Dear Mr Morrison (an open letter to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection)

letter pic

Dear Mr Morrison,

I have read on several occasions that you identify William Wilberforce as one of your heroes.  Wilberforce is also one of my heroes.  Not least among the reasons for this, is his persistence in letter writing to government officials, to call for the humane treatment of people who were oppressed.  He wrote letters for twenty years before slavery was abolished in England.  I have been writing to you regarding your cruel and inhumane asylum seeker policies and operations for almost five months now.  I hope you are prepared for the next nineteen-and-a-half years of letters you will receive from me, should you remain in office that long.

I have appealed to you on matters of language.

Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention says that, while it is usually illegal to enter a country without a valid visa, it is NOT to be considered as illegal, if it is for the purpose of seeking asylum. Yet, you continue to use the words “illegal maritime arrivals” and “entering illegally” in reference to people who are seeking asylum.

The Coalition’s use of phrases such as ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, ‘border protection’, ‘matter of national emergency’, ‘military response’ and even ‘war’, conjures up the idea in the national psyche that Australia is somehow being invaded by aliens who will destroy life as we know it.  It breeds fear and hatred among average Australians in the same way that the language of Joseph Goebbels spread fear and hatred in Nazi Germany.  However, this does not appear to bother you.

I have appealed to you on matters of international law.

As a UN Refugee Convention signatory, Australia is prohibited from imposing penalties on people entering for asylum if they are coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened.   The UNHCR defines ‘coming directly’ as arriving without having been offered protection and security in another country first (UN High Commission on Refugees guidelines on detention of Asylum Seekers).  Yet the penalty of off-shore detention is being imposed on those who arrive by boat in order to seek asylum.  Anyone who arrives by plane, or anyone who overstays their visa, is not sent to Nauru or Manus Island.  Not one person has had their claim for asylum heard since Manus Island re-opened in 2012.  People are not merely waiting in immigration detention for security clearances and ‘processing’; they are being gaoled for having arrived by boat.  Along with this, asylum seekers living in the community in Australia have been denied permanent protection, subjected to codes of conduct and made the lowest priority for family reunification, ONLY if they have arrived by boat.  These are penalties that are being imposed for attempting to enter Australia without authorisation, even though it is unlawful to impose such penalties.

I have appealed to you on matters of human rights.

In the two letters I have received from your office, I have been told that The Government of Australia takes its international human rights obligations seriously and will continue to adhere to those obligations.”.  Yet one letter also stated:

“Those seeking to come on boats will not achieve what they have come for, but will be met by a broad chain of measures, end to end, that are designed to deter, to disrupt, to prevent their entry from Australia and certainly to ensure that they are not settled in Australia.”

These two statements are diametrically opposed.

People seeking protection must not be prevented from entering a UN Convention signatory country.  They must not be returned to a country where their life or freedom is threatened (The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, UNHCR, page 5). Yet your department turns back boats from Indonesia, and returns asylum seekers in Australian Government funded lifeboats, without hearing their claims for asylum.   Your government paid for Navy ships to patrol the Sri Lankan coast to prevent Tamils from escaping persecution to seek asylum elsewhere, and returns people to the countries from which they have fled.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights says this:

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

“Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.”

However, your department persists with punitive, indefinite, arbitrary detention for those who have committed no crime.  Some asylum seekers have been waiting in detention for over four years without having their cases heard.  According to Nauru’s foreign minister, people are likely to be kept in detention there for more than five years.

Your response to my letters has been to assure me that “Australia is working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”.  However, the UNHCR recently stated:

“We stress the obligation of Australia, PNG and Nauru to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers are protected in accordance with international standards. The practice of detaining migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat on a mandatory, prolonged and potentially indefinite basis, without individual assessment, is inherently arbitrary. Moreover, alternatives to immigration detention should always be considered.

We encourage Australia, PNG and Nauru to review their Regional Resettlement Arrangements urgently to find principled solutions that are fully consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to seek asylum, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

In a condemning judgment last year, the United Nations found Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees to be cruel,  inhumane and in breach of UN conventions, and ordered refugees detained by ASIO be released and paid compensation (ABC 7:30 25/2)  Yet the Australian Government has made no moves to do so.

And so I now appeal to you on matters of personal values and of faith.

I read the transcript of your maiden speech to Parliament with great interest.  In this speech, you declared that your values and principles are derived from your Christian faith and Scripture.  You quoted Jeremiah  9:24 and said this:

“From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family.”

Justice and righteousness would welcome transparency instead of secrecy.  They would be honest and open, rather than avoiding questions and withholding information about ‘on water operational matters’.  Justice and righteousness would welcome inquiries in order to demonstrate integrity.

Respect for rule of law would adhere carefully to international human rights laws, instead of using doublespeak and loopholes to ignore them.  Respect for rule of law would be less concerned with people’s mode of arrival, and more concerned with the fulfilling of human rights obligations now that they have attempted to arrive.

Compassion and loving-kindness would not need to clarify a question about a man who took his own life in immigration detention. Compassion and loving-kindness would automatically understand that the question, “Could this have been prevented?”, related to what could have been done to prevent the man’s death, not whether or not he could have prevented overstaying his visa.

Compassion and loving-kindness would not have implied that the young man, brutally killed while under the Australian Government’s supervision and care on Manus Island, brought the violence upon himself.  Compassion and loving-kindness would have said something like, “Tragically, a man who was being held in one of Australia’s off-shore immigration detention centres has been killed.  There will be a thorough investigation into how this could have possibly happened, to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.  In the meantime, I extend my sincere sympathy to his family and assure them that everything will be done to give them the answers they need.”.

