26/04/2009 Perth Diary Column Is Online!

It’s online! I do want to make one or two things clear first.

Note 1: There were no comments allowed on the article that Paul Maley wrote and no contact details. Hence I have no idea why he didn’t follow this story up and make more of it. I saw a missed opportunity. He does write well and quite possibly it may have been an editorial decision rather than his. So yes, my comments in my column are intended to be slightly quizzical and tongue in cheek. Clearly, I did not write it well enough if I feel the need to make this disclaimer here.

Note 2: This article was submitted for publication before Stephen Smith discussed the Australian Government’s viewpoint on the situation so I apologize if it seems like old news.

Perth Diary: How do you define a refugee?

The reason I am discussing this at the moment is simply because this is what is in the Australian news right now.

What defines a refugee? What gives a person refugee status? According to the United Nations Human Rights Convention a refugee is someone who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The link to the entire article is here. Comments are welcome.

Cheers, Marisa.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.


  • s

    The main point I wanted to make was…that as a Tamil, living in Australia, I am not interested in just “Sri Lankan Tamil issues” or issues just relevant to my personal life. I read to be informed and hopefully expand my outlook on things. Hence, I want to know and understand Darfour, or Iraq or Gaza or the Swine flue and many other issues. If there are basics in the article that I don’t understand, eg where is India on the Map, I think I am educated enough to know I have to be proactive and read around to find out more, rather than expect the reporter to explain such basics to me. If I want writing that is less complex, and simpler to understand then of course I would read the tabloids.

    This global outlook is actually somewhat lacking in Sri Lankan newspapers (we have been purchasing the sunday leader and the sunday times over here way before Lasantha was assassinated I may add). I do understand however, that resources are lacking in Sri Lanka, and there are too many issues within Sri Lanka that have to be analysed and discussed. Hopefully, one day, when this mess somehow gets sorted out, in the future, the Sunday leader or Sri Lankan radio or TV or Eelam times etc. will have a special correspondent to the middle east or Africa or south asia etc.

  • Marisa

    Hi S,

    First off, thank you for your comment!

    I agree with your main point that you hope to be informed about all sorts of topics. What I wanted to question was why he did not, well, go a little bit more into depth in the first article. Why did it take so long to get Stephen Smith’s response for instance? Why two days? Why did he not call up straight away and if he did and got no response why not mention that?

    I also think that just because some things are defined already does not mean that they are set in stone. I think it would have been the perfect situation to ask whether the definition of what makes a refugee does need to be updated or not? Do we need to consider things like economic hardship as viable reasons for fleeing as a refugee? Or are you still a migrant even if you left illegally? I think it would have been great to point out the grey areas here.

    By no means did I mean to indicate that readers should be overexplained to. I was wondering if all the facts he could have given the reader were given and whether there was more to be made out of the story. I was wondering if people thought definitions could be rethought and changed. That was the point I was trying to make with my article.

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