[LINK] Tampa or St. Louis?
Wed, 29 Aug 2001 09:50:28 +1000
I received a phone-call from a colleague in the USA who asked me
if it was really true that the Australian government had sent a
warship and was threatening to sink the Tampa rather than let the
refugees land in Australia. He had heard the report on TV. He
finished by saying that this is the stuff that makes great movies.
Australia, and Australians are being portrayed by overseas media
groups as a nation of callous xenophobes. To my mind, this is
being caused by a federal government, out-of-control and racked by
scandal, thrashing around to find an issue with which the media
(and unfortunately the overseas media) can be entranced.
It could be construed that the government has artificially
engineered an international incident by opportunistically marooning
400 or so shipwrecked refugees on the Tampa. While this may be
politik, the long term damage to Australia's international reputation
For those of you who have forgotten the past, read on to relive it:
In 1939, 907 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany sailed on the St. Louis
from Hamburg, Germany, with entrance visas for Cuba. However,
when they got to Havana, the Cuban government refused to
recognise the visas. Latin American governments were
approached, but all refused to take the refugees. The St. Louis was
forced to leave Havana harbour and sailed north. The U.S.
government's response to the ship was to send a gunboat to make
sure that it kept away from U.S. shores. Finally, despite an appeal
by some prominent Canadians, Canada declined to take in the
refugees. The top immigration official commented that no country
could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of
thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line
must be drawn somewhere.
The St. Louis sailed back to Europe, where three-quarters of its
passengers were murdered in the Holocaust.