Recent meetings with the Department for Immigration and Citizenship have highlighted its lack of interest in the impact of the current policies on individuals, families and communities. Any capacity to change the current status quo by those seeking change is absent. Those working on behalf of individuals seeking asylum and refuge are a deeply disenfranchised sector of the community that has no voice. Its visibility in the media is matched by the complete and utter lack of integrity in the debate by those in power and their overwhelming intention to keep the current course of policy settings without shifting an iota.
There has been no visible sign of change, no visible acknowledgement of the need for change in spite of protests. Their chosen blindness to what is going on in the world and in our country, is arrogant and ignorant. It is yet another sign of the accepted rise of intolerance, hatred and alienation; of bigotry and violence, fear and the increasing erosion of democracy and the willingness to welcome. The rise in the sense of powerlessness by those to whom this is being done and those standing by helpless in the face of such fear, is a deep concern.
Submissions to the Senate Inquiry on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional processing cohort) Bill 2016 include one by Julian Burnside, AO QC (See Julian Burnside’s website) who writes:
The effect of the new provision [being proposed] is to “prevent unauthorised maritime arrivals (UMAs) who were at least 18 years of age and were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 from making a valid application for an Australian visa.”
Part of Julian Burnside’s submission says:
This measure, which is ostensibly intended to send a message to people smugglers would have been unthinkable in Australia 25 years ago. It can only be contemplated now because Australia has adopted a policy of undisguised cruelty to people who arrive here seeking protection. International opinion does not hold us in high esteem: we have distinguished ourselves as cruel and selfish. Australia’s suggested excuse for its harsh, deterrent policies is a pretended concern about refuges drowning, because of the indifference of the people smugglers. This is a plausible, but false, reason.
Julian Burnside points out in his Submission that people will die instead at the hands of their persecutors in their country of origin rather than drowning, nonetheless, they are still dead. When they still come in despair and hope, we send them to Nauru and Manus where they try to kill themselves, and some succeed. They are still dead. Those that don’t die immediately, we abuse and punish them unlawfully, and we seek to kill them mentally. They are still dead.
Shockingly, this new legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives. It is time for people of conscience to protest to all theirSenators asking them to reject this bill.
Julian Burnside reminds us:
The purpose of the Refugees Convention to which Australia is a signatory, was to spread the load of refugee movement so that the burden would not be born principally by countries adjacent to the source of refugees. By our increasingly harsh policies, which are explicitly intended to deter boat people, we are contradicting the central purpose of the Refugee Convention.
The fact that we have stirred up trouble and contributed to the breakdown of societies, cultures and communities in the name of democracy has been ignored. The fact that we have contributed to the causes for which people have to seek refuge is ignored. The fact that we are causing countries to fail is ignored.
It is also worth noting that the protests about the potential walls being built and the drawbridges being pulled up in America and the UK courtesy of Donald Trump and Brexit are in fact already being implemented here in Australia with this legislation.
Australia has already determined there is a group of people with whom it doesn’t want to be associated. The notion of a free and fair country does not exist in our political class anymore or in parts of our society.
We are retreating behind our walls, full of the rhetoric of fear and anger unable to see clearly anymore. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks said this week in the UK: “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new politics of anger. It is potentially very dangerous indeed.”
Rabbi Sacks went on to say in response to this reflection:
There is only one viable alternative. It is not a return to the status quo. It is bigger than traditional divisions between the parties. It is the creation of a new politics of hope.” (Beyond the Politics of Anger – Rabbi Sacks writes in the Daily Telegraph).
In a world and universe created by God, the sense of loss of life, of the potential creativity, innovation, kindness and compassion, intelligence, love and hope is enormous; it is the tragedy of human cruelty and fear. The desire to remove others from life, and into a living death, or physical death, is an irreplaceable loss to all of us. We are diminished by the realisation that we have not seen or experienced the contribution other lives can make to the world and to each other. It is a breathtaking arrogance to assume we are better or more worthy. It is a deep sadness that we are walking down this pathway and not reflecting and pulling back. We are mourning the loss and standing in witness to what is happening.
We must never stop speaking of alternatives and of hope in the face of anger and despair.