Posts Tagged ‘Bowen’

Is Turkey showing us the Way?

June 18, 2011

Turkey promised to keep their borders open for the people fleeing the violence in Syria. Many thousands of Syrians have crossed into Turkey and footage shows men and women, children walking into that country.
Even though Turkey is a country with a large population of over seventy million and already coping with an overflow of many other nationalities, it has not lost its humanity in doing the right thing by extending its hospitality to those so much worse off. They are quickly opening disused buildings and building camps, constructing a temporary hospital.

If Turkey can do it, where is our compassion?

Lack of ‘humaneness’ is what seems to doggedly divide Australia from most of the rest of the world with a deeply engrained hostility towards others. It is especially directed to those hapless victims of endless wars that somehow managed to make it anywhere near our shores.

Our present minister and previous Government ministers have exalted in, ‘we must make conditions here as harsh as possible as a deterrent’. The general gist of the messages from our Governments has been very constant., “No-one, we repeat, no-one should come here under the understanding they will be treated with compassion or care if they jump the ‘queue’ or come ‘illegal’ by boat,” is what they mainly are saying. The political leaders are well aware that those sentiments will be well rewarded with the approval of thousand of voters.

The latest threat of sending at least 800 refugees to Malaysia just about takes the cake in the manoeuvring of our desperate Government keen to further whip up our xenophobia. The fact that this whipping might be translated to a caning in Malaysia was just seen as a mere bagatelle, easily overcome with a few soothing words of a promise that that would most likely not happen. The UNHCR seems less convinced.

While the conversation is continuing and a flurry of visits to New Guinea and Nauru intending to underline our tough stance once again, some might question where this dreadful fear comes from. Is there something in our history that gives us clues?

We couldn’t do much wrong by visiting our most recent history of how we treated children, both in our mother country of the UK and in our own.
Just having seen the film “Oranges and Sunshine” and previously read D.Hill’s, “The forgotten Children”, I wonder if one day we might admit there was something rotten going on in our culture dating back perhaps hundreds of years. I know of no other country that exported and deported over a 130 000 children in recent times. I also know of no other country that then allowed the further destruction of those children in the institutions they arrived at.

Is it is the history of bullying children and sending them into the hierarchical system of the English Boarding Schools, the Public ( Private) Schools with its whipping masters and the degrading of all those coming into contact with the ‘British system’ of parenting and educating?

This seems to go to the very heart of why Australia has never managed to shake of that bullying that defined us from the very start.

Yet, when it comes to cattle or suicidal whales we all get teary eyed, ban the export of cattle or stand in the sea for days stroking dying whales. Where is the stroking for the flotsam of humans cast on our shores?

Last Monday’s ABC’s 4 corners, again ‘bullying and degrading’ at the very core of our armed forces. It is totally ‘us’ and not just the isolated few of ‘them’. Howard, Ruddock, Abbott, Gillard, Morrison, Bowen. What chance did they all have growing up and indoctrinated into a system of bullying? No Government except the British, conduct parliament so appallingly and again, bullying is at the very heart of it.

In the meantime we should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book. We will not turn them away, is what the Turkish Minister for Immigration is reported as saying. They are human beings in distress.

I can’t even imagine one of our politicians saying that.

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at Detainees

March 31, 2011

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21 March 2011

Police fired tear gas and synthetic bullets at a group of 250 asylum seekers who had burned down accommodation buildings

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at detainees

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Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

TV footage shows tear gas and ‘soft’ bullets tracing through the night sky, aimed at the rioting Christmas Island boatpeople, fired by armed police force from the back of trucks.

One wonders how long it will be before we will finally admit that the present way of handling and treating boat people is not working, and that our detention or care for those unfortunate people with families is cruel in the extreme?

Don’t we care, is that why we now shoot them? For how much longer will the UN commissioner point out our failures?

The overcrowding, the isolation and the length it takes to process the claims are given as the main cause for the riots.

Of course dealing with people landing on our shores has often been accompanied by riots. Back in 1952 it took 200 soldiers to restore order at Bonegilla Migrant camp. Three young men had committed suicide. The reasons for the riot then were the same as the present discontent today: overcrowding and inhumane living condition.

The Nissan hut migrant camps have long disappeared… only to be replaced with a more modern variety, but with still the same aim: to provide housing but also to isolate and to keep detainees separate, away from ‘normality and if possible from scrutiny.

What more proof do we need that the process is de-humanizing? Why do we persist in our punitive way of dealing with boat people and refugees? The detainees are desperately trying to tell us something. Why are we not listening and taking it in? They have done nothing wrong. Why are they being detained and separated from other people and normality? While violence and riots are not tolerable, neither are keeping people detained who have done nothing unlawful.

Rest assured though that TV footage of the shootings has raced around the world and that our treatment of detainees would have sunk a notch lower, if that was still possible. The tension amongst the asylum seekers is never far from the surface. Mix that in with isolation, the despair of endless waiting for progress about their claims, the utter boredom, heat and cold, the sheer deliberate forbiddingness of surroundings, jail-like architecture, fences, guards and you have created very tortuous conditions that no one could possibly accept as normality.

The response by our Immigration Minister Chris Bowen must be very encouraging to the detainees when he stated that the fire arms used were a bit like shooting ’mini bean bag pellets’ coming from ’gun-like weapons’. They might cause a bit of bruising, he added.

However, David Manne of the Refugee Legal Centre said police had used a modified shotgun ‘that can cause serious injury or death’.

With just a few thousand trickling in per year, we can hardly claim to be overwhelmed by boatpeople and as we have some experience in settling migrants for some decades it is indeed surprising the whole issue has became so unmanageable.

What is the problem and why can’t we settle them in normal circumstances in assessing their status? I mean, Australia is an Island and after harrowing and hazardous boat journeys, they are hardly likely to jump on a boat again and escape. Escape from what? What Governmental stupidity and obstinacy prevents them to not just do what most countries are doing and simply have them living amongst other people, letting them work, earn money, go shopping and process their applications. European countries are coping with thousands of refugees on a daily basis. We have trouble with a few thousand a year, spend hundreds of millions to keep them detained and separated from a functioning society. Why?

How often does the UNHCR have to put to Australia that we are in breach of basic Human Rights by keeping them in detention when no crime has been committed?

Of course, the real reason apart from the ingrained xenophobia by some of political parties’ leaders and the usual ramping up by hysterical coterie of radio and other media flotsam is the risk of losing votes. It’s all about that, isn’t it?  Let human suffering continue but not risk upsetting the voters who for years have been indoctrinated with ‘our shores’ are under siege from hordes of ‘illegal queue jumpers’. We mustn’t be seen to take sides of humanity and change course midway, must we?

Is it still preferable to continue to de-humanize a few thousand boat people than to losing voters and an election?

Come on Australia. Enough is enough. Our minister for immigration looked genuinely uncomfortable discussing the riots on Christmas Island. It shows he still has a heart. Perhaps over half the population still have hearts as well. We can’t shoot boat people just because they happen to have come to our shores and need a leg up from misery and wars.

They want a leg up from their misery, not to be shot at.