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Refugees making history

10 Dec 2013
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“FROM a vantage point in the First World, debates around refugees carry a strong whiff of parochialism,” Peter Gatrell observes in his excellent new book, The Making of the Modern Refugee. That is certainly true in Australia. Leaving aside the fact that only about two per cent of the world’s forty-five million displaced people are asylum seekers, the circumstances that compel asylum seekers to risk the boat journey to Australia – or the no-less-perilous alternatives should that option be barred – feature remarkably rarely in Australian debates.

Over the past fifteen years, Australia has granted asylum to more Hazaras from Afghanistan than to any other ethnic group. Shouldn’t that prompt some curiosity about the situation in their homeland, or in Iran and Pakistan, the two countries that have hosted millions of Afghan refugees since the late 1970s? Such a question suggests that the parochialism of the Australian debate about refugees may be temporal as well as geographical…

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2013
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