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Refugee advocate hits out

Kon Karapanagiotidis is the son of Greek migrants, his father’s side were refugees from Turkey, so he identifies with modern displacement and desperation.
At just 37 years old, Kon Karapanagiotidis (photo) is a lawyer, a social worker, has been sacked several times and has founded Melbourne’s only Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASCR).
Every day he deals with stories of pain and suffering.
He deals with the nation’s leaders using asylum seekers as a scapegoat for everything from unemployment to interest rates.
He deals with migrant Australians saying, ‘we came here the right way.’
He deals with overt racism from those who should know better. In particular, Greeks.
“We came on a boat as well. How many times have I said that under the Howard Government and this government, they would have not let us in,” Karapanagiotidis told Neos Kosmos.
His disillusionment with the Greek-Australian community is palpable and he implores Greek-Australians to remember where they came from.
“People, once they establish themselves in this country, they all forget. My generation of Greeks are racist some of them, but I think most importantly they are apathetic, politically disengaged, not interested in the world around them, self serving and self interested,” he says.

“I think a lot of them forget where they come from, forget they are Greek. They want to assimilate too much and don’t make their parents’ sacrifices count. My parents’ generation, your parents’ generation, went through a lot to get us to this point.”
Kon Karapanagiotidis is passionate about the community, and helping people less fortunate than himself, and is not afraid to tell it how he sees it.
“I am really sick and tired of watching my own community more interested in tearing down each other out of jealousy or their hunger for power and pride. Where are our leaders, where are our role models, where are the heroes in our community? For this generation they are bloody invisible,” he says.
Karapanagiotidis has a strong moral compass and it’s set firmly on course. In an era of what he terms political apathy, he is a radical.

And he uses this dogged determination to spread the word that asylum seekers should not instil fear in the hearts of Australians.
“At a national level, fear is based purely in leadership and luck of political courage. Look at Fraser, he had a lot of problems with boats coming from Vietnam but he had leadership.”
“He came out and said, ‘why are we afraid of these people, these people can contribute’. None of these people went in detention centres. They came straight in to the community and look what these people have contributed,” he says.
“You look around and what makes Australia beautiful is our diversity, it’s our strength, it’s multiculturalism. The differences have never been a threat, they have been a strength,” he says.
Based in West Melbourne, the ASRC is a non-government-funded charity set up to help asylum seekers.
It offers many services including a food bank, legal assistance, health care and English classes.
Most importantly, it offers support to a group of people who have been persecuted in their homeland and demonised here.
(source: neos kosmos)

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