Fighting for the opportunity for everyone to fulfil their human potential would not include returning people to homelands to face  persecution, beatings, torture and execution. It would not include causing a severe, negative impact to people’s mental health through ongoing uncertainty and indefinite detention.  Fighting for the opportunity for everyone to fulfil their human potential would not cry, ‘saving lives at sea’ only to have people killed in detention or take their own lives due to the depression and despair brought about by Immigration Department policy.

In your speech, you went on to talk about your vision for Australia being a nation grounded in generosity of spirit.  You echoed the words of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy when you said, “As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.”

Generosity of spirit and the offering of freedom would not translate into locking up children indefinitely on Nauru, in conditions which have been condemned by Amnesty International and the United Nations.  Generosity of spirit and the offering of freedom would not insist that people seeking asylum must join a mythical, world-wide queue for protection, which is anywhere other than here.

An understanding of the concept of ‘global citizens’ would work with world leaders to find humane solutions to the global humanitarian issue of people fleeing war and persecution.

I cannot help but wonder what happened to the man who so eloquently espoused his values, and principles of Christian faith, in a maiden Parliament speech.  Perhaps he never existed at all, and they were just meaningless words read from a piece of paper.  Perhaps he was sincere at the time, but he lost himself somewhere beneath ambition and a lust for power.  I’m not sure which scenario I find more disturbing.  What I do know, is that the Bible says that the way we treat “the least of these brothers and sisters” is the way we treat God (Matthew 25:31-46). 

You have said that, for you, “faith is personal, but the implications are social.”  I can see no evidence of the implications of faith in Jesus in the cruel, harsh and inhumane asylum seeker policies you have put in place.   Your speech mentioned that Lincoln said, “Our task is not to claim whether God is on our side, but to pray earnestly that we are on His.”

While you might be able to avoid the questions in my letters, it is not so easy to avoid God’s questions.  I sincerely hope you have thought through your answers.

106 thoughts on “Dear Mr Morrison (an open letter to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection)

  1. I think this is a most eloquent, and beautifully constructed letter, written in a most reasonable tone and with careful attention to references and relevant documentation and frames of reference. Since Scott Morrison publicly offered and declared his principles and values for everyone’s ears, I think it is fitting that you have point by point called him out in his failure to live up to his declared principles, because Parliament is meant to be a place where you are not allowed to lie. Apparently, respect for what this ‘institution stands for’ has been abdicated, together with notions of a what a constructive, responsible government is, and what ‘governing’ really means, led by his leader’s example, this no longer is the case and this must be made clear to those in power and the nation. I think this open letter does that, and more.

  2. Awesome Linda! It amazes me how people can read this and not feel convicted. I really hope you bring the change that’s needed!!!

  3. In the late 1930s when Hitler considered that some people were undesirable he first of all humiliated them and then placed them in camps. These were called Concentration camps. And many of the German people agreed. Today when our government considers some people to be undesirable they are placed in camps. These are called Detention camps. To relieve themselves of responsibility these camps are offshore outside Australia. And many Australian people agree with this action.

    • Unfortunately you are correct. But maybe just maybe if we can get this out those same Australians will change their minds. The media needs to get on board and publish these writings and interview the author.

  4. Thank you thank you thank you…..This is the most eloquent intelligent thoughtful and profound writing that I have seen on this issue……Words are failing me, but my letter-writing will now be inspired by what you have written……

  5. Reblogged this on Movements of Hope and commented:
    “As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.” Scott Morrison

  6. If I was Mr Morrison and read this , I think I would be feeling pretty hollow as a human being, a good time for change. Perhaps he should be encouraged to go spend a week in one of these camps, in fact all political leaders making such decisions should spend time amongst those they are deciding about. Thank you for this letter.

    • Scott Morrison has visited Nauru 3 times that I know of; twice in Opposition and once as Immigration Minister. The first time he visited he looked through the camp and he saw the conditions – yet nothing has changed. The last time all he did it was to deliver his message that the people detained would never be resettled in Australia, in an aggressive and uncompromising manner. Keep writing, keep the conversation going. it is so important.

  7. What emotive rubbish! Since when does the UN dictate to ANY sovereign nation what it’s responsibilities are? The UN us NOT a government, it is NOT elected, and it’s “policies” are merely the opinions if a select few. The bottom line is, no true refugee has the resources to buy their way into a boat sourced by people smugglers to sail illegally to Australia – refugees usually run to the nearest place of safety. Australia houses such people – gives them shelter, medical aid and food, which in several cases they have destroyed in riots, because they feel they are not given “enough”. Australian people pay taxes to cover these costs, and we are already facing a crisis of being unable to pay for our own welfare needs. We STILL give aid! But the aid we give is determined by OUR elected officials, NOT by the UN, or by the bleeding hearts who contribute little to society except rhetoric and anti-government agitation.

    • Hi Paul. The UN didn’t dictate what Australia’s responsibilities under international law are; Australia CHOSE those responsibilities when it signed the following treaties and covenants:
      • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
      • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
      • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
      • Convention on the Rights of the Child
      • UN Refugee Convention

