Over many years we have been associated with helping Fijians and other Pacific Islanders to fix up their residential status in Australia with a lot of legal tangles, Detention Centre visits, etc. But those who come to Australia by plane and mess up their visas don't get the same publicity as those who come by leaky boats from Indonesia after leaving their problematic situations in places like Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan. There is much paper talk about them in Australia as there are about 1000 at the Detention Centre in Christmas Island waiting for visas to stay on.
Some say they are jumping the queue while others slowly, carefully, fill in hundreds of pages of forms. Others say that they are desperate people wanting to survive. Kevin Rudd commented on people smugglers as 'vermin' yet the man he really admires, Dietrich Bonhoffer, smuggled Jewish people out of Germany during World War 2. I think the criticism is not that 'people smugglers' are always bad per se, but that the Indonesian 'people smugglers' demand large sums of money from the desperate people escaping from dire situations.
Peceli and I were at a Diversitat meeting on Thursday night (Diversitat started as the Geelong Migrant Resource Centre) and one of the speakers - the guy who works with new settlements recently was in Thailand visiting a refugee camp for Karen people who crossed the border from Burma. There were 65000 people in the camp! He showed pictures and honestly, many of the people had lived there a whole generation. Then on the TV news I saw that in Sri Lanka there is a camp (looked after by the military) of about 250,000 Tamils dislocated by the war there. And yet some Australians get concerned about a mere 1000 people.
In Geelong some of the Afghan young men have been relocated from Christmas Island - 8 each week, recently, and they have been housed, and assisted in many ways especially by a free migration worker to fill out forms, English language classes, etc. However many have moved on the Melbourne to suburbs such as Dandenong, where there is a network of Afghan people.
Crossing borders is a complex issue and just won't go away in this desperately divided world. I am sure that Fiji would be inundated with leaky boats if it wasn't so far away in the Pacific Ocean!