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Asylum Seekers Not Welcome in Australia

January 09, 2002

Your two-part series on refugees trying to enter Australia, by Richard Paddock, was excellent for its detail and bringing to the attention of the rest of the world our appalling treatment of these people (Jan. 4-5). Australians pride themselves on their tolerance, easygoing nature and giving everyone what they call a "fair go." Unfortunately it is all a myth. Aussies are just as racist as any other nationality but have difficulty accepting it.

Our federal election last November was race-based, where both the major political parties tried to outdo each other by being tough on refugees trying to get to Australia. At present there are approximately 50,000 people who have overstayed their tourist visas, but no attempt is made to have them rounded up and put in detention centers because they are mostly Americans and Western Europeans and not Muslims fleeing from murderous, tyrannical regimes.

Con Vaitsas

Sydney, Australia

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Re "The 'Crime' of Being a Young Refugee," Jan. 5: The Australian government not only has a right but has a responsibility to control immigration. Just because Washington allows illegal immigration and there are now 8 million or more illegal immigrants in the U.S. as a result of cheap-labor lobbies and their campaign donations, this does not mean Australia should follow our unsustainable policies.

Many of the people who claim asylum in Australia pass through several safe countries and don't make any attempt to claim asylum in any of these countries, which means they are not seeking asylum but economic opportunity. While they have every right to seek a better life, they don't have a right to demand that a country give them residency. Australia is one of the most generous countries in the world in regard to immigrants and refugees.

Gary Powell

San Francisco

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As a human rights lawyer specializing in refugee cases, I have witnessed Australia's disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers firsthand, and I can assure readers that Paddock's description of the conditions in Australia's detention centers was entirely fair and accurate.

U.S. citizens contemplating a visit to Australia should think carefully before supporting a country that so deliberately and cruelly mistreats vulnerable people, including children.

Nicholas Poynder

Sydney, Australia

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To publish such unmitigated rubbish about one of America's oldest and staunchest allies is nothing less than disgraceful.

Point of interest: Perhaps if you had been a lot more careful about who got into your country, things may have been considerably different last September.

With regard to our history of conquest over the indigenous tribes, do I not smell a bit of hypocrisy in that statement? Was the United States born from a giant land grant from the Indian tribes?

R.K. Cashman

Homebush, Australia

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