      I always find it interesting that people think that ‘true refugees’ must be poor and without resources. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge systematically assassinated the educated and the wealthy. The intention was to take out anyone who was likely to organise a rebellion. In Nazi Germany, Jewish people who owned businesses and commercial properties were targeted on Kristallnacht. I have a young friend who is a refugee from a Middle Eastern country. His home was raided and he was beaten by officials, held hostage, tortured and told he would be executed. Why? Because he is gay. His family is wealthy, so they paid a bribe to have him released, and paid a people smuggler to get him out of the region.
      I’m interested in where you believe the nearest ‘safe place’ is for someone like my friend. He can never return to a strict Muslim country. He could not stay in Indonesia, as Indonesia does not accept refugees, and they can be gaoled if discovered there. Where do you suggest he should have gone?
      If you look into the events leading up to the riot on Manus Island, you will find that just before the riot, the asylum seekers detained had been told that they had no chance of being settled anywhere but PNG. Many have been waiting for any sort of processing of their claims, since 2012. Other riots in other detention centres have occurred in similar circumstances. I’m interested in what would be your response to being detained for years, without having committed a crime, and being told that there was no hope of any reasonable future for you, even when someone eventually gets around to processing your claim.
      Perhaps you should take the time to meet some of the ‘bleeding hearts who contribute little to society’. You will find that among those who are lobbying the government for changes to asylum seeker policies are doctors, lawyers, community service workers, teachers, business owners, psychologists, engineers, retail workers and tradespeople.
      You might also like to do some more research into these things. The links I have provided throughout the open letter, might be helpful for this.

      • A wonderful, measured, balanced response to someone clearly trying to cause trouble. Well done!

      • Thank you both for your masterful open letter and your response to a comment above. Your use of reason and your commitment to compassion are brilliantly expressed in both. There is just one part of what Paul says that I personally wish to respond to – use of the phrase “anti-government agitation”.

        My impression was that exercising the right to express an opinion critical of our government was one of the things that made Australia a worthwhile society in which to live. Suddenly however critics of our current asylum seeker policy are “bleeding hearts” and agitators, as if having a heart was a defect, as if thinking for yourself was a crime, and as if scrutinizing a government that has to face regular elections was a dereliction of civic duty. In coming weeks and months we will have to be very skeptical of these efforts to twist words and meanings.

      • I am so deeply moved and impressed by this letter. Thank you for maintaining a calm and peaceful tone in spite of the inevitable attacks from the frightened ignorant. It is only by responding with compassion like yours that there is any hope of enlightening closed minds. I fear that Scott Morrison’s mind might be a sealed tomb. It is interesting that, just as Morrison trumpets the name of his hero,so too Kevin Rudd managed to deeply impress me with his talk of allegiance to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. How tragically mislead was I when I voted for him in 2007.

    • oh PaulD please quantify your likely responses and perhaps qualify your statements with factual evidence.

    • Further to what has already been written Paul D; this issue should not be political, it should be humanitarian. We, as Australians are signatories to all the conventions and Covenants listed here. Our elected representatives sign on our behalf.
      You stereotype “bleeding hearts” as contributing nothing to society and that we have a crisis in paying for welfare. Both would indicate that you should perhaps research further than a Murdoch publication or a morning shock jock radio program.

      These people in detention have not rioted because they believe they have not been given enough. Again, a broader reading of the situation would reveal that they have been given no hope by a government policy that is harsh, unfair, cruel and inhumane. I am proud to be called a “leftie” or “bleeding heart” . I feel sympathy for you feeling as you do that refugees are a burden and not deserving of our compassion. Reducing their plight to purely economic terms is absurd. The amounts of money being spent turning back boats and housing these people in indefinite detention would be far outweigh the costs of helping them become contributing members who are able to seek safe haven in our country.

      • Research shows that it costs Australians $500,000 per annum per asylum seeker in those concentration camps.

    • Paul D. What a sad, cruel world you would have us live in. I am one of your ‘bleeding hearts’ and you’d better be thankful that I am, because I am one of those ‘bleeding heart’ nurses who sits with dying patients, tends to the elderly in need, feels empathy for my patients in their time of fear and pain. How dare you tell us we don’t contribute to society. You had better hope that there is a bleeding heart around when you need help or your grandma or your child. Without us bleeding hearts we wouldn’t even have a society, we would have the law of the jungle.

    • Some “bleeding hearts” actually get out there and work with asylum seekers and refugees – they put actions to their words. Not only that, but it is the “bleeding hearts” who see the issues within our country and in the wider global village and put their lives and their money behind their words to bring change to vulnerable and marginalised people wherever they are found.

  8. An articulate and emotionally intelligent piece. Thank you for writing it and thank you for sharing it. Know that you are not alone in your quest to see justice and equity for the masses that need our nurture and protection. I commend you and commend this article to those who have been misdirected by government subterfuge.

  9. Pingback: Dear Mr Morrison (an open letter to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) | Call and Response

  10. Pingback: I Wish I’d Said That (and I’m glad someone else did) | Every Thought Captive

  11. Thank you for your wonderful letter. It is an intelligent and well considered response and I only wish that those in government could have some of your humanity. I am ashamed of our government.

  12. A brilliantly written letter. This would make a great petition on change.org or similar – somewhere where people who agree with it can sign their name to your words.

  13. Thank you deeply for articulating with knowledge of our international obligations. I am ashamed that a brother in Christ has so changed his maiden speech for treacherous and ugly speech showing no compassion or willingness to be vulnerable when found to be lacking in wisdom. God help us as a nation, if we are treated as we are treating the vulnerable. As one who has lived with Afghan refugees in their bomb-scarred village; and known the daily heart-ache of yet another neighbour, another friend’s husband and father who will not be coming home; for some standing at a school-friend’s grave in the dark hours seeing his body lifted down and buried. Who can comprehend the tears? Of course they go into debt to see just one of their sons or daughters escape such tyranny and find a place on a leaky boat with hope of reaching a safe shore. How can we stand in judgement and know one day we will be judged, not only individually but as a nation. God have mercy!
    Thank you again for your bold eloquence! I am grateful for you. I will pray.

