So, last week, a UK Herald Sun columnist came out and called asylum seekers cockroaches.
Yep – you heard right. Katie Hopkins labelled migrants “cockroaches built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors” she said. On 17 April, she described migrants desperate to reach Britain following humanitarian disasters in their own countries as “cockroaches” and suggested the government deploy “gunships” to stop them landing on shore.
She also referred to migrants as “a plague of feral humans”, while championing the Abbott government’s approach to dealing with asylum seekers, which, in her interpretation, was to “threaten them with violence until they bugger off.”
As a refugee myself, and as a former asylum seeker, who has had to grow up without any extended family, because we had to flee for our safety, I would like to say to Katie Hopkins, that not only are her statements politically incorrect, heartless and non-sensical, but I would assume that either Katie Hopkins has no refugee friends, does not understand the true circumstance of an asylum seeker, or she is a woman with severe ignorance issues.
People NEVER chose to run away, they NEVER chose to leave all of their possessions behind, they do not even saying goodbye to family, for fear of being found out, NOT because they chose to. More often than not, they have to flee under dire circumstances, to save their lives.
For a reporter to have such ignorance about global issues is truly concerning.
Thankfully, there was a huge backlash in the community, calling for Katie Hopkin’s resignation, calling her comments comparable to Nazi propaganda.
The underlying issue of what is going on here persists though.
These same sentiments are expressed elsewhere.
Globally, there is a strong and violent trend against hatred towards migrants and asylum seekers.
Take South Africa, for example.
Just this last week, there has been targeted violence against shops owned by foreign nationals, largely from Somalia and Ethiopia.
The anti-immigrant violence left five people dead and thousands displaced.
The violence has now spread against all African foreigners, leaving many feeling terrified and hopeless. Migrants have been harassed and attacked by South Africans, with police often not intervening.
As a response, around 4,000 people marched through Johannesburg chanting “down with xenophobia” and “a United Africa” at an event attended by residents, students and local religious and political leaders, protesting the recent anti-immigrant violence.
The recent Xenophobic violence has been attributed to ‘feelings of superiority’ – South Africans feel against Africans from other countries.
Internationally, it gets worse.
Saudi Arabia has vowed to deport more than one million people who live and work illegally in the kingdom. The Interior Ministry made the announcement after police arrested more than 99,000 illegal residents in the past three months.
In the first two months of 2014, the country deported over 12,000 Somalis fleeing from the conflict-ridden African nation.
According to a 2014 report by NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Saudi Arabia does not allow asylum seekers in the country to apply for refugee status and forces them to return to their homelands, where they are at high risk of ill-treatment. This is also a direct violation of the international principle of non-refoulement.
Countries are turning refugee away in the droves.
With families drowning at sea every week – with another 700 downed last week, and minority groups being thrown overboard by other asylum seekers en route to safety, in the middle of the ocean, there is indeed an international crisis that deserves an internationally coordinated response.
The Daily Mail Australia reported that when a rubber dinghy carrying around 100 African refugees across the Mediterranean began to sink, a Nigerian Christian prayed for his life in an innocent act that would end in the deaths of 12 fellow migrants.
One of the Muslims on board the rickety craft ordered him to stop, saying: ‘Here, we only pray to Allah.’
When he refused, a violent fight ensued and 12 Christians drowned when they were thrown overboard by the Muslim refugees.
Migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean have claimed more than 1,750 lives this year alone.
In December last year, the UNHCR appealed to the EU to take its fair share of displaced Syrians fleeing the civil war. The EU have stepped up its assistance to asylum seekers.
Germany pledged to take 30,000 refugees and Sweden 2,700 but the UK has taken just 143.
What should Australia be dong?
Is Australia doing enough currently?
Australia needs to increase our humanitarian intake for genuine refugees, and Australia needs to support the UNHCR process, so that people in desperate situations can trust the process of the UNHCR, but also know that they will receive a timely response to their applications for refugee status.
My family and I are eternally grateful for the humanitarian visa provided to us by the Australian Government in the late 1980’s.
Since then, we have made every effort to assimilate, to work hard, my parents sacrificed everything for the education of their children, and we had the opportunity to live in safety and freedom.
In fact, my background and experiences are the major reason why I became a human rights lawyer, and now I help those less fortunate in my community.
I love being Australian, and I have give a lot back into my community.
So, back to Katie Hopkins – back to her comments referring to asylum seekers and migrants as cockroaches.
Kate Hopkins’ comments are not helpful for a number of reasons. As a western journalist, she is bringing criticism to an extremely complex international, legal, social, cultural, psychological challenge, and she is reducing it to a negative criticism.
Not only that, but Katie Hopkins is exacerbating an already tension – filled issue, adding the spark to the fire of the growing hatred, intolerance, ignorance and even violence targeted against asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.
I wonder Katie how your middle class, cushy, suburban up bringing has enriched your life and understanding of the real world, and how your narrow perspectives has given you capacity to love others and to have compassion for your fellow human being…
I wonder most of all, Katie Hopkins, how you would cope in a situation where you are faced with daily conflict, threat to your life, and all of your freedoms taken away from you.
I wonder what you would do to survive Katie Hopkins?
I challenge you to visit the Refugee camps outside Syria, and look a starving Syrian child in the eyes, and call that asylum seeker child a cockroach.