Over the course of four weeks I have been documenting and following up on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and around the world. The issue is a complex and controversial topic amongst people and my aim was to research and learn more about the current reality of it all. Providing a safe home for refugees and asylum seekers has become one of the worlds most difficult problems to solve. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes because of uncertainty and fear of persecution. Government bodies and organisations are struggling to find solutions to fix the problem but end up creating more trouble in the end. In the process of learning and finding information about the topic, I have carried out various tasks to help guide me in the right direction and to open new perspectives into the issue, all which have helped me develop my blog.
The first task I allocated to myself was documenting all the information I saw on the news about the refugee and asylum seeker crisis. Documenting and recording my finding made it easier to look back at the information I found and follow up with it when necessary. This was one of the most important steps in researching about the topic because I was storing the data and information in a document. During this process I found I learned new things everyday that resonated with the topic. Due to the issue being a world wide crisis, I am always constantly receiving information through the media and social networks, keeping up to date with the issue globally. Through this process I also learnt that some sites can be biased towards the issue, but it is up to us to decide what it right.
The second task I allocated myself to help with my research was scraping my social media websites for any news about refugees and asylum seekers. Through Facebook I found many videos, images and articles which provided me information on the issue and content to support my blog posts. The most interesting content which I discovered on my newsfeed was a news website called AJ+. The videos which come out of this site provide the public eye live action shots and real footage about different issues. Refugees and Asylum seekers are a topic that the news site are particularly passionate about and showcase all the latest news. The site constantly updates the public with different information from around the world about the issue and gives us an insight into what these refugees experience on a daily basis. Through scraping my news feed I found this to be the most interesting and thought provoking way of gathering information on the topic. It opened my eyes to how often it appears in our lives and how big of an issue it is in our world today.
The third task which helped me develop a further understanding on the topic was mapping out all the stakeholders/participants on the issue in Australia and around the world. In a group we sat down and thought about all the people who are involved with the issue and the parts they play. By mapping out the stakeholders I started to develop an upstanding of who is contributing positively to the issue and who is making a negative impact. After mapping out the stakeholder, I went home and mapped out the relationships between each one and how they all contribute to the issue. With this task I learned about the important roles in the issue and how they all work with one another.
Image of stakeholder mapping exercise
Another in class exercise we conducted to assist us with our research was creating a probe, a questionnaire to interview our peers about our social issue and understand what they think about the situation. The aim of the interview is to provide us an insight into other people thoughts and opinions, understand the way people think and feel about the situation. I interviewed a peer in my group who seemed to be well educated on the topic and was not biased in anyway towards any of the stakeholders in the situation. The interviewed helped open my eyes to new outlooks on the topic of asylum seekers and refugees and helped me understand the demographic of people my age and what they think about the issue.
Interview about asylum seekers and refugees with a peer who remains anonymous:
What are your views of asylum seekers and refugees?
I think we should support refugees and re-house them, let them in if its possible to do so.
Do you have any influences that make you have that opinion?
I went to a high school that was quite liberal and this influenced my opinion, and as I got older I found myself on the social side of Tumblr which educated me on the issue more. My friend’s opinions also influenced my decisions on asylum seekers. Most asylum seekers ae leaving their homes and we need to help them. Ideally we should open the gates for these people and let them in.
How do the people in your area/suburb think bout the refugee issue?
I think its complicated, I am from Bankstown and its not a high socio economic area. There is a relatively big refugee community in the area but I found that some people disagree with the issue even if they come from a refugee background themselves. Some of my friends think that we are letting to many people in without checking their background and knowing whether it is safe for them to enter the country. There is a mix of people in the area that agree with letting refugees in and a mix of people who disagree with the social issue.
Do you think that people link refugees with terrorism and islamaphobia? Your personal opinion?
I think islamaphobia has always been a thing in Australia ever since the Cronulla riots. Now that ISIS is around people are quick to blame the Muslims. Every time someone in the Muslim community does something wrong they link it to terrorism and hate, most of these Muslim come from refugee backgrounds and that why they link islamaphobia with the refugees. They fear asylum seekers because they don’t know where they came from.
Do you think that education plays a big role in people’s opinions about refugees?
I think so, I think if someone has had a more extensive educational background then it does help support people’s opinions. Education is meant to help peoples ability to critically think, such as for example if you have a degree you are challenged to look at issues in a more modest way. If you think that refugees are coming to Australia to destroy the country, there is no logic behind that and it is not a fact. There are thousands of reports and documents of research supporting that 90% of asylum seekers are true refugees escaping their homes, and if people educate themselves further in the issue then they would change their opinion and know what is factual and right.
