees who had fled the Soviet invasion of their countries in 1956 and 1968 respectively.

Side door acceptance, being essentially political, permitted so-called humanitarian entrants (HEs). Where refugees had to be outside their country of nationality and in fear of official persecution (some necessary flexibility here being permissible), with nowhere else to go, the HEs had to fear official discrimination (depending on the eye of the beholder) while also outside their country of nationality, with nowhere else to go. The ‘nowhere else to go’ qualifier seems to have been ignored by our policy wallahs for quite some time. As politics determines policy in this arena; the policy can be quite flexible, ie. shonky.”

(These extracts are from ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’ It has to be recognised that large numbers of people are displaced almost every year by terrible events in their terrain. They are not going to be picked up to be re-settled elsewhere. There seem to be large numbers living in refugee camps, who will not be going anywhere (for example, the Palestinians). And UNHCR officials will grant refugee status, presumably without evidence (as Australia does), but based on the UN definitions.

One cannot blame those who seek refugee status. Yet, how many were actually persecuted officially, say, like the Baha’is in Iran? How many had cause to fear discrimination? What kind of discrimination? Could not those who genuinely fear discrimination or persecution just move into another district within their own nation?

Perhaps the UN definition should be reversed from held fear to something more real. Well, that will be the day when we see squadrons of pigtails surfing through the air!)