By André Dao
As we head to the September election, we can be sure that the political rhetoric surrounding asylum seekers will only get worse. Just yesterday, the Liberal Party posted an ad on social media that casually linked boat arrivals with street crime in Western Sydney – despite the fact that of 12,100 asylum seekers released into the community since November 2011, only 5 have been charged with a crime. Over the next few months, we’ll hear more about “stopping the boats”, so-called economic refugees and queue jumpers. But missing from the conversation will be the actual stories of the asylum seekers themselves, and the most important question of all: why do people keep putting themselves on leaky boats?
Road to Refuge is a new website which seeks to put the user in the shoes of an asylum seeker on their journey from their country of origin to Australia. You can follow the stories of two children: Ali Waezi, a 13 year old Hazara boy from Afghanistan, and Layla Samadi, a 10 year old girl from Iran; as well a young man, 25 year old Mano from Sri Lanka. The story of each fictional asylum seeker is segmented and at each cross road, the user must make a decision on behalf of the character, shaping the outcome of their journey.
The stories were created from the real experiences of asylum seekers in detention in Australia and refugees living in the community, and offers both adults and children a rare insight into just what pushes a desperate asylum seeker towards Australia.
After you complete a journey, you can then find out more on the “Learn More” page. There you can read about how to start the conversation with friends and family, and how to get involved in protecting the rights of refugees. You’ll also be able to find out about the relevant laws, the politics of Australia’s refugee policy, and the conditions detained asylum seekers face (including some great Right Now articles, like Sienna Merope’s breakdown of the economic cost of mandatory detention and the story of Malihe and Mahidiye, two Afghani refugee children).
Road to Refuge is sure to become a vital tool in engaging and educating the Australian public. It’s also a welcome breath of fresh air (and humanity) amidst a morally bankrupt political landscape