• Australia’s dirty secret – the refugee crisis

    The Border Force Act (2015-17) in Australia prevents workers in refugee/asylum-seeker camps from reporting facts on conditions, etc. It is, in fact, a criminal offence. I was a teacher in a detention centre for asylum seekers in 2013 and I will not be silenced.

    There are three types of refugees in Australia — those who arrive through the ’proper channels,’ those who arrive by plane without visas and finally those who come by boat.  The government continuously supports the policy of turning the boats away and indeed, since they have been doing this, the number of asylum seekers by boat has diminished.  But what of those who have already arrived? They have been incarcerated in detention camps. Men, women and children. Australia believes in off shore processing for these people. This means that the would-be immigrants are sent to Nauru or Manus Island while they wait for their visas to come through or to at least hear of their refugee status. The camps are not refugee camps as one might expect but are centres of incarceration, with families being split up and even children and mothers being detained.

    Manus and Nauru Islands (Copyright The Centre for Research on Globalization https://www.globalresearch.ca/papua-new-guinea-calls-for-closing-australias-illegal-manus-islands-detention-centre/5522412)

    As far back as 2004, when the National Enquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was written, the deprivation of inmates was deemed as unacceptable. What do we really know in Australia with this gag order in place? We know that the children on Nauru have been subject to the same mental traumas as the adults and have less resources, personal or otherwise to maintain sanity and avoid post traumatic stress disorder. The mandatory imprisonment of refugee children contravenes the Convention on the Rights of a Child to which Australia is a signatory.

    And if that wasn’t bad enough, Australia has formally withdrawn from some centres leaving asylum seekers under the control of other governments without medical resources, without basic supplies, decent access to water, still incarcerated and in danger of being seriously assaulted by the guards. Their being sent to other countries means that Australia set up the detention centres and then withdrew. Withdrew guards, medical supplies and facilities, leaving the asylum seekers at the mercy of the other governments who now have to take responsibility for them.

    Manus Detention Centre — Copyright Behrouz Boochani

    Some of the men have been waiting for 6 years to hear about their claims, and if it wasn’t for Twitter, we just wouldn’t have the feed for information.  Suicides are a regular occurrence as is self-harm, hunger-striking and violence.  Six years in incarceration without being a criminal. Those whose only crime is to get on a boat and with their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers, try to get to a safe place where they can start a new and productive life.  There is a thought in Australia that if we let them in, they would take our jobs, but many are highly skilled and trained and would slip into society easily. Well, before the trauma they have been subjected to. We have housing and empty towns that could be repopulated while processing takes place and yet – on Manus, the locals don’t want them in and they are subject to tribal attacks as well as the poor conditions in which they live.

    A Kurdish journalist, Behrouz Boochani, escaped from Iran and fled until he managed to secure ocean passage for himself to Australia. It is now his 6th year on Manus Island and via twitter @BehrouzBoochani documents the happenings and circumstances.  He texted his novel “No Friend But the Mountains” by phone which chronicles his escape, journey and finally conditions in Manus Island.  It is a heartbreaking account. It is also, ironically,  shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s 2018 Literary Award and was the best-selling book at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2018.  Without asylum seekers like Behrouz Tweeting and Facebooking their daily horrors, we just wouldn’t know what is going on.

    Copyright PICADOR, Pan Macmillan Australia

    How long will these refugees remain captive? When will all the children be released into the community? When will families not be separated? When will the judgements of the processing of claims be announced or are these people destined to an indefinite incarceration in disgusting conditions?

    Twitter: Torture means six years of having nothing to do but staring at a wall, thinking about your destiny, listening to a killing silence and watching how slowly life disappears in front of your eyes. Torture means being condemned to an indefinite wait. The reality of Manus & Nauru.

    Twitter: When we talk about torture, we mean enduring the pain of imprisonment without committing a crime. A punishment without trial, an indefinite punishment. Means condemned to suffer like Sisyphus. I wish I was taken to the court first.

    @BehrouzBoochani January 9th 2019

    If they are imprisoned as criminals, then where are the court hearings?  When I worked at the detention centre, it was an unspoken rule of thumb that if an asylum seeker came by boat, they would not be allowed to stay on Australian soil (or be transferred to New Zealand despite the offer of NZ government), regardless of their claim.  What is Australia doing? Breaking the spirits and bodies of men, women and children who are for the most part, genuine refugees and need to start over, escape from war, persecution and danger.

    We cannot overestimate the mental illness Australia has caused in its detainees.  It offers next to no intervention for mental health issues and once again, over the Christmas period, three men had to be hospitalised from suicide attempts and self-harm.   Even children are contemplating suicide and are in deep despair.

