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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When Germany opened its borders for 1 million refugees, Australia allowed 12 000 asylum seekers into the country. This is just a fraction compared to Merkel´s quota, especially when we look at the size and population. With 22 million inhabitants and a land of the size of North America, you would think it is more plausible that Australia would take in a few more. This, however, is not the case, at all. Australian immigration policies are complicated and make it very difficult for immigrants to enter or settle down. Yes, it is one of the most multicultural societies in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is very welcoming to strangers.

With 4 coastlines to protect, one of the most discussed issues for Australia is to hold back the illegal immigrants, coming from Indonesia by boat. These people are so desperate, they get on a tiny dingy and cross the Indian Ocean in the hope to find some luck in this sunburned country. Unfortunately, most of them get the status “unlaw-ful non-citizens and end up in a detention center where they are waiting to be deported. They will not be granted a visa and deportation can take up to a few years. The detention centers are known for being harsh and problematic. Over the last few years, riots have been taken place and asylum seekers have sewed their lips together as a form of protest. It is the uncertainty and desperation for these people what drives to anger.

The discussion about boat immigrants, as they are often called, played up after the Paris attacks. The question was if Australia was safe, and what would happen if they would allow more immigrants into the country. The majority of the population was afraid of a terrorist attack. People explained that it is “very likely” that something will happen because “you don’t know where the enemy is.” Paris was taken by the media and politicians as an example to show what could happen if a country takes up too many immigrants. It confirmed what the majority feared if Australia would take more refugees.

In the past, Australia hasn’t always been so neglecting to foreigners. In the 1970s, there was a completely different approach to refugees. The immigration minister back in 1976, Michael MacKellar said the following after the first boat of Vietnamese asylum seekers arrived in Darwin:
“As a matter for humanity, and in accord with international obligation freely entered into, Australia has accepted a responsibility to contribute towards the solution of world refugee problems.”
Promises were made to use the “full resources” for current and future refugees, because of “moral rightness”.

What has changed over the years and how did it changed? Media nowadays, uses phrases such as “potential terrorists”, “job-takers” and “illegals”. The promised “full resources” turned out to be detention centers which I have briefly mentioned above and the Australian Border Force, which aims to protect and control the movement of people and goods across the border. Why is Australia nowadays so neglecting towards asylum seekers?

It is a tricky question and a complex answer.

One thing is clear: Australia has changed as has their way of thinking and talking about aslyumn seekers. Immigrants are not regarded as victims of war or traumatic events, rather they are considered as persons who come here to work. By changing the way of discussion in public, it is changing the view on the subject. Another example is the phrase “how to stop the boats” instead of helping people. The detention centers are build out of vision of the Australian citizen. This creates the thought: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Recently I have talked to a local named Jack about this topic. He stated that humanity should be ashamed of itself of what is happening in the world with the massive stream of immigrants. His argument was explained in a long speech and contradicted himself by concluding that Australia does not want more immigrants. “We are accepting more than enough refugees already. We don’t want them here, they can go somewhere else.” So if the world should be ashamed of himself, should Australia be too? Would it not be a better idea to help those people instead of putting them away? Jack sighted and looked annoyed. “Look, we probably could do more but we don’t want to. We have our own problems to take care of.Australia could do more, yes that is true, but does it want to? As far as I can see, no. Perhaps some issues are, indeed, too far out of sight to be kept in mind.

Abandon Spotted, fall in love

Okay funny story. I met my boyfriend of now almost three years here in Maastricht. At the library.

I walked towards him. Our eyes met. Instant attraction. The tension was almost unbearable. Fireworks, butterflies, the whole shebang. I walked past him. I went to get my books. Then to the copy machines. Made my way back. And then. I guess I felt adventurous and rebellious and a badass so I straight up walked up to him and hit on him. We started dating immediately.

I had just started my Bachelor and he had just gotten to Maastricht for his Erasmus semester. Clearly, neither one of us knew what we were getting ourselves into. You don’t expect the very first person you go out with in a new place to be the person that will change your life. Especially since a First-year student and an Erasmus student are about the most unsettled type of student out there, and not really in it for long-term relationships. But luckily there are always exceptions to the rule.

Now, Spotted, the (in)famous Facebook website dedicated to pointing out eye candy at the library or other UM- premises, is pretty old-school if you think about it. Whatever happened to face-to-face interaction, and self-esteem and charm? Everyone seems to be so overly confident and sassy on the Facebook page so instead of blurting out vulgarities online, why not turn it down a notch and come up with a more everyday-appropriate pick up line and actually approach your crush? And don’t anonymous suggestive comments scare a person off rather than increase the chances of the interest being mutual? No matter your intentions, if you are looking for a casual affair or are genuinely interested in getting to know a person, why do we feel like we can’t initiate it in person?

Is our generation to blame, for being too judgmental, too superficial, and too condescending to each other all the time? Why do we need an anonymous online platform to mediate our flirtatious conversations? Are we being too cruel to each other so that nobody can be entrusted with reacting to being hit on in a way that it is not humiliating for the other person? I know the website is also a compensation for our hard study and an outlet for adolescent antics containing the classic formula “Why don’t you x my y with your z next time?” and variations. But I can’t help but think of how crazy and wild things would get if it were a common thing to do that people actually worked up the courage to talk to each other. It is so socially accepted to walk up to a person in a club or just shamelessly start grinding up on someone on the dance floor so why not simply talk to someone in a more civilized environment? If anything, it will increase your chances of not regretting your partner choice the morning after because you consciously chose your subject… Think about it.

What I am trying to say is that had I allowed myself to listen to doubts or fear of rejection, my life would be completely different right now. I wouldn’t have traveled to the places that I traveled to. I wouldn’t speak Italian now, to him and his family. I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends. He would have gone back to Italy after only one semester instead of staying for two years. We wouldn’t have rented an apartment together. I wouldn’t walk through this city full of awe and wonder and exhilarated by the richness of memories I have of us. And then I think about how easy it could have been for us not to have met: I could have gone to the library on a different day, he could have been on a different floor, or by the coffee bar downstairs, or I could have walked a different way, never seeing him in the first place. The chance of us never meeting were much bigger from the start than the odds of us ending up together and that is a pretty scary thing to think about considering the huge impact we have had on each other’s lives. I swear, nothing would be the same.

So if you see someone you’re attracted to and you have a certain feeling about it, just be aware that there is a possibility, even if it is miniscule, that your life will change for the better. (There is always a chance that you might have bad luck and it will be the worst mistake you’ll ever make, and lead to the most terrible broken heart, leaving you emotionally scarred or forever resentful, in which case I will take zero responsibility.) But obviously the choice is up to you to make it happen or to always remain wondering what could have been. Think about all the people you will never meet that would make you happy, that you would love, and that you would want to share your life with. If you want to do your part, abandon Spotted, and fall in love for real. Or fall in whatever you want. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Or read them on Spotted.