Action For Afghanistan

Children run down a dirt road in Afghanistan

Please join me and over 9,000 human rights organisations, lawyers, doctors, researchers and artists who have signed an open letter calling on the Australian Government to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake by at least 20,000 people, and expedite the resettlement of interpreters, guides and other personnel involved in Australia’s mission in Afghanistan.

Sign the petition now.

Continue reading Action For Afghanistan

Ai Weiwei in Conversation with Mami Kataoka

The Sydney Biennale kicked off on Thursday with a special event featuring Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, in conversation with the Biennale’s Artistic Director, Mami Kataoka. A Japanese artist, Kataoka is the is the first Asian region director of the program which has run for 44 years. Weiwei proved to be a fascinating, but challenging guest.

He was incredibly thoughtful in discussing the plight of refugees, which feature in his works for the BIennale, including a giant raft filled with cowering figures on show at Cockatoo Island, made from giant black rubber. Kataoka was wonderful and incredibly gracious in managing her self-effacing interviewee, who began to make jokes about how the conversation was boring and he started noting the countdown of time.

There was a lot of goodwill from the audience who laughed along with the jokes and cheered Kataoka who valiantly continued to ask about Weiwei’s film, Human Flow, also on refugees, and his other works for the Biennale. Weiwei could have come off as difficult, but instead was endearing and at times sobering.

He talked about being exhausted of talking about his art, which to him is a clumsy expression of his emotions, and specifically in this case, his inability to grasp the lack of compassion we collectively show refugees. He also noted he’s done 350 interviews and did not want to keep talking about works that are meant to be experienced in other ways. He also expressed a sense of futiilty. He noted it probably was uncooth to mention – but did regardless – that art festivals are expensive to produce but are poorly funded. He praised Kataoka for having curated a beautiful program that masks her (relatively) low budget. He also said that despite the turnout that night, the Biennale and his artshows in general, which are exhibited around the world, lack a large audience. He said that art was important, but it is rapidly losing attention.

He noted that the people who will go and see his documentary, filmed in multiple refugee sites around the world, and featuring the voices of hundreds of asylum seekers, will not reach the audience it needs to. It will be seen by people who recognise the crisis, not those who ignore it.

A contemplation of our humanity, through a reflection of our treatment of refugees. Ai Weiwei, “Law of the Journey, 2017,” part of the Biennale pf Sydney.

Australia’s Unfair and Inhumane Refugee Policies

Untitled (refugee girl) by Mohammed. Via Safdar Ahmed and the Refugee Art Project

Whilst in London a couple of years a go, I came across a sign which reads, “Begin your dream today, emigrate to Australia!” (see below). A warm invitation indeed: unless of course you are an asylum seeker – in which case our Government will revoke this welcome and abscond its responsibility to the United Nations Convention Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Since 2001, the Australian government has passed several laws that allow the detention of asylum seekers in offshore centres located on the islands of Nauru and Manus. This was first established by excising islands from Australia’s territory; attempting to pay off people smugglers; and a series of other policy changes known as the “Pacific Solution.” In the first seven years of the scheme, over 1,600 people were held in detention. They arrived predominantly from Afghan, Iraqi and Sri Lankan backgrounds. While this program was initially wound back by 2008, it was reintroduced in 2010. Offshore detention reached its peak in 2014, with over 2,400 people held in detention centres, including 222 children. At the end of March 2016, almost 1,000 people remained in Manus and up to 1,200 people on Nauru.

These actions contravene international law, with our “paltry commitment to the Refugee Convention” deemed one of the worst in the world. Detention makes little sense, given that 90% of cases are found to be “genuine refugees.” The majority of asylum seekers have been in detention for at least two years. Even after they were released into the community, they were initially not allowed to work.

In 2014, the Government offered migrants up to $10,000 to go back home to face certain persecution; a scheme that was resolutely condemned by human rights experts. The Government simultaneously cut legal aid to refugees, making it even harder for them to receive informed support.

The ensuing health damage suffered by asylum seekers is woefully inhumane. Australia’s humanitarian program has been criminally pared back, along with our collective morality. We must not accept this unfair system in the name of so-called “Australian values.”

In London, emigrate to Australia sign is in the foreground, and people walk in the background
Your bridge to Australia. Your bridge to Australia. Begin your dream today.

Continue reading Australia’s Unfair and Inhumane Refugee Policies

Australia’s Unjust Treatment of Refugees

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. Continue reading Australia’s Unjust Treatment of Refugees

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar Facing Ethnic Cleansing

A United Nations Official says the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are facing ethnic cleansing. Following years of violence that increasingly escalates, 30,000 Rohingya are now displaced.

“The Rohingya are viewed as illegal immigrants by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar who call them ‘Bengali,’ even though many have lived there for generations. Most live in the impoverished western Rakhine state, but are denied citizenship and smothered by restrictions on movement and work.”