  14. Thank you – I was absolutely caught by the eloquence and argument of your letter to Morrison, and would love to see it printed as a full page spread in the daily national papers. You have put together sound and valid responses to the sophistry peddled by the LNP Government and the hard right. And thank you for your measured response to Paul whose comments about “true refugees’ clearly show how the rhetoric based on ‘illegals’ and ‘sovereignty’ continues to divide and work its cruelty.

    Like many I am absolutely ashamed of both the current LNP and and past Labor strategies against people seeking refuge here. When it becomes so overwhelming from a citizen perspective, how can we possibly imagine the torment and and terror that is being experienced in detention? no crime committed, no charges laid, no right to put one’s argument or be heard, no avenue of appeal, no sanity whatsoever.

    The only answer is for many many more to stand up and be heard – Not In Our Name – and force change to take place. While I have no religious faith myself, your writing provides great clarity and hope for pushing social justice values against government and establishment interests that are more and more often fuelled by dogma, distrust, fallacy and fear, not to mention the big dollars being pocketed by the Contract companies.

    Thanks again – so pleased I came across your blog.

  15. Thank you for this eminently reasonable, courteous and factual letter. With surgical precision it dissects the corpse of the government’s current policy and actions, and displays all the pathology neatly on the slab. I doubt the corpse will speak, however please don’t cease your letter writing. An honest answer to an honest question is the least we should expect in our democracy.

  16. I so want this latest letter to become the basis for a petition to Parliament. It is clear and eloquent. Thank you. Would you consider a petition – there must be thousands of Australians who would support it. Let politicians be in no doubt, this is one of our darkest hours if we, the people remain silent.

    • Thanks Rob. WA State Senator, Darren West, has commented that he will read it in WA Parliament. Inspired by that, I have sent it to some Federal Senators. I think that sharing this letter as widely as possible, and bringing it to the attention of your local MPs and Senators (State and Federal), could possibly work even more effectively than a petition.

  17. Thank you so much for this articulate and well notated letter. I, as a Christian, have felt deeply ashamed that Abbott, Hockey and Morrison all claim to be Christians, and yet all seek to ratify legislation that will hurt the vulnerable – people and environment. There are times when I feel full of fury, and others when I am reduced to tears, because I feel so helpless.

    I hope that now, following the riot on Manus Island, any international lawbreaking will be followed up by those in authority. This will forever be Australia’s shame.

  18. Nicely written, I can see you have put some thought into this. I do note that you refer to people who have been in detention since 2012, this would have been under the previous government. I was wondering if wouldn’t mind posting, or linking to, the previous letters you wrote to the then ministers? Perhaps the letters you wrote to the PM when he was negotiating his deal to send arrivals to Malaysia, itself not a signatory at the time. I also imagine you wrote similar heart felt letters when the previous government reopened the Manus island facility, you know to cope with all the people their policy changes had lured over.
    You say you have a friend who sought refuge from his homeland in the middle-east, do you honestly believe that there are no countries between the middle-east and Australia where they would be safe? There are people in detention who have travelled from the other side of the world, by-passing signatory countries on the way, to arrive in Australia as they have been told they will be settled. But to arrive with no documentation as to who you are (again crossing half the world without documentation, maybe ASIO should hire them as they seem adept at crossing through countries without being detected.), there really is no choice but to detain them until that can be determined. If this process takes a long time then so be it, no-one is trying to hurt these people anymore, they have shelter, food and drink and medical attention when they need it for no cost what-so-ever. Indeed, all they have to do is assist authorities with their enquiries. If I was truly seeking asylum I would do whatever I could to assist those from whom I am asking assistance from. To even consider rioting would be out of the question, why would I try to make things difficult for people who are trying to help me?
    The Australian populace has many questions and concerns with the actions of these ‘illegal arrivals’, and please note, while their reason for arriving may not be considered illegal under international ‘law’ their method of arrival is. Yes, people arrive by plane requesting asylum, but guess what, they have documentation and have arrived via legal means. In addition, we know a lot about them and can process them quickly. Why? Because they still have documentation that tells us who they are.
    Half my family are refugees, they left their homes and families behind due to war. They stayed in refugee camps and were eventually resettled in Australia. And you know what? They were grateful for the assistance that was provided to them. They worked hard in there new home to repay Australia for it’s kindness in taking them in. They didn’t start riots, burn buildings or attack any one because they weren’t getting their way. They knew they had been forced from their homes but that the government agencies involved in resettling them were trying to help so they did their best to assist in any way they could. And I’m sorry, but all I see these days of people in detention centres are people who are angry because they have been detained trying to enter another country without permission and with no information as to who they are. They are given what they need to survive for free, there is nothing they need to do but wait, but that is not good enough.
    This is getting long enough so I will finish up. Before I do, you mentioned the lead up to the riots to a previous comment. You say that these people have been advised that they have “no hope of any reasonable future” as they would be resettled on PNG. Why would PNG be a cause for “no hope of any reasonable future”? The country is willing to take them and provide a future for them. I imagine, once resettled, these people will be able to find work and create new lives for themselves. And yet, as it seems is the normal response these days, the fact that someone is willing to look after them is not enough, they want everything. Well I’m sorry but they are being given the same chance that every one else has been given; a safe place to live where a life can be built. If this is not good enough, then there is always the offer that they can return to their countries of origin (an offer which I understand has been taken up by people so you have to wonder what they were fleeing from in the first place).
    As a final point, with over 1,200 people having died since the previous government made their changes to Australia’s border policies I am not one shred sorry about the changes that have been recently made. No boat arrivals for 70+ days now means no one has drowned trying to get here.

