Whilst in London I came across this sign which reads, Begin your dream today, emigrate to Australia! A warm invitation indeed: unless of course you are an asylum seeker – in which case our current government will revoke this welcome and abscond its responsibility to the United Nations Convention Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
The Australian government has passed several laws that allow the detention of asylum seekers in offshore jails. The Government also sought to imprison professionals who speak out against child abuse in refugee detention centres, including medical and health practitioners who are otherwise required by long-standing law to report such abuse of all other children.
The inquiry into asylum seeker children in detention centres found that they live in prison conditions, and that they disproportionately suffer from mental and other health problems.
Refugees are dying in these detention centres and denied adequate healthcare, even while pregnant. Women who are raped are forced to remain in the same detention facilities as their attackers.
Australia has one of the world’s largest proportional migrant populations (48% of the national population is a first or second generation migrant) but one of the lowest refugee intakes. Australia had a more generous humanitarian program at other stages, but political grandstanding linking refugees to political conflict and so-called “social integration” has brought us to this low point as a nation.
Where has our compassion gone?