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Scoop Feedback: Refugees & Science vs Democracy

In This Edition: The Truth About Refugees - Science Vs Democracy (Check The Record)

Scoop welcomes reader feedback. Please send your views to editor@scoop.co.nz

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The Truth About Refugees

A recent article stating the percentage of refugees on benefits, illustrated the ignorance about, and the indifference towards refugees displayed by many New Zealanders.

The outcome of a government evaluation, as an answer to a written parliamentary question by Mr. Winston Peters, showed that, two years after admittance to New Zealand, 40% of refugees are on benefits, would in most Western countries be greeted very positively – not in New Zealand.

Why is that? What was Mr. Winston Peters trying to point out exactly, when saying “what a massive soft touch we are”?

The fact that we allow into New Zealand people that are persecuted because of their religious or political beliefs, their ethnic background or their sex, or people that fly from war, has nothing to do with being “soft”, but simply comes from the international treaties that we, as one of many civilized nations, ratified (the Convention of Geneva, 1948 and the Protocol of New York, 1968).

Our undersigned commitment is to offer recognized refugees (“refugees” being a word that is used very generally, but has a clearly defined status) a safe place and circumstances to continue their lives; as it is our plight to assess whether seekers for asylum that enter New Zealand qualify for refugee status.

People that are granted refugee status are therefore people that generally went through unimaginable experiences in the eyes of the average New Zealander; destroyed pasts, witnessing rape, torture and killings (often of their beloved ones), being chased away from their homes, (traditional) home territory or country, year long repression of their mother tongue or religious and ethnic identities, etc. etc.

How can any person with some common sense expect refugees to adapt to a completely different environment, country, language, customs, etc within only 2 years? How can one expect people that are haunted for their life time by the scenes they have witnessed, the experiences they have gone through, to simply join the workforce and be economically ‘independent’? In that light 2 out of 5 refugees on a benefit seems extremely good.

Energy would be better used in assisting refugees to adapt to their new land, to teach people our language and make them familiar with the society they are now part of. The sooner people feel at home, feeling welcome and safe, the bigger the chance is that people can also pick up their (working) lives.

Quoted in the same article, Mr. Murray Mc Cully, the National immigration spokesman, said the figures showed that the true cost of accepting refugees was higher than presented by the Government, and there should be a debate about the issue. One can only hope that this was a matter of poor phrasing; not implying that costs should be brought further down than they already are. One definition for a civilized nation is the humanity and empathy a society is able to bring up for the less fortunate within ánd outside that society; to transfer the burden on the refugees –by definition the population most in need- doesn’t exactly stand for the principles that the “Western World” likes to associate itself with since the French revolution.

Apart from that, it would be interesting to look at the figures of the money that the “refugee industry” generates. How many Government jobs are created by the influx of refugees, how many businesses thrive on the influx of refugees; be it within the NZIS, Alien Police, the Ministry of Labour, social workers, staff at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, medical, social and educational services, etc.?

People like Mr. Winston Peters with their senseless rhetoric create an atmosphere that very much resembles the politics that caused refugees to fly their homeland. We should be careful to not go back to the late 30’s/early 40’s where openly expressed and accepted anti-Semitism was common practice in New Zealand (-politics) and which many aspirant refugees paid for with their lives.

Daan Kolthoff

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Science Vs Democracy – Check The Record

According to One News, regarding ERMA's recent approval of an application to insert human and animal genes into cows, Federated Farmers' Charlie Pedersen said, in agreement with the decision, "the fact that the application was approved despite most of the submissions at ERMA's public hearings being against the trials, proves it will not value public opinion over scientific evidence."

Of course Mr Pedersen is perfectly right. He is reiterating what many of us have known for a long time. ERMA regards science, whether it's right or wrong, as more important than democracy.

Of course it's worth pointing out that the "scientific evidence" Mr Pedersen talks of is the same "evidence" that told us the Titanic could not be sunk, that asbestos was fine, that global warming did not exist, that CFCs would not deplete the ozone layer, that pregnant mothers should be pumped full of Thalidomide, that the cancer causing drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) was a wonder drug, that antibiotics are good animal growth stimulants, that Atmospheric Nuclear testing was safe, that Nuclear power was safe, that the problem of safely storing radioactive wastes was just a technical question, that BSE wasn’t a threat...

Clearly "scientific evidence" does not have a good track record.

In a good democracy people should have a say in decisions proportionate to the degree they are affected by them. As pointed out so clearly by Mr Pedersen this is clearly not the case with ERMA's foray into "appropriate" decision making.

Christiaan Briggs

London/Napier

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