I have been following the #KidsOffNauru campaign with awe. It is an amazing, organised and powerful response to a horrible injustice. I am hoping and praying that this campaign shakes the cold souls in Canberra who have supported onshore and offshore indefinite detention.
I have my own questions for our Government:
This man, Imran, fled from Myanmar when he was 16, He is now 24. He is interned indefinitely on Manus. He is not a people smuggler. He is kept indefinitely on Manus as a deterrent to people smugglers. He is punished to stop another person from committing a crime. (Image by Matthew Abbott, via GetUp)
Can I ask if the Australian Navy and Border Force are so successful at "Turning Back the Boats" Why do we need a human shield of detainees?
And If the Government is so committed to stopping boats: Why has the Immigration Department reduced the UNHCR intake each year since coming to Government?
The Immigration Department took just 0.65% or 23,111 UNHCR registered as people seeking refuge in 2017. Compare this with Turkey who granted Protection Visa's to 681,000 people. Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations on our earth, took in 655,500 people (Info: Red Cross). We are the third richest country/capita worldwide, surely if people who are fleeing horrors have a safe and timely manner, to apply for and find safety, they will be less likely to seek the dangerous option of coming by boat.
Why has our Government cut Billions of Dollars from our Aid Budget?
Historical Low Point for Australian Government Aid Spending:
The Abbott Government cut Australian Aid soon after coming into power and the LNP has now cut aid spending five years in a row. Aid helps to stop the need to flee by building resilience and capabilities into poor communities. The Aid Cuts have stopped programs providing Immunisations, Anti Gender Violence, Reforestation, Humanitarian Emergency Relief, Food Parcels, Temporary Accomodation, and Health Care when there is a Natural Disaster or Conflict. Cutting these programs increases the need to flee and the number of people seeking refugee. (Info: World Vision)
Nayser Ahmed became separated from his wife and children while travelling to Australia. They now live in Sydney, while he is imprisoned on Manus Island. “The thing I miss the most about my kids … is sitting down for dinner together,” he said. “Every night here I think of that.” ('Manus Isalnd Refugees Share Their Stories In A Powerful New Campaign Against Offshore Detention' by Tom Clift, 2016)
There are many men like Nayser on Manus, with close family in Australia. If the LNP impose a lifetime travel ban on the people who go to New Zealand how will they reunite with their families?
How could Scott Morrison think that permanently separating any man from his wife and children is a good idea?
Last year I went into the city to hear the amazing Stephanie Wollard speak. She has established a Fair Trade organisation called Seven Women. In Nepal people who have a disability are seen as bad luck. No one will employ or marry a woman who has a disability for fear of catching her bad luck. Seven Women has worked hard to nurture, train and empower these women.
After the earthquake, Seven Women raised funds, purchased building supplies and walked into the mountains with the equipment to rural villages, designing and building temporary homes that would last at least a year. (The Seven Women Response: 2015)
These women who had been so deeply rejected, laughed at, beaten and discarded went to work to provide housing, food and safety for their tormentors.
Stephanie's comment was that the provision of housing and help after the earthquake stopped many from fleeing and becoming refugees. Providing shelter and food to people after the losses and trauma of that earthquake was enough to give hope and help to feel that rebuilding was possible and that to run to another country was unnecessary. What an insight.
I have increasingly begun to see Fair Trade as a means of preventing the need to flee a country because of severe economic distress or natural disaster.
Giving a Fair Wages and respect to people for their work decreases the need to leave their country. If a parent has safety, food, housing and health care for children the prompt to leave is not there. Another example is the fair trade organisation Pebble Child, who are working towards forest protection in Bangladesh by giving employment to over 1000 rural women. These women deplete the natural resources of the forest for their livelihoods. Bangladesh is a river delta and dangerously prone to landslides and flooding. Pebble Child are preventing natural disaster by giving rural women an alternative income.
We need to stop following the Governments lead in demonising people who are seeking refuge.
Instead, we should be seeking constructive ways to help build and rebuild communities with social, environmental and economic challenges to prevent the need to flee country. Fair Trade Helps!
When people are forced to flee their country because of intense suffering they should not be held up as criminals, but as victims of horror. And we should help to provide hope and healing.
People do not want to leave their country, sometimes it is just not safe or possible to stay.
"No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a Shark." Warsan Shire, 2013