Source: Al Jazeera.


Refugee Art Project

The Refugee Art Project is led by Sydney artist Safar Ahmed, but the drawings and watercolours in this exhibition are mostly created by untrained asylum seekers imprisoned at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney. The artists use food such as instant coffee mixed with water as they do not have access to at materials. The refugees are locked up indefinitely in some cases due to our callous immigrating policies in Australia that have been deemed unlawful by international agencies including the United Nations. Ahmed’s sketchbooks and zines are also on display.

Sexism Does not Justify Racism

TW: Rape.  

West Indies cricketer, Chris Gayle, who is Black, was sexist during an interview with an Australian woman journalist, Mel McLaughlin, who is white. Gayle issued a non-apology, saying he was joking. Sexist jokes are not “jokes;” it is sexism. Gayle’s behaviour is unprofessional and profoundly damaging given his prominent position. Women everywhere deserve to go to work without men objectifying them, regardless of their job or stature. It’s the second time Gayle has behaved this way to a woman journalist; in his homeland, feminist groups have called out his behaviour. Gayle has been fined $10,000 for his comments.

The Sydney Morning Herald published a racist response from a white man, sports writer Malcolm Knox. It is written as a white man emulating his white view of how Black West Indies people sound like:

“Unlike dem Australians wit their BS about PC, me know where you comin’ from, brethren. Me know you got a good lovin’ heart like all we Jamaican brethren.”

“Satire” does not give license for racism. The fact that this was published in a national paper is yet another daily reminder that racism is both reproduced and celebrated by the media. Other white men are defending this racist diatribe. Luke Pearson, founder of Indigenous X, points out the false equivalence of racism and sexism:

Racist commentary in the Australian media are similar to European responses to recent reports that men in Cologne, Germany, sexually harassed women over New Year celebrations.

Paternalistic Sexism & Racism in Cologne

The reports are focusing on the men’s appearance (“Arab/Middle Eastern”) and explicitly on their citizenship status (“migrants” and “refugees”). Politicians are now threatening that sexual harassment will lead to deportations. Women should not be subject to harassment, full stop. But the fact that the media and politicians are running with a racist discourse, tells us that the safety of “women” is not really what’s of concern. Instead, protection of white women are a proxy for protecting white people against The Other.

Is there the same moral panic given 17% of women are sexually assaulted by local-born men in Australia and elsewhere? No.

These two examples are part of a long history of using men of colour as a threat to white women in order to justify racism. White women are treated as a paternalistic resource to be protected, but only from Black men and racial ‘others.’ Women of colour’s experiences of sexism and violence are largely ignored. See the numerous Indigenous women who have died in custody, such as Ms Dhu who died in grave pain as police refused her medical aide. These events do not face the same moral outrage.

Racist Hierarchies

Despite the fact that Gayle and those involved with the Cologne attacks should not get away with sexist behaviour, the media’s response is fuelled by racism. Black, migrant and refugee men of colour are seen as a threat, and public responses to these cases are used to justify racist practices.

Rape apologists are having a field day feigning support of “women” over the Gayle’s sexist remarks and the sexist events in Cologne. White men who usually do nothing to support gender equity get to be publicly self-righteous in their racism. Thus the racial order is maintained, with white men up top; white women much further below; men of colour near the bottom; and Indigenous women and other women of colour pushed to the lowest position.

That is how racism works: by setting up categories where some groups are superior to others. These two examples show us how institutions (in this case, the media) maintain racial hierarchies, and how people, in everyday conversation, reproduce these hierarchies.

Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

The Federal Court of Australia has voted not to overturn the Government’s decision which has denied citizenship rights to baby Ferouz, who was born in a Brisbane hospital. Ferouz’s family were fleeing persecution as members of the Rohingya minority group from Myanmar (Burma). His mother was pregnant with him at the time of their arrival, but according to the new laws from July 19, they were denied the right to claim protection visas. Continue reading Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

51.2 million refugees were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013, the highest rate in post-WWII era.

51.2 million refugees were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013, the highest rate in post-WWII era. If these refugees represented a country they would be the 26th largest in the world.

#sociology #socialscience #refugees

“The nation holds its nose, averts its eyes.

“The nation holds its nose, averts its eyes. This isn’t us… Unexamined at the heart of the politics of the boats is the notion that if we are brutal enough, we need only be brutal once… It’s a delusion. The boats always come back… That’s how it is: refugees are looking for somewhere to live. Closed doors are tested again and again. They have no choice. So if you want to keep refugees out, you have to keep slamming the door in their faces…

No doubt when the boats return – as they will – we’ll find fresh reserves of cruelty to draw on.”

Quote: The Guardian. Image: Refugee Art Project. #sociology #socialscience #australia #refugees