    • Hi TW, It will be difficult to reply to all your concerns, without writing another complete blog. Therefore, I will condense my response into dot points:
      – I am ashamed to admit that I have only become involved in campaigning for humane treatment of asylum seekers in recent years. This came about from living in a regional centre which had a large refugee resettlement program. I had friends and colleagues there who were refugees, and as I heard their stories, I began to research information on the issues. Until then, I was naively believing that the government was acting according to international law and best practice. You can be assured that I did, however, write to Labor MPs regarding the reopening of Manus Island.
      – You rightly point out that the Labor government policies were not adequate either. Since then, there has been a continued downward spiral with people called “illegal maritime arrivals”, individuals being referred to by boat numbers instead of names, the denial of family reunification and permanent settlement, codes of conduct which will have people re-detained for being discourteous….I could go on….but this is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.
      – If someone is fleeing conflict or persecution in a place like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the nations in the area which have signed the UN Refugee Convention are Egypt, Israel, Iran and Yemen, but refugees will face further conflict, political unrest and religious persecution. China has no national asylum legislation, and refugees would be subject to communism. India is not a signatory and has extreme levels of poverty. Many refugees have made their way to Sri Lanka, but many people are fleeing from there as well. Indonesia and Malaysia are not signatories. Therefore, people travel north to Europe, or south to Australia.
      – As Julian Burnside has pointed out, Muslim people can often move between Muslim countries without documentation.
      – From the Australian Parliament website: “Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels. Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an Australian Embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk.” http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/AsylumFacts#_Toc348096466
      – I doubt those who were liberated from Auschwitz had identification documents.
      – Once your relatives reached Australian immigration detention, if it applied to them, I am sure they would have each been supplied with more than 500mls of drinking water per day, which was not the case on Manus Island when Amnesty International investigated there. I’m sure they also would have been informed about the progress of their resettlement arrangements, not held indefinitely and arbitrarily without information.
      – PNG is ranked at number 156 in the International Human Development Index. It has an infant mortality rate 12 times the rate of Australia, and severe levels of sexual violence and physical abuse of women. There is one doctor per 17,000 people. Homosexuality is considered a crime.
      – The boats have not stopped attempting to arrive. They have been intercepted and redirected.

      • Thank you for your reply. I will admit, it’s refreshing to see that your reply did not dismiss my points out of hand and attempt to “preach from on high”. I have seen this happen on many sites where normal replies will just attempt to belittle instead of addressing points. I try to approach things in a logical way, attempting to avoid the emotional when possible, and I try to research as much as I can. Your links can only serve to increase subject matter knowledge, although I will admit to a dislike of Burnside but that tends to be more that he seems like a ‘preacher’ from what I have read and heard.
        I’m sure we can agree that this is a very large and complex issue and that, unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world.
        I find this hard to put into words but I will try. One of my main concerns regarding these arrivals is who are they? You see stories time and time again where people have committed crimes, served their time without fuss, and then tried to live their lives again, yet they are hounded by others due to their past actions ie we don’t want so-and-so in our neighbourhood (a good example is the two boys in England many years ago who killed the younger boy, their names escape me at the moment. When they were released, they were given new identities to hide their past and allow them to make new lives). Now I’m not saying that all these arrivals are criminals who should not be allowed in but we just don’t know. I find it puzzling that the same people who wont allow say a sex offender to live in their neighbourhood are also the same people who say we should allow these arrivals in without checks. We check the criminal history of people arriving in the country with valid passports and visa’s so why not these people? Having said that, I don’t really think you would have that many ‘questionable’ people trying to enter a country that way but is a little inconvenience for some people too much to ask for some assurance?
        As for who they really are, the recent death of Reza Barati has had family tell of a man who, unable to find work in Iran, had “set out for Australia hoping to further his architectural studies. (Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/someones-son-someones-brother-reza-barati-an-architect-who-had-hopes-for-a-better-life-20140228-33r4n.html#ixzz2uoYxgm00 ). Now I don’t know if there is anything more to why he felt the need to travel to Australia as a refugee, but from what has been reported would this not make him an ‘illegal immigrant’ and not a refugee?
        As for the running of the Manus centre, it is my understanding that the Coalition has been in the process, for the past 2-3 weeks I believe, of changing the group running the centre. How much difference this will make to the checks and processing, time will tell.
        I find myself going on again so I will end this here (would you believe that I am considered the quiet and concise one of my family?!)

      • Thanks TW. I’m always happy to engage in respectful discussion with people who have varying views. There is no place for belittling and name calling.
        You’ve raised two interesting concerns.
        1. I’m certainly not advocating for no form of detention at all, and I doubt that many who support humane policies would. Yes, checks have to be done before people are allowed to move into the community. Other developed countries are able to do this within a much shorter period; some inside six weeks. The UN ordered some time ago that Australia’s processing time should be reduced. It has actually increased since that report.
        2. I saw that article on Reza Berati, too. There will always be some who do not have genuine claims for refuge, but the Immigration Department reports a consistent rate of around 90% of people arriving by boat being granted refugee status, since 2008. Was Reza’s case genuine? Sadly, we will never know. He had waited on Manus since August without anything being done to determine his status. It is likely that Reza’s family and friends would not publicly state anything about reasons of politics or persecution in regard to his attempt to reach Australia. There could well be serious repercussions for them if they did.
        What I do know, is that Reza did not deserve to be held without charge or information, in conditions which have been found to be completely inadequate, and then be beaten to death. No-one does. We don’t allow that for Australia’s worst criminals.

    • Hi TW, it baffles me how someone can read this original post & still defer to the populist declarations of this government (& the previous one too). It is clear that this is more than a political issue & that it is in need of a humanitarian solution. I am just hoping that enough people will agitate for accountability of any Australian Government to maintain a compassionate, legal & humane approach to the treatment of people seeking asylum here (or anywhere in the world for that matter).

