Let’s compare two stories…
Masoud is from Iran. There were 285 people in his boat, people were afraid and crying, and the smugglers tried to put more and more people in the boat. Someone fell into the ocean, and the smuggler took all their luggage and threw it into the sea. All of Masoud’s papers, family photos, his clothes, everything was lost in the journey.
John owns a classic sailboat which he paid $40,000 for, and has since spent $100,000 on renovations on it, restoring it to great beauty. While sailing in the beautiful Waitemata Harbour, his sailboat was collided into by Charles, John’s boat, The Gypsy sunk into the harbour, and he lost everything, on the boat, his credit card, his house keys and his cellphone.
Why am I comparing these drastically different stories?
Obviously they are nothing alike, that would be ridiculous right? Masoud fled for his life with his children and any possessions he could fit in his arms. He paid the last of his money to people smugglers so that he had an inkling of a chance to live free of fear for the rest of his life. John, on the other hand, has insurance to pay for a new boat, and he didn’t lose his house, he lost his house KEYS, (I presume he can get his locks changed, also paid for my insurance).
And yet, today’s New Zealand Herald  reporter Carolyne Meng-Yee directly quoted John as saying:
“It was worse than being refugees. We had lost pretty much everything – house keys, car keys, licence … Can you imagine having to replace all your credit cards? And also people trying to ring you while your phone is in the bottom of the harbour.”
I’m not saying I would wish what happened to John on anybody. It must be a very scary experience to be on a sinking boat (says the girl who can’t swim, and would probably NEVER ever get on a boat voluntarily!) and John’s wife Jill has permanent pelvis damage as a result of the accident. Yes, it wasn’t a pleasant experience… but it is plain bad form to compare his situation to that of an asylum seeker/refugee. Especially when our lovely Government has currently got changes to the Immigration Act in the pipelines  to punish asylum seekers simply based on how they arrive.
Please, if you have read this far, I encourage you to do a few things. Firstly, let the NZ Government know that they can’t detain asylum seekers in your name! (3rd link below), and secondly, let the NZ Herald know that this is shabby wording , and doesn’t help the plight of real asylum seekers who are living in our midst. Imagine if Masoud lived here in New Zealand, how would you feel if he read that article in front of you? I sure as heck would feel embarrassed for New Zealand.
-  Read Masoud’s story and also a fact sheet on debunking the myths surrounding asylum seekers on Amnesty International NZ’s website. [pdf, 223KB]
-  Yacht saga leaves pair sunk and skint – NZ Herald – 8th October 2012
-  Tell the NZ Government that the Mass Arrival Bill does not represent you! We are better than that!
-  Tweet @nzherald to tell them that Asylum Seekers are not a joke