Rights of Passage - 2005 competition



By Margaret Brown, 12, ACT

Margaret's essay examines the idea of refugees as people who have fled persecution and war, rather than simply 'illegal immigrants'.

I strongly believe that ordinary people who are fleeing a war torn country in search of help and refuge should be welcomed and cared for in Australia. They travel a long journey from their country and risk their lives only to be put in a detention centre (sometimes for years), given temporary visas, soon to run out, and then they may be sent back to their country.

The Oxford dictionary definition for refugee is: A person driven from his or her home to seek refuge, especially in a foreign country, from war, religious persecution, political troubles, natural disaster. For someone to say that these people who are fleeing Afghanistan are not true refugees is wrong. They fit this criteria. Another definition of a refugee is someone who is forced to leave their country in fear of what would happen if they stayed.

I used to live in Young, in rural NSW, where a large community of Afghan refugees were living. There was one family, some men all alone, and some men with the rest of their family still in refugee camps or in Afghanistan. Most of the refugees were on 3-year temporary protection visas, when they run out they may be sent back to Afghanistan where they might be killed. After all they had gone through; they still did not have permanent citizenship and security. The fact that the refugees do not know their future makes it hard for them to make plans and reunite with their families. Imagine not knowing if you were going to have a stable future?

Some people treated the refugees badly. One time, when we came back to our car after shopping, a leaflet was stuck under our windscreen wipers stating that the refugees would form gangs, bring criminal behaviour in, and steal locals' jobs.

There was no increase of crime in Young. Also the abattoir, where most of the refugees worked, was having trouble finding employees and was having to send buses to pick people up from other towns.

There were people however, who helped the refugees learn English, had social "get-togethers" and helped them to appeal to the government for permanent protection. A documentary was made. There was a bush dance. The refugees put on a special dinner for the people in the town who had helped them.

According to a University of NSW study the refugees in Young contributed more than $2.5 million into the community over eighteen months. For a small town it would be a loss to the community if they were sent back. Now some of the refugees have been reunited with their families and are looking forward to Australian citizenship. Some are not so lucky and are still waiting to hear if they can to stay.

I think that everyone deserves to feel safe, not necessarily just children. Children may not be able to protect themselves and are younger and weaker and therefore in need of special help. However, we cannot forget about the adults and teenagers who also need safety and assistance. One day we might need to flee for whatever reason. Being unwelcoming to those who need help now will not assist us in receiving help ourselves in the future.

In conclusion, I think everyone deserves love, hope and to feel safe and welcomed. I chose to write about refugees because I have had a lot of experience with them. I hope my essay will change the way some people look at refugees for the better.