      Your understanding of this very complex social problem is simplistic & I am not the person to counter your assertions. All I have is my own observation to your last point that no boats have arrived for over 70 days. How is this a solution? All this does is push the sinking boats full of desperate people back over the border where their fate is harder to investigate. All this does is to keep people on-shore with unrecognised status at risk of gaol, exploitation & worse. It may mean that they are not Australia’s ‘problem’ but it certainly does not mean that no one has drowned or put their lives at risk trying to get here.

    • After reading your piece I can only conclude that, while you may have read the letter by speakupforthose, I really don’t think you have fully comprehended the true gist of the letter & you certainly haven’t explored all the links contained within the article.

    • * Should there be background/identity checks on asylum seekers? Absolutely.
      * Should they take 5+ years to complete? Absolutely not. This is completely unacceptable.
      * Should people be provided with information and updates on how their request for asylum is progressing? Of course.
      * Should people be subjected to inhumane conditions while they wait for their request to be processed? Of course not.

      Surely it’s as simple as “Do unto others …”. How would you feel in their situation? Would 5+ years incarceration (for commiting no crime) in inhumane conditions pending processing of your application be reasonable treatment for you? No way! Why should it be acceptable treatment for any other human being?

  19. Pingback: Dear Mr Morrison (an open letter to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) | lmrh5

  20. This is a wonderful letter, articulate and well thought through. It is correct in every way and I applaud and admire its author. It would be so gratifying if it struck a chord somewhere in the Abbott Government but, sadly, I doubt that it will. Keep writing.

  21. Thank you for so eloquently writing this letter and for calling this horrid state of affairs for what it is. As a Christian I despair at the inhumane attitudes and treatment doled out by both our PM and Mr Morrison, two men who claim a faith in Jesus yet are seemingly unaffected by the compassion that he requests of his followers.

    In addition to your Matthew Quotation the Micah passage that where the prophet is asked what is that the Lord requires of me and the response is To do justice love kindness to look after the widow, the stranger and the orphan and to walk humbly before the Lord (my paraphrase) is also quite pertinent.

    Again thankyou.

  22. Thank you for speaking for those who cant speak for themselves. To think that these people, in fear for their lives and their families, risk everything they have to come here to what they pray will be a land of generosity and of hope, only to be turned away, vilified, persecuted and imprisoned! “Boundless plains to share..?”. unfortunately it would seem our political leaders dont think so. Keep speaking out and writing for as many years as it takes, good people stand behind you.

  23. This is amazing. Something is stirring in Australia… Courage? Hope? Possibly change? At one point I thought my husband and I were alone in how we view the injustice being done to Australia’s asylum seekers. Suddenly I feel like there is a wave rising, of people who have had enough, and who are offering their voices to speak for the voiceless. As you said, you have been doing this for a while. I just wish I found you before! Thank you for taking action and setting an example for us all. Please know, you are not just doing your part to get the attention of this nation’s leaders – you are also stirring things up in the hearts of others to follow suit.

    • Given the overwhelming response to this blog post, something is definitely stirring. As someone said to me recently, Reza Berati’s brutal killing on Manus Island is the Tampa of the Abbott era. People are finally starting to question what our government is doing.
      “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

      • Some people are saying Reza Berati’s was not a refugee because he was architect Iran, but he could have been gay and its the death penalty for that.

      • Yes, I saw a news story where a family friend of Reza Berati commented that he was a ‘social refugee’. You are correct when you say that men who are gay can face torture and execution in Iran. His Iranian family is not likely to make that sort of information public if it applied. Neither would they be likely to mention any political activism if he had been involved in that. There would be serious repercussions if they did. However, this is all speculation. We will never know if he had a genuine claim for asylum, because he was brutally killed before his application was processed. Even though Manus Island was re-opened in late 2012, not a single application had been processed at the time of Reza’s killing. Whatever his situation, genuine refugee or not, he did not deserve to be locked up indefinitely in conditions we wouldn’t accept for those who have committed Australia’s worst criminal offences. And he certainly did not deserve to be beaten to death.

  24. Thank for sharing your eloquent letter.

    I can only believe that Morrison was lying when he made his maiden speech as I find it incomprehensible that someone who truly follows the teachings of Jesus as he, and indeed most of the government front bench, claim to do, could treat fellow humans in such a shameful fashion.

    They have brought this country into disrepute with the international community and made us pariahs as well as being forever branded as cold uncaring abusers of disadvantaged people.

  25. Beautifully written. You express the thoughts and sentiments so many of us are feeling right now so eloquently. Thank you. I despair for the future of this once great country and the negative legacy that will be left behind on so many levels.

  26. Thank you for such a wonderful letter. So much of what is said and done by people who claim to be Christian is very far removed – and often diametrically opposite – to what I understand as the the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am not a Christian (or at least not in the religious sense) but it gladdens my heart to know that there are some genuine Christians left in our world. I clicked on the link to this letter with trepidation waiting to see a letter of hate posing as Christian – purely because it is the usual fare of the far-right wing “Christians” of America and elsewhere. I cried here both from the the moving and eloquent content but also relief and joy to see true Christianity is not lost.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that, Sinead! There is a quote I love: “The Christian Right is neither” 🙂
      “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Augustine of Hippo

  27. Very well written. I am pleased to mention you may not have to write to the minister for another 19 years though I would be prepared for another couple.

    • “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” (Thomas Jefferson)
      “Not this little black duck!” (Daffy Duck)

  28. Reblogged this on jennyrecorder and commented:
    No, Aussies are not all easygoing larrikins, some of us are appalled by our
    government and want changes to our policy on refugees. This post and it’s replies give those in the international community an opposing view of sun, sand and the “land of the long weekend”.
    Be warned, this is a loooong post and it goes into a lot of detail, but it illustrates the frustration a lot of us here feel in respect to our treatment of human beings from less peaceful places who come by boat to our country.

