Earlier this year I received a European (EU) passport, which means I now hold two passports. My mum was born in England and as a result I am entitled to a EU passport. I decided to apply for one and I got it no hassle. I was surprised at how quickly it happened and how “no questions asked” the process was. Within two weeks of sending the paper work off to England, my EU passport arrived in the mail. I was, and still am, really excited about the possibilities now open to me with an EU passport. I can live and work in EU countries without needing to worry about visas. My new expanded freedom was put into perspective while watching the most recent season of Go Back to Where You Came From (if you haven’t watched it you can do so here). There is a scene where a stateless man from from Palestine tells his story of arriving in Australia. He proudly, with tears in his eyes and a wavering voice, shows the Australian participants, and the camera, his documents that allow him to live as a citizen in Australia. He held the document like it was made of gold, his most prized possession.
My heart broke. In the excitement of getting my EU passport I failed to remember the many people around the world who do not have the freedom to move around the world. Where the borders will be opened for me, they will be closed for many more.
Our white privilege is showing (or maybe its just mine?). We are willing to close our borders to others (I get its not that simple), but expect to be able to travel wherever we please without any hassle. We get frustrated when customs takes longer than we would like, if our train or plane is running ten minutes late or if people don't speak English.
Being overseas has given me a fresh perspective and I am more ashamed than ever of Australia’s response to the refugee crisis. I’m not sure if you have been following European news, but the response of Germany to the current refugee crisis is overwhelming. It is predicted that this year alone Germany will see between 750,000 and 900,000 refugees on their doorstep. I have had the chance to speak to Germans here and they have said, “we want all of those refugees to have the same standard of living that Germans have, it is not okay for them to be living in tents”. Germany is not going to be able to cope with the weight of 750,000 people and yet their response is one of compassion, welcome and generosity.
More than 60 million people are displaced around the world. Australia’s acceptance of only 6000 people seeking asylum is pathetic (and don’t even get me started on offshore detention centres). I am not naive enough to think that opening our borders would be a simple solution. I am aware of the huge implications for accepting a large number of people. But when you compare 750,000 to 6000 and the relative sizes of Germany and Australia you can’t help but think that Australia could be doing more to help settle refugees within our borders. This is a problem that every country in the world will need to pitch in on in a sacrificial way. This issue is not going away any time soon.
“You don’t become a refugee by choice” | Marie Renaux
“I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, hungry and you gave me something to eat, a stranger and you welcomed me in” | Jesus