By Margaret Quirk
Last month, I attended the unveiling of a sculpture in the City of Vincent, erected in gratitude to the people of Western Australia who gave safe haven to the Vietnamese who came here as refugees by plane and boat almost 40 years ago.
The local Vietnamese community raised a large amount of money to construct this statue.
I think it is we who should be grateful to the Vietnamese Western Australians who have enriched our community.
Descriptions such as hardworking, family minded, conscientious and valuing education, although clichés, nevertheless sum up the path they have taken since arrival.
Fast forward to the 300 Catholic asylum seekers currently detained in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre outside Northam: They fled religious persecution, predominantly in the town of Vinh, where clergy are assaulted, faithful set upon and churches desecrated by large groups of police, army, militiamen and thugs.
Fearing ongoing persecution, hundreds of desperate souls resort to taking the perilous boat journey to Australia to seek asylum.
It is of concern that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection allowed Vietnamese police to enter the detention centre to interrogate the detainees.
After interrogation, some have been so frightened they have taken desperate measures such as self-harm, attempted suicide and escape.
The families of the people interviewed, still in Vietnam, have faced increased persecution, including harassment and arrest.
It seems that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is “screening out” to refuse large numbers of Vietnamese to even enter the refugee determination process.
The time for rhetoric and slogans is over. We must act humanely, in accordance with our international obligations.