  29. It seems the difference of opinion is in the status of the people arriving. The Government seems to consider them illegal until proven asylum-seeker, whereas the opinion of yours and others is the opposite, asylum-seeker until proven otherwise (let’s not use ‘illegal’). What are the actual statistics on the true status of the people arriving by these means?

    So any person arriving by sea with the claim to be seeking asylum should be given a case number and promptly settled in the community? If not (and I hope not) how is it possible to deal with humanitarian disasters without the use of camps of some description? This certainly seems to be how these situations play out in other parts of the world.

    Whilst I don’t completely agree with the Government’s response to this difficult problem, I often wonder what the mechanics would be of the alternative, “humane” solution people fight for.

    • Hi Anthony. Thanks for your questions.

      A Department of Immigration and Border Protection document sets out the figures of asylum seekers who have been granted protection visas at the end of the assessment process. In 2008/9 100% of applicants were granted protection. In 2009/10 it was 98.8%. In 2010/11 it was 95.3%. In 2011/12 it was 91.3% and in 2012/13 it was 88%. That gives an average of over 90% for those years. See page 30 on this link to the publication: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/immigration-update/asylum-trends-aus-2012-13.pdf

      I am certainly not advocating, and doubt many are, for immediate community settlement. Of course there are checks and balances which need to be done to ensure that someone is not a security risk and is not carrying a dangerous disease into the country. Other developed countries can accomplish this in the fraction of the time Australia does. Many countries manage it within weeks.

      A humane solution would be to carry out this initial detention period onshore, with sufficient drinking water, shade, air conditioning, sewerage, welfare services etc (unlike Manus Island and Nauru). It would keep asylum seekers informed of the progress of their applications and the amount of time they will be held. Once cleared as being ‘safe’, they could move into the community and participate in the fullness of community life, while their claims for protection are processed. Offshore detention, will all its failings, cost Australia $500,000 per asylum seeker in 2013. We can do far better, for far less expense.

  30. your letter expressed so clearly many of the thoughts i have had about this issue. Most of all it was a compassionate and logical rebuttal of the government’s policies without any name calling or other vituperative one liners.
    Thank you

  31. What a wonderful letter about a tragic situation. As it is an open letter, I hope that you are OK for me to read this out in the WA Parliament.

    • Thank you Darren, and YES! I am certainly happy for it to be read out in the WA Parliament! Thank you. I am about to email it to Mr Morrison’s office. I’ll be pleased to be able to tell him that it has been read over 12,500 times in under three days.

  32. It is heartening to read such a well researched, reasoned and articulate letter that focuses so clearly on the issues at the heart of this very complex matter. The fact that so many thoughtful others are supportive, as shown by their compassionate responses, indicates that not all Australians are heartless and wish our government to act justly and humanely . It is highly regrettable that there are still those who base their opinions on misinformation and prejudice.

  33. An extraordinary original post. Congratulations for the thorough and measured analysis of the political, humanitarian and personal dimensions of this issue.

  34. We all suffer from a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Sadly and unfortunately, a great many of those who enter politics suffer from an excess of cognitive dissonance as evidenced by their ability to say one thing and mean something else entirely. I don’t wish to accuse them of hypocrisy en masse – it seems rather that they are able to compartmentalize their minds so that they utter words such as those by Mr Morrison in his maiden speech and yet, while still being convinced that those are guiding principles, to act in a totally contrary way. This appears to be a psychological asset for entry into politics as is there seeming need to order people about while expecting those same people to love them for it, a relationship that appears to work well for many. Previous Australian governments, going right back to the later 19th century and the days of the “Yellow Peril,” have not been averse to playing the “Other” threat card but this present government seems to have arrived at the paradoxical position of having honed a blunt instrument, illegal detention, to an ever finer edge. If it wasn’t such a repugnant thought one could almost wish them to be absolutely true to themselves and order the Australian Navy to blow these “invaders” to pieces as soon as they entered Australian Territorial waters, something which some Australians would, no doubt, applaud, but that would be just rather too honest so instead the off-shore detention centre carpet has been constructed and the refugees have been swept under it…..

  35. If there was a means of having people contribute to the cost, this should be a full page ad in the major papers.

  36. This no-doubt sincere emotional drivel is the best argument I’ve seen so far for withdrawing from the UN Refugee Convention – it clearly makes no sense to encourage so-called asylum-seekers living safely in a neutral country far from their stated homelands (Many claim to be from Iran but cannot speak the local dialects) with immense wealth for the area (US$10K for each person taken to sea by people smugglers is 20 years salary for an Afghan worker) to leave their safe haven and risk drowning at sea. Let them fly here as tourists and overstay – I have no problem with that.
    I have a huge problem with leftist diatribes laced with insults labelling the minister “cruel and inhumane” and advocating a return to the “Drown at Sea” policy that even the Fabian Julia Gillard eventually discarded on humanitarian grounds. You reveal yourself to be fixated on UN laws which are non-binding on Sovereign Countries (and must remain so lest the UN become an empire of evil such as the world has not yet seen) while ignoring Australian Law, which says illegal entry by Sea is just that: Illegal.
    The UN would do better to concentrate on Regime Change in Countries which generate refugees in the first place. The UNHCR does the World a disservice by condoning the outflow of refugees from despotic regimes: this should properly be regarded as an act of war by that regime against its neighbours and dealt with by military action.

