It’s Refugee Week.

It’s Refugee Week.

Despite my very happy life and the reasons I have each day to be incredibly joyful, there is a prevailing sadness in my soul which frequently bubbles to the surface, often without warning.

While I go about my happy life, there are innocent people and their beautiful children imprisoned indefinitely in appalling conditions, designed to punish them and to break their spirits.  My taxes are paying for it.

photo 4Yesterday, in Refugee Week, the Australian Labor Party voted to continue its support for offshore detention.   This is despite recent violence inflicted upon asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre in which one man was beaten to death, one had his throat slit, one had his eye gouged out and around 70 others sustained injuries.  This is despite reports of physical and sexual abuse of children by staff in the detention centre on Nauru.  This is despite inspection reports by Amnesty International and the UN which condemn the conditions in the centres as appalling and in breach of international human rights conventions.   This is despite the Labor Party declaring the following as one of its ‘Enduring Values’ in its National Platform:

“Labor is a party of human rights. Labor believes in a just and tolerant society that fully protects the rights and freedoms of all people in Australia.  Labor supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international treaties to which we are a signatory.”

It’s Refugee Week.

Today, in Refugee Week, the Australian High Court upheld the Federal Government’s constitutional right to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.   Laws in Nazi Germany also ensured that Hitler had a legal right to send people to concentration camps.  Courts only decide what the law says; they don’t enforce what is morally right.

It’s Refugee Week.

While I celebrate my daily joys, there are wonderful people held captive in our communities by statelessness, family separation, poverty and uncertainty.   Their lives are made so meaningless that they consider taking desperate measures, rather than persevering with lives in limbo here.

When a young friend spoke last week of contemplating voluntarily returning to face his persecutors, he smiled wistfully as he said he could take his chances in order to try to grow old with his brothers.  But his smile faded and he hung his head as he conceded, with pain in his voice, that he would not be safe on return.

Today in my home town, in Refugee Week, a Tamil man I’ve met, and whose friends describe as ‘extraordinarily honourable’, was buried.  In a moment of great despair, brought about by living in constant uncertainty and fear of being returned to Sri Lanka, he decided that setting himself on fire would bring an end to his suffering. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection refused to allow his family a visa to attend his funeral.

It’s Refugee Week, and it  breaks my heart that suicide or potential execution appear as better options than persevering with the wait for refugee status to be determined.

It’s Refugee Week, and these words, published in 2007, are shamefully as true today as they were the day they were written:

“A just society does not ignore the needs of the powerless, voiceless minority.  A just society does not turn its back on damaged human beings who ask for help.  A just society does not imprison innocent people…Our treatment of refugees, here and in Nauru and Manus Island, is a scandal that will haunt us for decades.  The human misery we have inflicted on thousands who have arrived looking for help is incalculable.  Our complete abdication of moral responsibility – leave aside our legal responsibility under international conventions – is reprehensible beyond words.”  (Julian Burnside, Watching Brief)

It’s Refugee Week.

 

 

3 thoughts on “It’s Refugee Week.

  1. The sheer cruelty of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison specifically is beyond comprehension. There are so many moral and spiritual reasons why asylum seekers and refugees should be treated with compassion, empathy, kindness and respect, attributes which our political leaders are lacking. The only outcome from this immoral act by our political parties will be hatred for all that is Australia, i.e. the Australian people, this beautifull country and ultimately the damage to us collectively as a nation which can never be repaired.

    Tony Abbott spruiks repeatedly only the usual rhetoric which is shallow, and he constantly displays in the public arena the fact that he lied, lies constantly and cannot be trusted, and appears to be trying to make a name for hmself, sadly he is, for all the wrong reasons.

    Bill Shorten had and has the opportunity to exercise compassion and reject off shore so called processing and return to processing here in Australia, here the appropriate authorities could assess the legalities and merits of each individual case for asylum, but no, Bill Shorten too showed his true colours, he also chose the path of least resistance instead of standing up against inhumane and unjust treatment of the asylum seekers.

    Up until recent times, Australia has been recognized globally as a nation who could always be depended on to help the oppressed, now Australia has become the oppressor.

  2. Pingback: It’s Refugee Week. | jennyrecorder

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