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Commission says boat arrivals no excuse for scaremongering

Public faith in the integrity of the refugee program is being put at risk by its scaremongering about boat arrivals, according to the Commission for Justice Development and Peace of the Melbourne Archdiocese.

15 Indonesian nationals were found last week on Ashmore Reef, off Western Australia's north coast, allegedly seeking fruitpicking work in Australia. Members of the group admitted to paying between $400 and $1000 each to people smugglers to get to Australia.

Commission Executive Officer Marc Purcell that as long as the Government "banged the border control drum", public understanding of the reasons why refugees flee would be undermined.

"15 people in a boat who maybe in need, whether as refugees of otherwise, do not present a danger to 20 million Australians," he said. "They are being falsely painted as presenting a huge threat. They are not but they do need our help."

Mr Purcell said the Commission is concerned about the longterm effect on the community of contined scaremongering.

"We know that in the schoolyard, the children of the survivors of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are called 'Illegals' and 'queue jumpers' by other kids," he said. "Those kids have picked up on the negative language and attitudes towards asylum seekers which were encouraged over the past few years. Its tragic and inevitably undermines public understanding and acceptance of refugees."

Boat Arrivals Not an Excuse for Scaremongering -- Catholic Commission for Justice, Development & Peace (Source: Catholic Commission for Justice, Development & Peace 5/3/04)

Boat people were seeking work: Vanstone (Sydney Morning Herald 7/3/04)
Boat arrivals not an excuse for scaremongering (Insights 5/3/04)
Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace
Australian Migrant & Refugee Office

8 Mar 2004