I actually started writing this post weeks ago, and I'm ashamed of myself that I never posted it. I'm ashamed of our Australian government for what they're doing to asylum seekers, and I'm ashamed that we accept it. I wish there were no refugees, because that would mean there were no wars or events that people had to escape with their lives from. But there are. It fills me with anger and sadness that people still feel the need to kill others, and for what? But it happens, and so there are refugees.
Hundreds of thousand Australians have been watching Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS (if you haven't seen it, watch online). Tonight's episode (aside from the reality-TV-esque side of it) was really shocking. It was set in Malaysia, where the Aus Government has proposed sending a bunch of asylum seekers who're currently imprisoned on Christmas Island. These asylum seekers that are being sent to Malaysia are probably genuine refugees. They also just happen to be part of a deal to 'deter people smugglers'. But is this the right thing to do? Will people smugglers be deterred by 47 children being sent to Malaysia so the Labor Party will look like it's tough on border security?
According to SBS Online:
"Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said at the weekend there could be no blanket ban on sending children to Malaysia as that would would send a message to people smugglers and asylum seekers that the way to reach Australia was to send children who could then sponsor the rest of the family."Seriously? Can a person with as much responsibility as Chris Bowen actually believe this is the right thing to do? “Australia will be sending children into an extremely vulnerable situation – especially girls,” said Amnesty International Australia's refugee spokesman Dr Graham Thom.
The United Nations has completed a review of Australia's refugee policies and practises and has called on Australia to reconsider mandatory detention. The government has rejected this request.
I could write more. I could tell you hundreds of thousands of words worth of facts about refugees, and about the psychological effect of prolonged mandatory detention (PDF file), I could retell stories from refugees, but I won't. Maybe just go watch Go Back To Where You Came From.
What can we do?
I am determined to not accept this any more. I hope you are also determined.
I've set up a list of letters & templates on my website over here.
The 'Malaysia Deal' to send asylum seekers from Australian controlled detention centres to Malaysia is dependent on receiving the approval of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. Email your pissed-off-ness to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a sample letter to the High Commissioner - edit away, but please email.
SAMPLE LETTER to the UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
Dear Antonio Guterres,
I urge you, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to veto the Australian Government's proposal to send asylum seekers from Australia and its facility at Christmas Island to Malaysia.
I believe these asylum seekers should be processed quickly & fairly in Australia, and that sending them to Malaysia is in breach of our human rights obligations as Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
Seeking asylum is not a crime, it is a right that all people should have.
(Find more people to email here.)