Monday, 20 April 2015

Suffer the Little Children

Pic courtesy Daily Life
There's been a great deal of media recently about the treatment of children in immigration detention centres.

Plenty of heat, and very little light has been generated, with opinion divided between those who believe that it's OK for kids to be banged up with their parents in these places for indeterminate periods of time, and those who believe that it's not.

The policy is bipartisan. There have been differences in its application in the sense that under Labor, there were many more kids in detention, whereas with the Coalition in power, there are far fewer, but they're in these gulags for much longer, and long enough to be severely traumatised.

It's rationalised justified as being cruel to be kind. Apparently almost anything can be justified in the name of border security.

Then there's a different issue - immigration as it applies to children with disabilities.

Another more insidious rationalisation is used in relation to immigration and kids with disabilities. The justification (although it's rarely aired) is that caring for them is too expensive. Basically on that basis they're simply not welcome in Australia.

This justification is rarely discussed in the public space by those in government. I'd venture to suggest this lack of publicity is quite deliberate. Most Australians, if you stopped them in the street and asked them for an opinion, would be dismayed - if not horrified - by the assumptions contained in that justification.

Apart from the fact that the policy devalues people with disabilities, it ignores the fact that it is completely out of step with pretty much all Australian public policy which bears on disability.

Put beside anti-discrimination legislation, which has been around since 1992 in this country, it appears bizarre. Kids with disabilities are included in regular schools, there is universal and basic consideration of disability access and there are a range of commissions and agencies who raison d'etre is to ensure fair and reasonable treatment of people with disabilities.

It does not add up. To quote this article in Daily Life -

If Vincent van Gogh, Ludwig van Beethoven, Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo were alive today and in a moment of wild-eyed madness decided to permanently migrate to Australia, would we accept them?
I suppose you could argue that they’re highly skilled and their social contributions are quite possibly monumental. But judging by the requirements of Australian migration law the odds are against them. Why? Because they all had disabilities: Van Gogh suffered depression, Beethoven was deaf, Keller was blind and Kahlo had polio.

The issue emerges frequently, and it must create enormous distress for those involved. Yet it's not the subject of serious debate in this country.

We continue to turn a blind eye to abject cruelty, operationalised in policies driven by the same evil set of values that led to the extermination of Gypsies, Jews and people who were called "unfit" in Hitler's Germany.

It's time to change it, and treat immigrant families with members with disabilities the same as everyone else.

Update -

Tyrone Sevilla has been allowed to stay in Australia, at least temporarily. 
Perhaps common sense has prevailed...........

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