Political opportunists in Australia who have built their political careers on scaremongering and dehumanising minorities have fostered an environment hospitable to hatred, the Refugee Council of Australia has told the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Speaking in Geneva overnight (Australian time) at the UN Human Rights Council general debate on racism, racial intolerance, xenophobia and related intolerance, RCOA policy officer Shukufa Tahiri said many Australians could see the connection between Friday’s shocking terrorist attack in New Zealand and an Australian political culture in which prejudice and bigotry is labelled “free speech”.
Ms Tahiri said that “years of politicking and scapegoating of refugees and people seeking asylum have led to a suite of inhumane policies” which include offshore detention, family separation, citizenship delays and forced destitution.
She contrasted Australia’s political culture with the dignified response of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a time of national tragedy. Ms Ardern “has shown that true leadership promotes equality, respects difference and celebrates diversity as a strength, not something to be feared”.
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FULL TEXT OF REFUGEE COUNCIL STATEMENT TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL:
The worst terror attack in New Zealand’s modern history took place on Friday when an Australian nationalist extremist killed 50 Muslim New Zealanders, many of them refugees and migrants.
This senseless violence shocked the world, but many Australians could see its connection with a political culture of “us” vs “them”; a culture in which prejudice and bigotry is labelled “free speech”, and promoters of hate speech often go unchallenged.
Over the past two decades, unprincipled opportunists in positions of political leadership have fueled and justified anxiety about migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum. Political careers have been built on scaremongering and dehumanisation of minorities – especially since 9/11. It is this discourse which has fostered an environment hospitable to hatred, one in which nationalist extremists feel emboldened to commit shocking acts of violence.
Years of politicising and scapegoating of refugees and people seeking asylum have led to a suite of inhumane policies in Australia, which today include offshore detention, family separation, citizenship delays and destitution of people seeking asylum. Along with many Australians, The Refugee Council of Australia is telling our political leaders that enough is enough.
In this time of tragedy, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has impressed the world with her dignified and inclusive embrace of New Zealanders of all backgrounds. She has shown that true leadership promotes equality, respects difference and celebrates diversity as a strength, not something to be feared. In the lead up to our federal election, it’s time for Australia’s political leaders to recognise the greater impact of their scaremongering, and celebrate diversity as a strength of our nation.