Friday, February 16, 2007

Swimmers come home!

Tanzania is rarely in the news here in Australia. It is one of those invisible places are aren't quite real to the media. So I was interested to hear them mentioned on the radio news yesterday.

The report was about swimmers coming to the World Cup event in Melbourne. The Tanzanian Government is asking its swim team to sign guarantees, backed by family members, that they will return to Tanzania after the event.

This is a response to the actions of some competitors at the Commonwealth Games last year when about 40 competitors from four African countries, including Tanzania, 'went missing' and refused to return home. 36 of those 40 applied for refugee visas (32 were granted) while the other four simply melted in.

For me, this news report raised all kinds of questions about leaving your homeland and seeking a better life somewhere else. And the possibility of persecution at home sufficient to win a refugee visa in Australia. Some Hazari Afghans who came to Australia illegally on boats have been held for years in desert camps or on Pacific Islands and then forced to return to unstable homelands. Yet these African swimmers have not been locked up and most of their cases have been resolved within a year, mostly favourably.

Is this a reflection of Australia's great love for sport? I suppose it would be different for the Afghans if they were polo players!

In any case, it has me thinking about the entangled difficulties of life in the very poorest countries in the world.

I hope the Tanzanian swimmers enjoy their visit to the swimming World Cup and that their visit fosters wider awareness in Australian society of the common humanity that binds us all together.

Your assistance to the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, will help Fight Poverty Through Education. Here's a handy place where you can click and donate to the School.

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