Dinoo Kelleghan is a former foreign editor of The Australian and was a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal from 1997-2004.
The fragrant island, Ceylon as it was known in my childhood. It looks beautiful.
The Colombo Plan was still very much in our minds when I was a kid - "what's the Colombo Plan?" probably drove my mum mad after I got a stamp collector's set for Christmas full of stamps like this.
(My mum was 23 when I started school and she'd never been interstate, let alone considered going overseas - I can only imagine what went through her mind with my questions! And Happy Birthday mum, 3 score and 10 and still going in to work every day in the city!)
Now Dinoo Kelleghan has returned home to a peaceful and economically vigourous Colombo. Here's some of Dinoo's column from his former employer The Australian. When you've read it, could you give Senator Sarah Hanson-Young a ring and explain it to her? IE the difference between fleeing from persecution (like say for Jews in the Warsaw ghetto) and fleeing to a welfare state (like say into the arms of the furrowed brow from central casting Jason Clare).
Tamils flee for cash, not from harm
- DINOO KELLEGHAN, IN COLOMBO
- From:The Australian
- April 13, 2013 12:00AM
IN contrast to the weary boatloads of Sri Lankans making the dangerous asylum-shopping trip to Australia, millions of different shoppers are out in force here as the island prepares for Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations this weekend.
This year, economists noted a change in the spending patterns - lower-income people are spending more freely than the better-paid shoppers in the capital, Colombo.
The reason? The gushing torrents of remittances home from Sri Lankans who have gone abroad for employment, often making empty claims of persecution to leapfrog others who stand patiently in long queues outside Western embassies in Colombo to get a work visa.
The hunger for foreign money is intense in Sri Lanka, born of decades of dependency on remittances from those who went overseas legally to work, and the tens of thousands who smuggled themselves out of the country during the 30-year civil war that ended in 2009. Asylum-seeking has become a habit, unconnected to reality, and the trawler that sailed into Geraldton this week with 66 Sri Lankans aboard is simply a part of that economic pattern.The number of Sri Lankans of every walk of life who have at least one relative in Australia is astonishing. Every doctor, every lawyer, trishaw driver I have met over the past two months after returning home following 33 years in Australia has a family member in Melbourne or Sydney.
Vicariously they will ask you where you have lived, whether jobs are not plentiful, whether life is not marvellous overseas.
Yes, you can find work in Australia easily. Yes, you get money there even if you don't work. People get free houses there, money for getting a baby, sustained help in finding work. Just a little bit of hardship at the start but everyone knows you'll get there in the end, and if you go in by boat as an asylum-seeker the Australian government just has to take notice of you, and they start looking after you straight away.
These are facts, and no matter what propaganda Canberra puts out to deter people-smuggling, these facts are good enough to make many Sri Lankans make a down payment of half a million rupees to a people-smuggler and pledge to pay the rest when they start earning in Australia, plus, for Tamils blackmailed emotionally by the Tiger-controlled smuggling syndicates, a dollar a month for "Tamil welfare" for the rest of time.
The Australian really should be congratulated for this sort of stuff - go and subscribe so you can read the rest of the piece online.
(An expression employed by little ones while saying "it's not fair")