Words and video by JCU journalism student Joel Sherwin:
Kon Karapanagiotidis, founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, has unveiled the centre's new strategy to inform the public on the matter of asylum seekers.
At an event at JCU in Townsville recently, Mr Karapangiotidis revealed the change in strategy, sparked by two years of research, to humanise the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.
“We went out and we did research,” he said. “We spoke to the 3,000 people across three states. And what we found was everything we were doing was making it worse. All our work and our narrative and conversation was making it worse. And it was making our ability to protect the human rights of people seeking asylum much more difficult. Because what we were failing to do was talk about human rights from morals and values.”
Mr Karapangiotidis says that the best way to convince Australians that “the tragedies of Nauru and Manus Island should be stopped is not with facts but by reminding them that these people who are suffering are human”.
“So what we found is that ourselves and our movement was actually part of the problem. That we had this well-intentioned but naive idea that you could actually protect and champion human rights through fact and appeals to law and economics. That's not to say they don't have a role, but only in your base.”
JCU journalism student Joel Sherwin, who was at the event, said: “The problem is those who oppose the settlement of refugees make the public afraid. Because according to Karapangiotidis, 'fear trumps facts every time',” he said.
“We're emotional creatures and we're sitting here trying to engage in fact and abstract and we're having these esoteric conversations about the refugee convention and the Geneva convention, and the international declaration of human rights,” Mr Karapangiotidis said.
“Beause we are in a state right now where we are being told that this depravity, and these brutal policies are necessary. These are a necessary evil. That we must have this. That we've exhausted everything.”
Mr Karapangiotidis said the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre had helped over 10,000 people to date.
For more information on the ASRC visit https://www.asrc.org.au/
The full lecture held at James Cook University can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmH9tqAg-Hs