I received a chain email the other day from a charity organisation filled with statistics and graphs about asylum seekers. The thrust of the email was that Australia, the UK and other western countries despite having lots of money don’t take many asylum seekers and that it is developing economies like Pakistan and Indonesia that take the bulk of them. This is supposed to provoke Australians into a sense of duty to take more refugees and asylum seekers but I reckon it’s counterproductive.
Most Australians have a pretty weird way of viewing the world. They don’t perceive there to be middle economies, only rich and poor ones. Most Australians view living in Indonesia with similar trepidation to living in Iraq or Syria. They also have distorted perceptions of the impacts of asylum seekers and refugees on economies and civil institutions. They would hold the influx of asylum seekers responsible for Indonesia’s backward government and crawling economy, never mind that Indonesia is in fact a robust democracy with a rapidly growing economy. Drawing attention to the large number of asylum seekers travelling to places like Indonesia is likely to consolidate people’s fears about the negative impacts of these new arrivals upon it.
For my money people’s default mindset is to be untrusting of asylum seekers and refugees. Going directly to the subject matter will rarely be effective. Perhaps illuminating voters on democratic institutions of Indonesia, its economic growth and its professional administration of government might have greater utility in curbing what is essentially a nuanced sentiment of xenophobia.