    My ultimate questions are these: US immigration policy – will it too incarcerate refugees instead of attending to their needs? Will more children die on the borders? Donald Trump has hailed Australia as having a great immigration policy. I suggest that we all open our eyes to the truth of offshore processing and what it means for the refugees/asylum seekers and put pressure on our respective governments for change.

      • Beth Kozan

      • January 19, 2019 at 6:58 pm
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      Wow! I had no idea!

      • Greg

      • January 19, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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      Wow , makes me want yo help them

      • Lisa Shaw

      • January 19, 2019 at 7:55 pm
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      Having lived in PNG for a few years, this article resonates to my soul. The conditions are far worse than you could possibly imagine. We have empty buildings and land and housing in Australia and plenty of each where people could try and live a normal life so why are we treating fellow humans this way. Imprisoning people who are fleeing war and abuse and then instead of offering them help and shelter and food we detain them in a camp that is unhygienic with limited fresh water and plumbing, let alone the dangers of serious illness from the mosquitoes and the lack of food the island already had to deal with even before these people were sent there. The Australian funding is huge. It would cost us less money to have them here, give them support. Both Manus Island and Nauru are not suitable. Nauru is not self sufficient and neither is Manus Island, like many Pacific Islands, they rely on imported food being transported by sea.
      Australia has let these people down and needs to correct it.
      Awesome work Jane Nash

      • thank you Lisa for taking the time to discuss the conditions further. I appreciate your post

      • LeeD

      • January 19, 2019 at 8:33 pm
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      Well written expose’ of this barbaric practice.
      Where is the UN and the International court?

      Shame Australia Shame.

      • KayCee

      • January 19, 2019 at 8:54 pm
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      Excellent article, looking foward to your future work.

    • Treatment is certainly inhuman, reminds me of the two times I had gun put up to my head at European borders. Not a lot of fun. Entering a country illegally often puts one at risk…

      • Lisa Livingston

      • January 19, 2019 at 10:11 pm
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      I suspect Australia’s shameful policies regarding and treatment of refugees will one day lead to their architects being charged with crimes against humanity. This is a terrible stain on the conscience of all Australians who support such inhumanity. When will we learn?

      • Klara

      • January 19, 2019 at 10:46 pm
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      I feel so helpless. We petition the government for improving conditions and speeding up processing. These people need to start new lives, or be somewhere safe until such time they can return. This is neither. When my parents fled Hungary in 1956 they were welcomed in Austria with dignity and offered another country to settle within weeks.

      • Darren Williams

      • January 19, 2019 at 11:56 pm
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      Great insight from someone who knows what they are talking about.I will also be checking out that book by Bayrouz Boochani.

    • Such an important and well written article which opens our eyes to the shocking inhumane treatment of both adult and children refugees taking place in Australia (and offshore). This needs to be shared widely to raise awareness of this heartbreaking situation.

      • Scott Williams

      • January 20, 2019 at 1:07 am
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      A fair justice for NONE. A disturbing reality for ALL that are involved. These people are really just that, people. The current actions taken place by the Australian Government to detain these refugees makes these innocent men, women and children, more so victims then they were first off. Victims to a relentless and cruel system, ran by so called ‘Aussies’. Where are the basic human rights practices? How is this in any way ‘Australian’? Who are the real criminals here? These are some of the many questions i ask myself as i read this article. Thank you for sharing. I respect and support your innovation to spread awareness, i will do my part and share this article on all of my existing social media platforms.

      • philip

      • January 20, 2019 at 1:47 am
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      I did not realise the situation was so dire. Thank you for writing it.

      • Maria

      • January 20, 2019 at 1:56 am
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      Thank you for this great article Jane. Very insightful indeed. So incredible stories and the ordeals endured

      • Rard Changizi

      • January 20, 2019 at 2:00 am
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      Well done Jane. Great article on a very sore subject. The Australian Government should hang their heads in shame for what they are and have been doing for so long. They contravene so many international agreements that they are boldly party to, and yet they continue to ignore the ever louder voices of the population of their own country. It is time they accept the fact that their devised policy was wrong and in humane. They need bring these people, men, women and children home to Australia, look after them and show them that we as Australians are an inclusive multicultural country that accepts and protects those that flee their home countries due to threats on their lives, their chosen religion, and are in fear of their lives. We offer understanding, safety and a new way of life.

      • Olympia Ellinas

      • January 20, 2019 at 2:16 am
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      An insightful account that asks important questions. I too will be buying this book as soon as I can. Thank you for writing the article.

      • Neil Kelliher

      • January 20, 2019 at 4:38 am
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      Ahh Australia.. a land where we arrived and essentially stole it from the Aboriginals but NO we take any people in need from any other Country now and we’ll treat them like criminals and animals .. SMH.

      Australia you are a disgrace!

