Asylum Seekers, Family and Big Decisions


This is just my opinion. I have listened to a lot of them and read even more. I’m going to have a turn at weighing-in. This is my 50c worth. I have no expertise in this area and I am not going to claim to have all the answers. Frankly, 90% of what I’ve heard and read doesn’t either. All I have is my point of view, a perspective, the way I see things. The thoughts expressed here are all my own.

Firstly. I’d like to see the word “solution” removed from all conversation and discussion about asylum seekers. It suggests a near-perfect, at worst 8/10, outcome. This isn’t possible and it isn’t realistic.
I’ve positioned my point of view, in parallel with the decisions faced by families of divorce and separation, because it’s what I know. The parents in these circumstances, and often the solicitors and the courts, do what seems just, fair and right. However, even when the best interests of the children are put first, there is no winning, no real happy ending. Everyone gets to make sacrifices, no one gets to choose what those sacrifices will be, and these sacrifices apply for both the short and long terms. Kids get taken away from the home and family they know and without having a say in it. They are then divided ‘equally’ among the adults – either by time spent periodically or permanent/full custody. Not only did they not ask to be born in the first place, they certainly didn’t sign up for this situation. Now, they have to adjust to a whole new life. Some make the transition and some don’t, and there is no predicting it. On the side of the parents; they have just faced the decision of separating/divorcing and dividing the family, based quite reasonably on the fact that as individuals, they will be better off without the other parent. Whether or not this decision is taken lightly or with careful consideration, it’s ultimately hard.
At this point I want to highlight and underline that I don’t, and can not ever, imagine being displaced let alone becoming a refugee. I do not appreciate what it is like to have to flee my country in fear. The only way in which I can try to sympathise, albeit on a different level, is through my personal journey with family breakdown and breakups.
I have firsthand experience as a child, daughter, parent, wife, friend and as a self-represented litigant (on and off) over a 5 year period. There has been more than one situation to deal with, in more than one relationship. No one can warn you about what your particular situation will be like, and you can’t study-up on it.
With the very best of intentions, and with all the information I had at that time before me, I made choices and decisions that I believed were the right thing to do at the time. I soon discovered that it is impossible to do the right thing by everyone, including those to whom I was obligated to do so. Even now, but with absolutely no regrets, I look back with great clarity and more wisdom and maturity, to see an imperfect situation, that was worked through by all about as well as it could have been. No one could make my choices for me anymore than I could have dared to suggest what might have been the right thing for someone else to do. There is always room for improvement, but this is only ever revealed in hindsight.
My family lives with all the outcomes of the individual choices we each made, to the best of our abilities at the time. We were all under pressure and our emotions were hard to discipline. We each had the right and responsibility of taking care of ourselves, and at the same time juggle our obligations, responsibilities and even the liabilities of the people who were/are dependent upon us, with equal commitment and priority. An invariably impossible thing to do, let alone do well. Ultimately, both sides experience being right and wrong, often at the same time, and it’s confusing.
Unlike refugees, we never faced the dangers associated with living in fear for our lives and those of our family, because of the country we lived in. We did, however, have to deal with mental illness that included suicidal behaviour. And at the same time that all this was happening, there were life threatening illnesses being experienced by other immediate members of family. I know that my situation isn’t unique, but it is unique to me. My worst days are the same as anyone else’s worst days; that’s why we refer to them as our worst. I am not complaining, but I can tell you that it’s as close to knowing how a refugee or asylum seeker feels, as I ever want to get. And that’s all I have to say about that.
How do you split a family?
How do you leave your home country to go and live in another?
In the family breakup situation you can agree or have the court do it for you. What you end up with is a ‘plan’ and an ‘agreement’; these are subject to change at almost anytime. One plan might be where one parent has the children and the other parent misses out completely. One plan might be where it’s an uneven split, and still one parent misses out. Another plan is where it’s evenly split, with both parents missing out equally. What about housing? How on earth can two homes be afforded? What about work? Can both parents have the time to work as well as facilitate their allocated time with the children? Not always. And then down the track step-parents might be added into the mix.
