Australia’s Unfair and Inhumane Refugee Policies

Last week marked the 25-year mark of the Australian government’s decision to detain 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

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.”⠀ 

Read more on my blog.


Images: Art by Safdar Ahmed and the Refugee Art Project exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW. Photos by Zuleyka Zevallos. 

[1: artwork of a young girl crouched over and crying, with the title of this article. 2: various artworks hang on a wall, featuring women in hijab and crying. 3: Drawing of a young man sitting on the ground with his hands bound, he is crying as rain falls around him. 4: drawing of a facility, with the word, “Villawood Depression Centre.”]

Source: The Other Sociologist.

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

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. 

Video: The Other Sociologist.

Australia’s Unjust Refugee Policies

Trigger Warning: Rape and human rights abuse.

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?

Source: The Other Sociologist.

Stop Australia’s Lifetime Ban of Refugees

PLEASE SHARE: This coming Tuesday 7 February 2017, Australia is set to introduce a LIFETIME BAN on refugees who arrive by boat. This will affect all people seeking asylum who arrived after 19 July 2013. This law is cruel and inhumane. It contravenes Australia’s international responsibility under the United Nations Refugee Convention 1951. Australia’s treatment of refugees has been condemned by the United Nations and by the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014.

My regular readers would know that Australia has been imprisoning refugees indefinitely in offshore detention centres since 2001. This new law would mean all those still in detention and other people seeking asylum by boat will never be allowed their human right to find safety in Australia.

Why is the ban for “boat refugees” only? The biggest groups of refugees come by air. People arriving by boat make up the minority of asylum seekers! They are the poorest from our region. They are also predominantly from Muslim-majority nations. This law represents racial discrimination by the state.

How you can stop this!

It’s not too late to make a difference! Australians, call, email or use social media to appeal to the cross-benchers below. For readers outside of Australia – Australians stand up for injustices internationally, as I have done for many conflicts and unfair political decisions outside of my country. Please take action, even if it’s just a social media post!

If you call or post on Facebook, see the suggested script below by RISE

If you tweet, you could use this text:

.@XXX the proposal of impose a lifetime ban on refugees goes against our humanity. Please vote NO to this proposal #blockthebill

***

Senator Derryn Hinch
(02) 6277 3168
1300 498 035
Senator.Hinch@aph.gov.au

Facebook. Twitter: @HumanHeadline 

***

Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore
(02) 6277 3178
(08) 8232 0440
Senator.Kakoschke-Moore@aph.gov.au 

Facebook. Twitter: @SenatorSkye 

***

Senator David Leyonhjelm
(02) 6277 3054
1300 884 092
Senator.Leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au

Facebook.

Twitter:

@DavidLeyonhjelm

***

Senator Stirling Griff
(02) 6277 3713
1300 556 115
Senator.Griff@aph.gov.au

Facebook.

Twitter:

@Stirling_G 

***

Senator Jacqui Lambie
(02) 6277 3063
(03) 6431 2233
Senator.Lambie@aph.gov.au

 

Facebook.

Twitter:

@JacquiLambie

***

Senator Nick Xenophon
(02) 6277 3713
1300 556 115
nickxenophon.com.au

Facebook.

Twitter:

@Nick_Xenophon

***

Suggested script for call:

“Hi my name is …(name, if comfortable disclosing).. and I am calling from …(location)… I would like to express my concern and discontent with the proposal of imposing a lifetime ban on refugees. This goes against the Refugee Convention and International Law. It also goes against our humanity and morality as we should be assisting those in need of protection. Please vote NO to this proposal or you will lose my vote” 


[Images: 1) two hands

crossed

the wrist, making the “x” or “no” sign, with text: Australia #BlockTheBill. Say no to lifetime ban of refugees. 2) Black background with text: Cross-bench senators. Their names, email and phone numbers are then listed as above.]

Credits:

Images and other ways to help: RISE.  Post: The Other Sociologist.

Australia Day: Meat, Racism and Re-Imagining Colonialism

What happens when White advertisers imagine multiculturalism? Every year, the Meat and Livestock Association releases a TV campaign promoting eating meat (specifically lamb) on Australia Day, which is currently held nationally* on 26 January. The campaign always takes a “provocative” and “comical” approach, usually promoting the idea that not eating meat is “un-Australian” (this is a racist slur used on migrants in every other context). In the last two years, the ads have made light of Australia’s colonial history. This is even more egregious because Indigenous Australians have been campaigning to change the date of Australia Day, which marks the invasion of Indigenous lands.

The latest ad shows Indigenous Australians welcoming the “First Fleet” of British officers with broad smiles. In reality, Indigenous Australians told them to leave, the British declared Australia “terra nullius” (no one’s land) and Indigenous people were promptly decimated.

The ad then shows ship after ship bringing in different waves of migrants. A prominent Chinese-Malaysian artist and chef, Poh Ling Yeow, says, “Aren’t we all boat people?” This is equally problematic given that the first law to be passed after Federation in 1901 was the White Australia policy that officially excluded people of colour from migrating (with only some groups allowed in as cheap labour). Our refugee policies remained stringent until the 1940s during WWII, and South East Asian refugees (so-called “boat people”) endured long-term hostility from the mid-to-late 1970s onwards. Moreover, since 2001, Australia has sustained its most inhumane immigration policies on record, by locking up asylum seekers indefinitely in offshore detention. 