    The method of entry is illegal even if they are true refugees from their country of birth – they are not refugees from the country where they embarked on the people-smuggler’s vessel. If they can pay $10K for a ticket on the death boats, why not pay $1500 for an airline ticket? Many fly into Indonesia destroy their documentation, them embark with no ID on the boats. It is not unreasonable to wonder why they need a new, fabricated persona to enter Australia on.
    Nor should we forget the legal asylum seekers rotting in camps around the world, whom we cannot take because the illegals have swamped our processing capacity. A Christian approach would be to take them first, reward the good refugees for their patience and compliance with due process.
    Allowing the rich, law-breaking, undocumented boat people to take their place in the queue is just wrong, even before we consider the 1200 queue jumpers who died at sea under Labour’s enlightened refugee policy.
    The right action is not always easy to see, and mis-quoting from the Bible can be used to support any argument. The current government policy is the lesser of two evils: it is clear that it is working, and that is what rankles most with the Left.

    • Hi Al. I have joined your two comments into one, as you raise some of the same issues twice.
      – First of all, I must say that I was a bit taken aback by the level of anger which is apparent in your comments. I was also surprised to see comments about my letter being ‘laced with insults labelling the minister “cruel and inhumane”. I am not one for insults, so at no stage did I deliver any insults, or call the Minister himself cruel and inhumane. I stated that the policies of his department are cruel and inhumane. I am happy, however, to discuss the points you raise despite the fact that you are one to use insults (given your opening line).
      – I’m not sure what ‘living safely in a neutral country’ means. Asylum seekers cannot live safely in Indonesia. There is no avenue for settlement there, and refugees can be gaoled if discovered.
      – Saving people from drowning at sea serves no purpose, if they are going to be tortured or executed on their return to political persecution; feel such despair from indefinite, arbitrary detention that they take their own lives; or if they are beaten to death while under the care and supervision of the Australian Government on Manus Island. There has to be a better way.
      – The Department of Immigration and Border Protection reports a consistent rate of around 90% of people arriving by boat being granted refugee status, since 2008. (http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/immigration-update/asylum-trends-aus-2012-13.pdf Page 30)
      – The LNP is certainly not solely to blame for our current treatment of asylum seekers. The most recent Federal election campaign period dissolved into a competition to see who could deliver the most inhumane policies.
      – The idea of a world-wide queue which people must join in order to seek asylum in an orderly manner, is a myth. The process for seeking asylum is to leave the country you are in, and go to another one to ask for protection. That is exactly what people are doing, whether it be in Tanzania, Jordon, Malta or Australia. It seems that many people are happy for refugees to queue up anywhere but here.
      – Your questions about identity documents are a question which I had, until I read an article by a journalist who posed as an asylum seeker and made the journey by boat to investigate, first hand, what happens. The people had their passports with them, but were told by the people smugglers to destroy them as they got close to Christmas Island. The smugglers had told them that they wouldn’t be able to be deported from Australia without them. Desperate people are often willing to believe anything. Here is the link to the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/magazine/the-impossible-refugee-boat-lift-to-christmas-island.html?_r=0
      – People often do not fly because they would have to present themselves and their passports at an airport. If you are fleeing political persecution, you will hardly want to draw attention to yourself like that. I have a friend who had his passport confiscated on the day he was handed an order to a attend a high court which hands out executions. Flying was not an option for him.
      – As much as you would like it to be, it is not illegal to enter a UN Convention signatory country in order to seek asylum. The Australian Parliament website verifies this: “Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels. Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an Australian Embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk.” http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/AsylumFacts#_Toc348096466
      – I am interested in your belief that the policies are working. Mr Morrison is reporting that there have been a reduced number of boat arrivals since these policies have been put in place. The problem is in what he is not reporting. The boats are still attempting to arrive; they are just being intercepted. If this was not the case, the Australian Government would not have had to spend large amounts of money on orange, unsinkable life boats in which people are returned to Indonesia.
      – There are some things we agree on. We could take far more people from the displaced persons camps around the world. Australia is ranked at number two on the International Human Development Index, but only takes a fraction of the world’s refugees (Our refugee intake has been reduced by the current government by 6,250 places to 13,750 per year). I also agree that global solutions need to be found to reduce the ‘push factors’ for people fleeing in the first place. The $500,000 per asylum seeker spent on off-shore detention in 2013 would have been far better spent on peaceful measures to improve situations in countries with unrest.
      – Lastly, I must say that I find it quite ironic that, on one hand, you resent UN Conventions and Covenants, but on the other, you condemn regimes which do not adhere to a code of human rights…..

    • Hi again Al,
      Given that I have already published several of your comments, and that the recent comments you have submitted continue to use terms such as ‘illegals’, ‘back door’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘organised crime figures’ (despite the information I have supplied you with) and that you call people who raise concerns about government policy ‘Anti-Coalition trolls’, I won’t be publishing any more of your comments. I want to assure you that I have not allowed comments from others who actually agree with my opinions, because they have expressed their views in a similarly inappropriate manner.
      As you seem to have more comments to make every few days, I would suggest that you might like to start your own blog page, rather than taking up so much comment space here. I am heartened by the fact that you are following this article so closely, though. I have obviously stirred you to think through the issues. I enjoy robust debate where it remains respectful. All the very best with your continued research.
      Linda

  37. We have been silent too long. The time has come to demonstrate on Parliament House in front of the media and the world. This inhumane treatment of these vulnerable people and their children must stop now . We must demonstrate in all of our capital cities.

    • There are protests in most capital cities over the weekend of March 15 – 17, protesting a number of policies of the Abbott Government. There will be asylum seeker policy protest contingents at these. There are also asylum seeker advocacy groups across Australia, which hold regular rallies, protests and events. Add your voice.

  38. Pingback: Letter to Scott Morrison | mrjmorgan2014

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