The worst problem of all is that in all of those plans, the children miss out. They miss one parent or the other and end up with two homes and two sets of things as well as matching baggage, both physical and emotional. Then they have to lug it all from one house to the other. One parent may live in a 3 bedroom house and the other in a 2 bedroom unit. So both parents can work, the children may have to attend before and after school care, when before they didn’t, and again this infringes on what is supposed to be quality time with each parent. Hardly ideal.
Different alternatives work for different families. No matter how agreeable they are, no matter how amicable they are, someone misses out. It would be very negative to say that it’s karma, however we have to live with our choices. Unfortunately, our children have to live with them too. For some families the struggle is ongoing, while others come to some kind of compromise. To me, there is a similarity that is applicable where you have people from different countries, as well as from different periods of time within our history. What worked before won’t necessarily work as well now. What works for other countries is not guaranteed to work for ours. No single alternative is going to be suitable. Once an alternative is chosen, we will all have to live with the outcomes.
I have read a lot of one-liners and seen a lot of images posted on social media with one-sided quotes that show only one point-of-view. None of these venture very far. Ironically, I actually think we may all have to sit on the fence with this issue in the hope that we will stand up and balance on that fence and be able to offer a hand to those on either side. It’s a twisted metaphor, I know. It’s beyond the scope of this writer to discuss the legal details of it all, suffice to say, I think it sucks.
Believing that we, as a country, are lucky or luckier than other countries, is in my opinion a false sense of security. Much like starting a family. You do so in good faith, not ever really knowing what is around the corner and without ever being able to adequately plan for ‘if things go wrong’. We are not lucky. We are living the best lives that we can with what our country offers. There is nothing supernatural about it. Luck may favor the prepared but you never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone – cop that for a clichéd quote! Ergo, we are not here by chance but by choice.
In the past 2 years I have seen people (who became friends) jump through every single immigration hoop that our government held before them. They relocated their families to Australia in the hope of living the best possible life they could. They paid money. They set up home. They set up business. They joined the community. They began to settle in their young children. They contributed. Then they got told they couldn’t gain permanent residency. These are not isolated cases, and please don’t assume they were ‘privileged’ or ‘wealthy’ people. Our friends have left, without hard feelings but with great disappointment. They also left the money they brought to this country as well the profits they made in this country. This doesn’t seem fair to me.
It doesn’t matter which door you come through – our system of immigration appears to be fundamentally flawed.
On the issue of boats and what is humane; there is a lot of ignorance from what I can see. “Inhumane”, in my opinion, are those who profit from selling a service that could result in injury or death, no? “Inhumane” is anyone who takes advantage of the weak, the uneducated and the desperate. Criminals who do this in our country are tracked down and made to face justice for their crimes. I am glad that our country does not tolerate people who, under any circumstance, operate fraudulently and put other people’s lives at risk.I see no evidence of inhumane behaviour by the leaders of our country. I do not believe that decisions are made lightly by anyone in a position of power. I do however believe, that our government, a relatively uncorrupt one, is going to find it hard to deal with countries where corruption appears to be the norm.
So let’s open the door to everyone. Sure. But let’s not make promises we cannot keep. No point opening a door to a brick wall, or a set of stairs that goes nowhere. Yes, Australia has a huge backyard. So space isn’t an issue. Now what about infrastructure? Do we have that? Do we have the budget to do it? Can we do what we need to in order to settle people in our country, and in a way that is respectful to both new residents and existing residents? What are the costs associated with that aspect? Do we know where that money will come from?
There is no “solution”. There will be alternative plans. There will be trial-and-error and hopefully there will eventually be positive outcomes. There is a plan, and we all have our opinions about it, but there is a plan. It’s not easy balancing an obligation to your people, as well as taking on another country’s liability. I think we need to trust those to whom we have given control of our country to make these decisions that will be hard for us ALL to live with. I believe they are trying to make the best possible decisions with limitations they have little control over, as well as the knowledge that they cannot save and please everyone.
No one wants anyone to die in the process of trying to give their family a better life.

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