A possie in Aussie

January 14, 2009

Is your people smuggler my hero?

Filed under: refugee — Nayano @ 10:18 am
Tags: , ,

‘Australia’s No2 with people-smugglers’, by Paige Taylor in the Australian of January 10, 2009, quotes a Hazara asylum seeker asserting that Canada is the people smuggler’s first choice, and Australia the second. Why a part of the ‘cargo’ is quoted as the only source for this ‘information’ is questionable, but will probably go unquestioned in a nation that frames this sort of movement of people as bad.

People who help asylum seekers to escape have only recently been impugned, however. Remember Oscar Schindler?

Carel Sternberg, Former IRC Head and worker in refugee assistance and human rights, on musing on his WWII experiences said “Helping refugees escape from Hitler was my personal act of resistance”.

Refugees from the Soviet bloc (and other socialist nations) used to be valued for their symbol of Western capitalist supremacy, and the people who helped them escape were thought of as heroes, even though many were paid.

(I can’t find a reference for this, although I clearly remember a radio interview when an Australian who was assisted over the Swiss Alps and paid for the assistance pointed out that no-one would have called his saviours ‘people smugglers’. If you can help assist my memory – please do so in the ‘Comments’).

I have spoken with many Afghan refugees about their journeys to Australia, and none expressed any negativity about their ‘smugglers’, even though in many cases their families had to sell everything they owned in order to enable the one family member to escape.

It is true that contemporary people smugglers are often part of larger criminal gangs, cause deaths by using unseaworthy vessels, and recruiting agents are often swindlers.

In contrast to refugee flows after WWII, people smugglers now bring human cargo that is seemingly without end, alarming the target nations.

I think,however, that the deciding factor is that this lot of refugees bring no kudos to the receiving state, and so the people who help them are no longer heroes.



  1. hey nayano,

    i can’t help you with that reference but just after reading this post i came across this graphic that you might find interesting: http://contexts.org/socimages/files/2009/01/seekingrefuge1.jpg

    Comment by henrik — January 14, 2009 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

    • I am catching up with replying to comments at last!
      Thanks for your comment – and thanks for your great blog. I keep an eye on it!

      Comment by nayano — January 30, 2009 @ 7:22 am | Reply

  2. […] Taylor-Neumann presents Is your people smuggler my hero? « A possie in Aussie posted at A possie in Aussie, saying, “Immigration, refugees and race relations in Australia […]

    Pingback by The BoBo Carnival of Politics - The January 25, 2009 Edition (late) | The BoBo Files — January 27, 2009 @ 5:33 am | Reply

  3. […] “It sounds pretty heroic to me, pretty selfless, pretty self-sacrificing. Like the border guards who helped the Holy Family flee to Egypt during Herod’s massacre of Israel’s first born. Or the Kentish fisher-folk who came in little boats to save the British army at Dunkirk, people smugglers whose memory still brings tears to Britons over 50”. (See Is your people smuggler my hero?) […]

    Pingback by People smugglers are heroes, Boat people are Australians of the Year « A possie in Aussie — May 12, 2009 @ 8:23 am | Reply

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