I remember hearing stories when I was a child, of desperate people fleeing from the Hungarian Revolution. In later years, it was sometimes claimed that Australia’s acceptance of these Hungarian asylum seekers may have had more to do with economic, rather than humanitarian reasons. Nevertheless, some 14,000 Hungarians were welcomed into Australia in the 1950s.
Some years later, after the horrendous Vietnam conflict, in the decade from 1975, Australia ‘rescued’ and welcomed 90,000 Vietnamese refugees.
Fairly recent Government sources claim that, since World War 2, Australia has accepted 645,000 refugees: Asylum seekers.
But, now things have changed.
Desperate people who have boarded unseaworthy vessels in an attempt to find safety in Australia are now put into life-boats which the Australian Navy tows back to refugee camps in Indonesia. These are people who are fleeing persecution from the most horrific conditions of war and torture. But we offer neither solace, nor asylum. Our hearts have turned to stone.
Any asylum seekers who do reach Australia’s shores are subsequently shipped out and housed in tent-filled hell-holes in other countries, such as PNG, with little chance of being settled here (or anywhere).
When frustration led to a riot breaking out last week in one of these concentration camps (I use the term purposely) many people were injured – by ‘guards’ and (it seems) local residents - and one young man was killed by a savage blow to the back of his head. His name was Reza Barati. This all happened ‘on Australia’s watch’ and the politicians of both sides are scrambling to maintain that the right approach to ‘deal with’ asylum seekers is still being achieved.
I do not have the words to express my horror at what occurred on Manus Island, but would like to share the words, (as spoken by Richard Flanagan) in a speech, that began on the subject of ‘Love Stories’..
Please read some of Richard’s words, if you can:
'Crowded into love stories between the discovery of ourselves in others and of others in ourselves, we glimpse something else, a boat, and on the boat, jammed between the polytarp thrown over the shivering, the sunburnt and the silent, caught between the briny largeness of the sea and the sky, terrifying and hopeful, breathing in the nauseating oily drifts of diesel fumes, stands a tall 23-year-old Iranian called Reza Barati who dares dream that freedom and safety will soon be his as the boat approaches the Australian territory of Christmas Island.
But the sky darkens, the idea cannot hold, the ocean shimmers and transforms into something terrible, and all that remains of that dream for Reza Barati is a white plastic chair he now holds up in front of him, seeking to ward off the inexplicable blows of machetes and bullets and boots – a white plastic chair, all that a rich nation that prides itself on a fair go, on its largeness of spirit, has left for Reza Barati to defend his life against those who have now come to kill him.
In this desert of silence that now passes for our public life, a silence only broken by personal vilification of anyone who posits an idea opposed to power, it is no longer wise for a public figure to express concern about a society that sees some human beings as no longer human; a society that has turned its back on those who came to us for asylum – that is, for freedom, and for safety. And so, with our tongues torn we are expected to agree with the silence, with the lies, and with the murder of Reza Barati.'
people have no imagination.
If they could imagine
sufferings of others,
they would not make them suffer
German WW1 Soldier and Playwright
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.