Statement regarding Syrian refugees and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Statement regarding Syrian refugees and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The appalling attacks in Pairs resulting in 130 dead are horrendous. Such loss of civilian life is deplorable whether in Paris, Lebanon, or Syria. But sadly the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have been seized on by some conservative politicians and right wing journalists to stir up unfounded fears about asylum seekers and to call for Australians to turn their backs on Syrian refugees.

Fear mongering about Syrian refugees relies on lies and misconceptions.

Of the eight men identified by French police as being part of the attacks in Paris, none were refugees and all had EU passports. A Syrian passport found at the scene of one of the attacks has been confirmed to be fake, and has not been connected with any of the attackers. That politicians and journalists continue to use this tenuous link to try and paint all Syrian refugees as possible terrorists and to call for Australia to cancel the (paltry) intake of the 12,000 Syrian refugees is reprehensible. The boat journey into Europe is hazardous, as is the journey to Australia by boat. This year so far 3500 have drowned in the Mediterranean. Only the most desperate will risk such a voyage. Terrorist groups with resources and planning are unlikely to travel using these dangerous routes.

Calls to favour Christian refugees over Muslims also feed into this toxic and racist agenda. Building discrimination into the refugee intake is not pro-refugee. As Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale has said it has said “To go down that road has more than a whiff of the White Australia” Moreover, it is hypocrtical as nearly 300 of the men incarcerated on Manus island for over 2 and a half years identify as Christian, but remain incarcerated rather being than given permanent protection in Australia.

Syrian refugees are running from the same atrocities, albeit on a far larger scale, that Paris has just experienced. They have escaped both ISIS and the far deadlier death toll brought about by the Assad government. More than 250,000 have been killed in Syria since March 2011, making 150, or more than the Paris attack, killed every single day.

The mainstream media has given fear mongers like Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi and Jackie Lambie a unchallenged platform to spout baseless opinions and outright lies about refugees as if they were facts.

There is no truth to Cory Bernardi’s statement that refugees accepted in previous intakes have gone on to commit terrorist acts in Australia.  There has never been a terrorist attack committed by a refugee in Australia. Man Haron Monis who took hostages in the Martin Place siege is sometimes cited as an example. However he had severe mental health problems, he was not a terrorist. He previously ran a psychic line where he abused women, he was rejected by the Hell’s Angels, and he was not connected to any terrorist group. He came to Australia by plane, and there are allegations that he was  allowed to stay because he had connections with the Iranian regime and that ASIO believed he could be a useful source.

The Refugee Action Collective (Vic) encourages a rational discussion based on evidence. If the voices that want to shut the door on refugees, and to instead exchange compassion for war and racism, win out, this will only make terrorist attacks more likely. The opposite of both the brutal sectarianism of ISIS and our government’s cruel anti-refugee policies is to open our arms to those who flee terror, war or any other persecution. Australia’s isolationist policies and refusal to properly process and settle refugees by forcing them back to danger through boat turnbacks or through long term incarceration without hope on Manus or Nauru, has propped up unjust and corrupt government systems in our region. We call to welcome much greater numbers of Syrian refugees, to give permanent protection to all refugees, reject discrimination in Australia’s refugee intake and to close Manus and Nauru.