      • Allison

      • January 20, 2019 at 5:23 am
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      Awareness of the problem is the first step to change…. thank you for sharing an insight into this corner of society we know little about. I welcome them to be part of the community until they are processed. I get annoyed with other Australians who believe they are the only ones who belong here because they were born here. The indigenous nation would disagree. My father immigrated here in the 50s because of the Chinese regime. His parents were fortunate enough to have some sort of economic backing.

      The problem with the refugee camp being offshore – it’s out of sight and out of mind… Maybe a tactic also …

      If it’s not in the face of the average Australian there isn’t an urgency to act.
      Writing this article and sharing it will get momentum behind an action.

      • Susan Hunter

      • January 20, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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      Australia should be internationally shamed, for their narrow and bigotted view on immigration. How are they conning the world into believing they have acceptable and even admirable humanitarian policies. I expect the world to think they anything Trump admires must be very wrong, but somehow when it comes to Australia the world is blind.
      Why are many Australians so afraid of people from other countries? They are all immigrants themselves? I fail to see how anyone would want to live in a country which is so out of step with the many countries in the western world which have civilised human rights legislation. Your article is hard-hitting and blindingly clear about what must be done but who is listening and what are the civilised and right-thinking moderate Australians doing about it. I lived and worked in South Africa during the heinous apartheid regime, some of us stood up against the inhuman policies and eventually we won. Who is standing up for this injustice in Australia? Don’t stop writing and shouting about this dreadful practice. There will be Doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers in those camps – doesn’t Australia need those professions. I know Europe does.

      • Thank you Susan for your reply – if you are interested there is a group called EYES on OFFSHORE which you can follow.

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • January 20, 2019 at 5:35 pm
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      Thank you so very much for writing this important piece.

      I understand the anthropological concept of “otherness” from when we were all tribal, but we by now should have grown past it. We tend to see European-based cultures as the zenith of xenophobia, but it’s pretty universal. The differing factor seems to be which one goes forth and invades other people’s lands and conquer, colonize and either literally or effectively enslave them versus those who just despise those who aren’t just like them. This is also not exclusively European — look at North Korean “comfort women” in Japan and North Koreans kidnapped and taken to Japan as laborers whose descendents still suffer terrible discrimination in Japan — but what does seem to dominate European-based systems is a hatred of the conquered that continues without rational basis for generations. The US is as vile as any in this formula and has been for centuries.

      We simply have to realize that there are NO human “others.” There’s no separation. When we hurt people, we are hurting ourselves. When we see each other’s human faces and when we finally put the wellbeing of all as equally important as our own — then we will be incapable of this depravity.

      • JNB

      • January 20, 2019 at 11:11 pm
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      A well written price which hopefully help will bring this devastating issue to the attention of the public.

      • Christine Philpott

      • January 21, 2019 at 10:14 am
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      I have found this powerful article both shocking & extremely sad . In Britain many people imagine Australia to be a land of opportunity, a place to have a healthy , outdoor life , among friendly folk . Not so it seems if you are an immigrant, even though many will have valuable skills that would benefit Australia. I hope this article will be widely read to raise awareness of these cruel & inhumane practices .

      • Shirley-Ann Rowley

      • January 22, 2019 at 12:35 am
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      I am aware of the situation from colleagues who have worked and lost thier jobs for whistleblowing on thier ‘workplace’ conditions and the expectations on them in the asylum context. Do you have a plan to provide updates to this story? I’d be interested to read them.

      • Thanks for your comment. I urge you to follow EYES ON OFFSHORE on Facebook as they are dedicated to updating the public to changes in this situation.

      • Lorraine

      • January 24, 2019 at 12:13 am
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      Thanks Jane – purchasing a copy of the book, sharing, and following!

      • Michele

      • January 24, 2019 at 8:43 am
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      The appalling treatment of these people innocent of any crime – but with a burning desire to better their lives should be widely condemned by other countries. The treatment of the children is totally unacceptable and will lead to incredible resentment towards their captors once they are free – an excellent way of fostering hatred. If the refugees were at least kept in family units that would relieve stress while their individual cases are decided. They are isolated from the entire world and are not kept current with the status of their applications which is cruel and unusual treatment! I suspect that no one at all is actively working on their cases – nothing has happened in months – nobody has been relocated and no humanity has been shown to them! There has to be an end to this for these people currently trapped in limbo! Maintain the strict rules for the future but solve the injustices being suffered by these refugees. They deserve a chance to prove themselves worthy of trust and to build a future. For goodness sake Australia is big enough!

      • Marita Hurst

      • January 28, 2019 at 2:04 am
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      Wow .what a sad sad situation. Thanx for sharing Jane .

      • marita Hurst

      • January 28, 2019 at 2:08 am
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      Wow . What a sad sad situation . Thanks for sharing Jane.

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