by Keith Locke
In 2001 the Clark Government stepped in and gave a helping hand to some people in pretty dire circumstances when we accepted a number of asylum seekers fleeing Afghanistan.
Boat people fleeing the civil war raging between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban had been rescued off the coast of Australia by a Norwegian Freighter the Tampa
The Tampa had then been denied entry to Australia by John Howard’s Government.
A similar situation is playing out across the Tasman right now but this time it involves Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers fleeing from the repression in their home country in the aftermath of a civil war. Some of them are on an Australian customs ship, the Oceanic Viking, anchored off Indonesia and desperate to come to Australia.
Hundreds of thousands of Tamil’s have been displaced in the fighting and are now living in hastily put together refugee camps. These camps have been largely shut off from the outside world although there has been some limited news media access:
I asked questions of our own Government regarding the conditions in these camps a few months ago.
It is good that the New Zealand Government had made some criticisms about the Sri Lankan clampdown on the Tamils. But now we have the chance to do something more – to give shelter to some of the boat people coming to Australia. After all the proper checks of course.
We can again show our Aussie cousins what a caring people we are by following the lead of our Government back in 2001.