What are "boat people"?
A. People who like boats (in the manner of "cat people" or "dog people")
B. People who transform into boats (there has to be an Autobot or Decepticon who does that already, surely)
C. People who are made from boats (could explain the contents of some people's heads...)
D. A good name for a band. (Already taken I'm certain)
E. Or a fashion label.
F. People who constantly wear boat shoes (more or less fashionable than crocs? Hmmm)
G. None of the above.
If you answered G you may want to read further. If you didn't, well there's the whole rest of the internet for you my friend.
Most of my ancestors came here by boat, how about yours? Does it really matter how people who immigrate to Aotearoa New Zealand get here?
Oh it's not actually about the method of transportation, it's about why they want to come.
You mean because of the persecution and possible death facing them and their family in their home country?
Because that's why someone takes the incredible risk, and often puts their children in that situation too, of getting into a small boat, often crudely constructed and/or poorly equipped, and sets off to shores almost entirely unknown. They have to trust total strangers who seem to care more about money than they do about their passengers, leave behind anything they had, face the perils of the journey itself, and, if they are aimed in the rough direction of Australia, the likely outcome of mandatory detention in awful conditions potentially for years. They may even get sent back again, to wherever they were so desperate to flee from.
There is also no one Correct Way to be an asylum seeker. Just as there is no one Correct Way to be a rape victim or a sex worker or a female Prime Minister or a feminist blogger. It is indeed possible to be multiple things simultaneously; like an asylum seeker who is also an arsehole or a bit dodgy. That doesn't make their claim for asylum any less valid. We shouldn't have to like someone to want them to be safe.
I was really proud when Helen Clark offered to take some of the refugees who were on the Tampa and so cruelly misused by the Australian political system at the time. Some of those people have settled in my own community, which is great. Did that decision create a great flood of illegitimate refugees clamouring at Customs to get in, sneaking up the beaches and into the bush? No, and neither did the eventual decision to allow Ahmed Zaoui and his family to live here. But what a difference for those individuals, many of them children.
Aotearoa New Zealand usually takes up to 750 UNHCR quota refugees a year. To put that in context, over 5000 people immigrate from Britain to live here every single year.
What's so scary about one boatload of asylum seekers? Don't worry, it's unlikely they are wearing boat shoes.