18 August 2010

Do we really expect refugees to queue up?

As the son of immigrants, I am intrigued by the current situation with the Tamil boat people. My parents arrived legally but, I ask myself, what if they hadn't. What if they had broken the rules? Would I hold it against them? Would I feel any less of a Canadian? The answer is no. I enjoy being a Canadian so much I would be glad they did it. Indeed I might very well feel that sneaking in added to the romance of their adventure. And indeed they may have had to sneak in if they came today. They immigrated in 1929 when anyone from the British Isles pretty well got a free pass. Today, Brits have to meet the same requirements as anyone else and my parents, not being well-educated, may not have had the skills to qualify. I am, therefore, tolerant on the subject of immigrant queue jumpers.

But the Tamils don't come as immigrants, they come as refugees, and that's quite another thing. Sensibly, one expects them to break the rules. If you were expecting a knock on the door in the middle of the night by the secret police, would you stand patiently in line waiting for a nod from the Canadian embassy? Would you take the time to apply for a passport from the state authorities? Or if you were living in a squalid refugee camp, watching your children suffer constantly from diarrhea and unable to offer them hope for the future, would you be willing to wait for years to get out if you had an alternative? I wouldn't. I'd get the hell out of there anyway I could and as quickly as I could. And I would head for any decent country that would take me in - Australia, the U.S., Canada, wherever, and I would be grateful for the sanctuary.  But queue up? Only as a last resort.

So if these Tamils are genuine refugees, I say welcome and good luck to them. If they aren't, then I expect they will be deported. In any case, I believe I'll withhold judgment until they have been duly processed.

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