CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 January 2018

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Blaming the victims

HONG KONG (SE): The knee-jerk reaction of the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, to the attack in the streets of New York on October 31 to put in place what he termed extreme vetting on all migrants coming into the country appears to be a choice to demonise an unseen enemy rather than face the reality of what has happened.
 
The US already has extreme vetting on migrants and although the suspect in recent attack, Sayfullo Saipov, had migrated to the US unlike the perpetrators of most terror attacks in the country, he had undergone extreme vetting and did not have any record of radicalisation at the time of his entry into the country.
 
In other words, the real question is what happened during his experience in the US to have radicalised him to the extent that it did? As this is not a comfortable one for the president to handle, the easy way out is to stick with the bogey man and put the blame offshore.
 
This is but one example of the demonisation of migrants and refugees being carried out by some of the wealthiest nations in the world, including those that have grown strong and rich on the back of migration.
 
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in New York says that Trump has immediately targeted what are referred to as Dreamers, people who were brought to the US without documentation as children.
 
They have gone to school, grown up, taken on work and career paths, served in the military, paid taxes and, according to research done by an institute founded by the Scalabrinian Mission Society, have a higher employment rate than the average population.
 
Numbering 800,000 their future, together with a further 300,000 in the country under other arrangements, is now threatened and the only country in the world that they know is threatening to disown and remove them, not for anything they have done, but to satisfy political fumbling.
 
Australia is slso guilty, deciding to dump its asylum-claimants off-shore under a policy strongly pushed as a humanitarian act to stop casualties on boats coming mainly from Indonesia, but mostly to stop them from arriving.
 
Its ill-fated arrangement with Papua New Guinea, which was originally intended to be a short term solution, has now dragged on for five years and has yet to fulfill even one goal that was set for it.
 
In addition, Port Moresby has declared it unconstitutional. But it has upset the lives of local communities on Manus Island where it was located and millions of dollars have seen only four people resettled in Cambodia, which was a total disaster, and 25 promised a spot in the US.
 
In an article posted by Father Frank Brennan SJ, the director of Catholic Social Services Australia; Tim Costello, the director of World Vision; Robert Manne, a professor of politics from La Trobe University; and John Menadue, a former secretary to the Department of Immigration; the project is now unworkable and unprincipled. “The agreement has failed,” they say. “It has never worked.”
 
In addition, they add that if the project ever was responsible for stopping the boats making the hazardous crossing to Australia’s shores, it certainly has nothing to do with it anymore.
 
“The boats will stay stopped, just as they have for the past four years, because the diplomatic and military agreements in place with Indonesia,” they say. While the boat narrative may be a convenient one for political parties to perpetuate, the four argue that it has nothing to do with the reality.
 
“Deliberate, ongoing, unresolved displacement of proven refugees in troubled circumstances can be no part of a civilised border control policy,” the four write.
 
The shambles that saw the end of the Manus Island project is but a reflection of what went into its creation in the first place and is one that has worried all but a few politicians and commentators for the whole of its existence.
 
It is a national shame for a country that has built its wealth on the back of migrants.
 
However, while these goings on may be big domestic headlines, the current refugee crisis in the Union of Myanmar and Bangladesh is the story of the moment.
 
But it is the brokenness of our modern world that is releasing this unending tide of people on the run, who risk hazardous journeys at sea and thirst in parched deserts in their search for a better life.
 
As a 12-year-old girl from Aleppo in Syria tweeted, “Can we build a Republic of Refugees? It will be the most peaceful country in the world.”

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