Word is that the next wave of refugees will be Tamils from Sri Lanka.
Well, my sources were right. I wrote the above line just a month ago, and now we have a new "boat people" incident involving 83 Sri Lankans.
Significantly, the Australian Government is organising with both Indonesia (where the boat sailed from) and Sri Lanka to repatriate the men.
You have to wonder why, if the 83 men really believe themselves to be refugees, they made the very long journey to Australia via Indonesia, rather than just travelling 30km to India.
As I wrote a month ago, India is a safe and increasingly prosperous and self-confident nation for Tamils to relocate to. Furthermore, the state of Tamil Nadu in India is an ethnic homeland for Tamils, in which Tamils from Sri Lanka could feel at home culturally and easily assimilate into.
Australia cannot be an ethnic homeland for Tamils in the way that Tamil Nadu in India can be. Therefore, young Tamils growing up here would likely suffer from a confusion in their identity, a disadvantage which isn't easily set aside.
What is it like to grow up without an easy identification with your country's mainstream culture and tradition?
I read a blog post recently which described the experiences of three young people in this position. The first, a journalist from Sweden with Kurdish and Lebanese parents, wrote of her identity that:
To be honest, I'm tired of defining who I am. Am I Swedish? Am I Kurdish? Am I Lebanese? I'm all of these things, and none. Sometimes I'm more Swedish than Kurdish, sometimes I'm more Lebanese than Swedish.
Then there is the actual author of the post (Osmond?) who is mostly of Chinese descent, though with some Spanish ancestry, and whose family have been living in Australia for 30 years. He writes:
I've rarely referred to myself as Australian or Chinese-Australian or even Chinese except when responding to people's questions. I've never felt honest or comfortable trying to define myself in those narrow categories ...
Do I give wholesale loyalty to one part of my identity and nothing to the rest or prioritise one over the other when I have a greater connection with different parts at different times?
Finally there's Randa Abdel-Fattah, an author of Muslim ancestry now living in Australia. She tells us that,
The inconsistency in my emotions and devotions used to faze me. It used to arouse in me a sense of disloyalty and insincerity ... I don't feel the need to be "fully Aussie". Not because I am not of Anglo background, but because it is an impossible demand ... One's past, whether ancestral or as a migrant, necessarily shapes one's present. The issue is the place of this construction of self in Australia's future.
There are some common themes running through these descriptions. One is a kind of irritation with the whole question of identity; a wish that it could just be made a non-issue.
How different this is to what most of us experience, namely a positive and affirming sense of communal identity which we would never want to give up.
The three writers also seem to share an identity which is shifting and unstable. At times, they feel more connected to their adopted culture, but at other times to their ancestral tradition.
This "multiple" and "shifting" focus of identity isn't the liberation some might think it to be. Randa, for instance, mentions that the "inconsistency" in her "devotions" aroused in her "a sense of disloyalty and insincerity". Osmond, similarly, admitted that he "never felt honest or comfortable" when having to define himself as either Australian or Chinese.
Again, most of us don't have to face this problem. Our loyalties aren't divided, and we don't have to doubt our sincerity or honesty in talking about our identity.
Finally, it's important to understand Randa's comment. She tells us that she can't feel "fully Aussie" because it's "an impossible demand". Why? Because we are shaped not just by our present, but by our ancestral past. I think she's right, and that politicians who insist on large-scale ethnically diverse migration, but who also expect straightforward allegiances to an existing tradition, are ignoring important aspects of reality.