Australia's Asylum Seeker Policy Will Hurt Us All
When your country is empowered by its people to abuse others, it is only a matter of time before they use that power against its own people. Australians must treat this as a warning. When the government is excused from its duty to respect human beings, this will manifest in a domestic context. This is important, essential, to recognise.
Australia’s human rights abuses in relation to offshore processing of refugees have been largely met with a general apathy, or indeed belief that they are necessary to ensure that we keep a few more boats from reaching Australia’s shores. This is justified as an exercise of increasing the costs of seeking asylum in Australia to the extent that they outweigh the benefits. Essentially, Australia has been attempting to create a system of processing asylum seekers that is actually worse and more harmful for those who reach that process than staying in the war and poverty ravaged nations from which asylum seekers come.
They have done this in several ways. By placing asylum seekers in processing centres within countries that are barely able to look after their own population, they incite anger against asylum seekers that unsurprisingly ends in locals protesting or attacking asylum seekers. If you know people who are outraged at asylum seekers receiving lots of money to resettle in Australia, imagine the anger and misunderstanding from those that live below the poverty line. They also starve asylum seekers of information and support in detention, leading to a state of seeming indefinite detention that is both emotionally and intellectually crushing.
The problem, is that if you tell a government –either through acquiescence or active assent- that it is authorised to abuse human rights to maintain the status quo in relation to one matter, it will almost certainly become a generalised rule. Australia has a long and colourful history of peaceful protest, the G20 protests being a shining example of a nation that acknowledges the rights of agitators. However, Asylum seeker policy may change this.
We have seen this in America. The way in which the American people have been complicit and active in the warmongering of their politicians, and the way in which they have continued to accept human rights abuses at Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay has been disturbing. Increasingly disturbing is the fact that now the American government is turning their attention inwards. In the same way they justified war and torture as necessary to protect the American population, they are now justifying human rights abuses against minorities in their own country as necessary to protect the majority.
Shootings of African Americans have been widely publicised, as have been the shocking ways in which any protests have been shut down. In the land of the free, we see scenes that are reminiscent of communist China, or one of the many despotic Middle Eastern nations.
Sit-ins at offices of members of parliament to protest detention of children have been quashed with heavy handed police tactics. If Australian’s don’t start demanding their government treat people with the dignity, respect and support that we all deserve it will be a statement that Australian’s do not believe in basic human rights and that the government is free to erode them.
In Australia the government is standing by its policy as people starve themselves, and swallow razor blades in a protest against detention that is both disturbing and symptomatic of the terrible reality of seeking asylum in Australia.
It is time for all Australians to make a choice. Will you demand our government act with respect towards all people, or will you continue to give support to a government that is willing to inhumanely treat its most vulnerable charges, just to discourage others from seeking the better life that Australia offers?