Do you come from a migrant background and do you think that influences your opinion?
Yes, my parents and I moved to Australia from Korea. I don’t have a close experience because I moved here when I was 3 but I think because I am an immigrant myself it makes it harder for me to disagree with people who are anti-immigrant and it makes it harder to empathise with them. Personal experience plays a big part in a person’s opinion.
What do your circle of friends think about the refugees? Do they have different opinions?
Most of them think that we should take in refugees and are pro-refugee, they think we should open the borders and take in way more people who need help. I do have some friends who are more conservative, I have a friend who emphasised the fact that we need to check that people are genuine refugees when they are entering the country. None of them are anti-asylum seekers but most of their opinions vary in different ways.
What is your stance on refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres?
I can understand why they check asylum seekers when the come to the country through quarantine and customs, I think that makes sense. It’s the right of the country to want to know the person who is trying to enter the country. I can see why them want to hold refugees in a transition facility before they enter the county, but if we hold them in detention I think there are many psychological problems behind that. I think that the current situation where these is indefinite detention of these refugees is wrong and the fact that the facilities are pretty bad.
The interview was overall successful and helped me gain a new insight into the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Understanding how the people around you think and feel about the issue is very important in understanding your own opinion. I leant five things during my interview which changed my opinion on the issue and the way I research it.
Five things I learnt during my interview:
*Peoples backgrounds and upbringing play a large role in their opinions of an issue.
*People who come from migrant backgrounds are prone to be more pro-refugee but there are people wo still disagree.
*People who are well educated seem to have a more factual stance on social issues and seem to understand more.
*The younger generation is more open to being pro-refugee and are more understanding towards them.
*Terrorism does shape people’s opinions of refugees and asylum seekers.
The interview was successful and concluded with gaining a new perspective of the situation and understanding how my fellow peers and people of the same age as me, think about the topic. To understand the people around you, you must talk with them and listen to their opinions to gain a broader understanding of the issue. The interview assisted me with my research strategy and opened my eyes to new perspectives.
I conducted a probe on my interviewee, her task was to collate different articles during the week about refugees and asylum seekers, whether she saw it on the news or herd it by word of mouth. My interviewee gathered at least 6 different mentions of the issue during her week. This probe was successful because I got to gauge how ofter the issue is in the public eye and how often it is discussed between individuals. Most of her accounts were from the news and media sites as well as talk from friends. This probe highlights how due to the refugee crisis around the world today, refugees and asylum seekers are the topic of interest not only in Australia but around the world.
As well a conducting an interview myself I became an interviewee and was questioned on the topic of mental illness. Not knowing much on mental illness it was hard for me to define what it was and how I was to answer my peer’s questions. After my interview I was given a task to record how many times mental illness was mentioned in my daily life and whether it was publicly said or privately. To my surprise during the week there was no mention of the topic and I soon understood it is something that is considered taboo in our society. If you have a mental illness you are looked as being sick and this has a negative connotation. This exercise helped me understand how the public eye can look at and issue and the world in general. Peoples opinions do matter and they also shape our opinions too.
The last task which was done as a class exercise was mapping out any words which resonated with the issue and looking at the situation from a different perspective. As a group we mapped out 225 different words which resonated with refugees and asylum seekers. After looking at all the words, we created antonyms on the backside to understand the emotion behind it all. In the process we put together a series of words we felt had a poetic meaning that highlighted what the issue was about. The statement was camp, control, refoulment, solution, foreign policy, rights, persecution, threats, voices trauma, obligation, religion, protection, identification, discrimination, resettlement, illegal, empathy and propaganda. These words help us understand a deeper meaning to it all, understanding the different perspectives in the situation and how they all connect with each other. I leant that the emotion behind a situation can really mould someone’s understanding of it.
Images of word mapping exercise
Five-point summary of what I have learnt so far:
*Don’t trust all your sources; Some may be biased.
*Look deeper into the topic you are researching; Analyse everything about the issue including words that relate to it.
*Documenting everything you read is vital
*Mapping out the situation can help you understand the issue on a broader scale.
*Refugees and Asylum seekers are humans, just like us and deserve to be treated the same.
Overall all the different tasks I participated in and worked on helped me understand the bigger picture behind the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. By understanding more and gaining information through the process I discovered the reality these people face on a daily basis. I have become more sensitive to the issue and feel more passionate in advocating the real side of the story. The refugee and asylum seeker crisis is happening now and its up to us as individuals to educate ourselves and understand the issue for what it really is.
By Tamar Nazarian