“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- Statue of Liberty
Australia has witnessed a massive surge in Tamil asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka and washing upon its shores. Thus far in 2012, over 5700 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have reached Australian territory by boat, a huge jump from the 211 migrants that arrived in all of 2011. Almost every day, a new boatload is intercepted and turned around by navy, police, army and air force patrolling Sri Lanka’s coasts.
Why Australia? It is the easiest and the cheapest place for asylum seekers to flee to by boat.
Recently, the Australian government has enacted legislation to clamp down on the surge of asylum seekers teeming its shores. Refugees who arrive by boat are now detained and incarcerated in detention camps on offshore Pacific islands while their claims are processed, sometimes taking months and even years.
Numerous asylum seekers have gone on hunger strikes to protest their conditions and to fast-track their refugee claims. Some have even committed suicide. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have criticized the Australian government for its inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
Are these genuine political refugees fleeing persecution? Or are these merely opportunistic economic migrants seeking a shortcut to a better life? Should Australia embrace these desperate Tamil migrants with open arms? Or should Australia turn them away?
The documentary “Tamil Goodbye” by Journeyman Pictures seeks to find the answer.
Let us know your thoughts.