OK, then. I’ve been sick for weeks and weeks, and haven’t had the brains or the energy to write about politics, not even the enduring delight that is the ongoing citizenship drama surrounding our elected leaders. Also, being sick for so long is making me depressed, so apologies if this post is rather more cynical than usual.
But this stuff on Manus Island is awful. Even for us, it’s awful. As far as I can tell, the goal is to starve asylum seekers into agreeing to go back to their countries of origin so that they can be killed out of sight.
And yes, that sounds melodramatic and awful, but when you actually have people saying that they are choosing to stay because they would rather die here than elsewhere… well, that’s pretty horrific. I’d say it was calling the Government’s bluff, only I don’t think they are bluffing. I have a terrible, terrible feeling that if we woke up tomorrow to learn that the 606 men left on Nauru had died, either of untreated illnesses, or infection, or by violence, or of thirst, our Government would make noises about country-shoppers being misled by evil refugee advocates and be quietly satisfied that *now* the boats would surely stop coming.
Only I’m not sure that the boats would stop coming, because when the house is on fire, people tend to jump out the window, even if it’s a long drop to the ground. Boarding up the windows doesn’t fix the problem, it just means you don’t see the people burning to death inside.
Anyway. There really isn’t much I can say here that I haven’t said many, many times before, so I’ll keep this brief, and then hand over to others who can speak to this better.
I will say, though, that this time? I’m not saying #BringThemHere. I don’t think we can be trusted with them. I think we should take New Zealand up on its offer and support sending these poor men to a country that will actually look after them, and not change its mind and send them back to prison or to their countries of origin when the political wind changes again. Though that still leaves 450 people un-housed…
Some voices from Manus
A Letter from Manus, by Imran Mohammed, a Rohingyan refugee, detained on Manus Island since October 2013
“We don’t expect any hope from the Australian and PNG governments. It has always been felt that we would never leave this island alive and it has become apparent the abuse and torture implemented by both countries is unending. All we want to say to both governments is we would rather die than suffer to such an extent. We are desperate enough to want you to put some poison in our food and kill us all at once. We will eventually die here. The world knows it, so why not today?”
Cartoons by Ali Dorani ‘Eaten Fish’, an Iranian refugee suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD, and winner of the Courage in Editorial Cartooning award from the Cartoonists Rights Network International, detained on Manus Island since August 2013.
Diary of a Disaster, by Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist and refugee, and winner of an Amnesty International Australia 2017 Media Award, detained on Manus Island since August 2014.
The PNG police force and navy are walking around outside the camp – it seems their numbers have increased. A lot of Australian guards have left Manus and we have just been left alone here. The presence of the military has evoked an extraordinary fear. We have not been sleeping properly lately. We are expecting an attack from someone at any moment.
“Right now, the atmosphere in the camp is particularly unstable – an attack by the police and navy is imminent. The refugees are drawing on all their resources, their ingenuity and their sense of brotherhood to protect themselves from danger. Everyone realises that they have been abandoned and that this system, and this system alone, will dictate their fate…”
“When the power is cut off the water in the toilets is also automatically cut off. This means the toilets have become even filthier. They stink to high heaven, it is extremely annoying and debasing. It is so humiliating. I have witnessed with my own eyes how a human being can degrade another human being, using toilets as a technology of torture…”
“Those who have local tobacco share it with the rest. And a few find pieces of wood to start a fire. They have gathered a few litres of rainwater during the half-hour period when it rained earlier today and have brought it to boil. They mix the water with sugar and offer a portion of it to everyone. These actions reinforce our community spirit and inject badly needed energy into our bodies.
“I must admit that this was vital for me; my bony body desperately needed something sweet…
“A missionary on Manus wants to bring food for the refugees but is prevented by the navy. The Australian government insists on starving everyone…”
Things you can do
I am so very much in the wrong mood for this section, because I’m sick, which makes me depressed and defeatist, but here goes…
- There are rallies all around Australia over the next few days in support of the men on Manus. There were some today, which I was too late to advertise, alas! You can find a complete list here. If you are in Sydney or Melbourne, here are the rallies for this weekend:
- Ring politicians! It’s important that this doesn’t just fade out of the news cycle and disappear
- According to Doctors Against the Border Force Act, “There is a staffer at the Prime Minister’s office taking calls regarding the situation on Manus. You can call (02) 6277 7700 to state your opposition and your electorate which is then recorded.”
- It’s also worth calling Julie Bishop on (02) 6277 7500 and, if you can stomach it, Peter Dutton on (02) 6277 7860
- Bill Shorten seems to have softened his stance, and is now calling on the PM to send the men on Manus to New Zealand. It’s important to note that New Zealand can’t take all of them. Call him on (02) 6277 4022, encourage him to keep applying pressure regarding New Zealand, and ask him to bring the rest of the men here. Tanya Plibersek (02) 6277 4404 is another good person to call in this vein.
- The ASRC has a guide to calling your MPs and Senators on this topic – how to find them, what to say, etc. It’s extremely comprehensive and I recommend giving it a read before you call.
- The First Dog on the Moon also has a guide to calling your MPs and Senators. It’s less comprehensive, but funnier, and I think we all deserve a laugh, especially if we have been reading all the articles I linked to above.
- Provide positive reinforcement!
- There are some politicians who have been doing the right thing, and we should encourage this.
- Russell Broadbent (LIB) is really quite stalwart on this subject, and Cathy McGowan has also been very good. You might consider ringing their offices, or dropping them an email to express your appreciation. Broadbent’s contact details are here, and McGowan’s are here,
- If Facebook is your thing, maybe give some positive reinforcement to Susan Templeman (ALP) or Lisa Singh (ALP)
- Nick McKim for the Greens has been on Manus Island this week, and has had quite a bit to say on Facebook and on the Greens website. Let him know you think he is doing good work!
- Donate or Volunteer!
- I had this idea for a one-woman Melbourne Cup(Cake) Day Fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre on Cup Day, which is a work day for my organisation. But guess what? I mentioned it on Facebook, and to some of my scientists, and promptly got six more bakers, and permission to hold it centrally at work, rather than just for my floor. And that’s just since this afternoon. Despite what one reads in the comments threads on Facebook and in the newspapers, there is a lot of goodwill out there, waiting to be harnessed. Also, people like cake. So if you have an idea for a fundraiser, give it a go! The ASRC has some ideas for how to do this here (and I hope they won’t get cross with me for registering at the last minute. I really thought it would be much smaller…).