The ad ends with “the float people,” a play on the Mardi Gras parade. While LGBTQIA inclusion would be welcome in any other context, in this setting they are another minority group seen partying and oblivious to colonial invasion. This is a time when LGBTQIA Indigenous Australians face the greatest prejudice of all groups, and gay marriage remains unrecognised by the law.

The message of “we’re all different” is something we need to promote as a nation, but not in this misguided way, and not for this cause.

image

Writing for NITV, Luke Pearson, founder of IndigenousX, shows that the ad is offensive on many levels to Australia’s First People.

“The idea that we have a national ad campaign aimed at telling a version of Australian history where each new group that arrives in Australia simply ‘joins the party’ is simply something I just can’t swallow… Maybe I’d have been a bit kinder to this latest attempt if it was a standalone, and not just the next chapter of a series I already don’t like, written for an company I already don’t like, tied to a day that I do not like… Just change the damn date already." 

Last year’s lamb ad in the lead up to the 26 January was based on a mock military campaign to "rescue” Australians from other countries. It was called “Operation Boomerang,” once again appropriating Indigenous culture for laughs, and using a theme of invasion. 

While the latest ad appears to be celebrating Australia’s diversity, it succeeds only in deflecting racism and erasing the long history of activism by Indigenous Australians, who have officially campaigned since 1938 to change the date and meaning of this divisive day.

It is fine to have fun and celebrate being Australian. Let’s not do it at the expense of true inclusion of Indigenous Australians.

Lend your voice to #ChangeTheDate on Tumblr and Twitter.

Notes

*The city of Freemantle in Western Australia has changed Australia Day this year to 28 December to be more inclusive. The city was promptly banned by the federal government from hosting Australia Day citizenship celebrations, which are held in conjunction with Australia Day. As you can see, the date, the ads and the public discourses surrounding Australia Day are needlessly exclusive, racist and profoundly political. 

[Video: “Celebrate Australia Day with a Lamb BBQ”. Photo: screen shot from the ad showing three Indigenous people on a beach with raised eyebrows.]

Source: The Other Sociologist.

Sexism Does not Justify Racism

TW: Rape. Today in White people justify racism: two examples of how sexism is used as racist scaremongering.

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, and also because women everywhere deserve to go to work without men objectifying them, regardless of their job or the stature of the person indulging gender inequity. It’s the second time Gayle has behaved this way to a woman journalist; in his homeland, feminist groups have called out his behaviour. This pattern is toxic. Gayle has been fined $10,000 for his comments. Good! This is an appropriate response; a better response would be to require that he additionally undertake gender equity training.

The Sydney Morning Herald, in their infinite wisdom, decided to publish a racist response from a White man, sports writer Malcolm Knox, which 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 mean that White people get to be racist to teach Black men a lesson. 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. Continue reading Sexism Does not Justify Racism

Saw this sign in London that says: “Begin your dream today, emigrate to Australia!” A great dream… 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 relating to the Status of Refugees. This week both the Liberal and Labor parties agreed to pass a new law that will potentially 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 recent 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. Where has compassion gone? 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.

Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos.

Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

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.

The Rohingya remain stateless and face ongoing violence (http://goo.gl/rTNRbn and http://goo.gl/Qwsjjc). Additionally, those living in overseas refugee camps are living in appalling conditions and denied education (http://goo.gl/1EL5tK). The situation for the Rohingya is so bad that the United Nations calls it a “crime against humanity” (http://goo.gl/XlmTew).

The Australian Federal judge Michael Jarrett thinks women in detention may otherwise seek to get pregnant in detention to grant their babies citizenship. Here’s the facts: Australia’s asylum seekers are being held in detention for years in appalling conditions. It’s unreasonable to hold people for so long in limbo, denying them human rights, including the right to continue their family relationships.

The Australian Human Rights Commission recently oversaw a public hearing on the treatment of children in detention centres and found that the conditions of detention are exactly like “a prison,” contributing to poor mental health (http://goo.gl/eNJ2qT). Instead of addressing these conditions and abolishing the unethical detention program, our Government is now denying Australian children citizenship rights.

The Liberal Government’s “Operation Sovereign Border” policies, which has radically scaled back our refugee aid and intake, and the so-called “Stop the Boats” campaign, are predicated on a false notion that unauthorised boat arrivals cannot be fruitfully accommodated within society. Arrivals by boats have always been significantly lower than unauthorised arrivals by plane (http://goo.gl/ecTf3b). In fact the biggest immigration issue we face are migrants who overstay their visa; but as they are mostly from developed nations the Government does not see it fit to launch military operations to contain them.

Australia has a long history of resettling asylum seekers within the community, rather than keeping them indefinitely in detention or sending them for processing offshore.  These programs stretch back to the resettlement of Jewish refugees during World War II and various waves of asylum seekers from every continent from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. A large proportion of these arrivals came by boat and yet many are now thriving, as sociology research shows that the children of refugees have gone on to become highly educated professionals, especially those from South East Asian and European backgrounds. 

The latest ruling by the Federal Court will deny human rights to a further 100 Australia-born children. Women and children face additional hurdles as refugees that our nation should attend to, including education, safety and health. Rather than scaling back our international obligations as a developed nation, Australia should demonstrate compassion and adhere to the refugee convention set out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Image and story via SBS News  #sociology #socialscience #humanrights #refugees   #australia