|Pic courtesy Gippsland Times|
The madness on Manus continues.
Refugees continue to be used as a political wedge by both the major parties, who share bi-partisan brutality in their treatment of this issue.
There are, however, some hopeful signs.
I hope, gentle reader, I'm not a giddy optimist, but maybe, after all these years, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My conviction about the situation and the policy disasters that led to it, promoted by both major parties, is pretty close to this statement from Australian Catholic bishops -
A Joint Catholic Statement on the Humanitarian Crisis on Manus Island
A week after the official closure of the Manus Island detention centre, more than 600 refugees and people seeking asylum languish inside, unsafe and uncertain about their futures.
After forcibly transferring the men to Manus Island in 2013-2014, the Australian government and its sub-contractors have now abandoned the centre and the island, leaving vulnerable people seeking asylum without access to medical care, psychiatric treatment, food, water, or electricity.
Our government has failed to provide these men with any safe alternatives. The UNHCR has condemned alternative accommodation in Lorengau as unsuitable and unfinished. Human Rights Watch is the latest of several international organisations reporting on locals assaulting and robbing refugees across the island with local police making little effort to investigate these crimes. People in the centre have been subject to multiple attacks over the years, one of which caused the death of Reza Barati in 2014.
Australia’s offer to relocate refugees in PNG to Nauru is no solution at all given the environment there is similarly beset by crippling uncertainty, epidemic rates of attempted suicide and mental illness, physical health ailments, well documented incidents of sexual and physical abuse, and the absence of critical infrastructure across the island. Unlike PNG, Nauru has never undertaken to provide permanent settlement for its caseload of refugees; with a population of only 10,000, it can’t.
The US resettlement deal appears to be stagnating and the Australian government continues to refuse New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 recognised refugees.
We Australians have a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep in Manus Island. It’s our fault and we should do something about it right now.
Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), Catholic Social Services Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, and Jesuit Social Services (JSS) jointly declare:
• The men on Manus Island have the right to food, water and shelter; to freedom and liberty; to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment; and to seek and receive protection.
• The Australian Government is legally and morally responsible for the lives of these men who have been arbitrarily and indefinitely held in limbo for more than four years.
• The only humane resolution to the current impasse is for the Australian Government to bring every refugee and person seeking asylum on Manus Island to Australia where they can be permanently resettled or have their claims processed in safety and with dignity.
• Offshore processing for the purposes of deterrence, whether in PNG, Nauru or anywhere else, is inhumane and unsustainable, and must cease to be a part of any Australian policy. We urge all Australians to express their concern for the desperate circumstances of the men on Manus Island by contacting your local federal MP to demand an immediate change to this expensive, unworkable and unprincipled policy.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference - Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office:
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFMConv, Bishop Delegate for Migrants and Refugees has issued a statement on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, following the closure of the Manus Island Centre. He states: “The policy of offshore detention has failed and it is time for us to deal with the issue of asylum seekers and refugees according to this nation’s proud tradition and the best nature of its citizens. We can do a whole lot better, just as we did welcome “those who’ve come across the seas” after the wars in Europe and in Southeast Asia. The concern for maritime border security does not have to make us into a mean-spirited people. The policy of offshore detention has cost Australia dearly. But it has cost the detainees and their families even more. I appeal to the government and political leaders to act in accordance with our honourable tradition. It is time to find an alternative and conscionable solution, including accepting New Zealand’s offer of resettlement and bringing the remaining detainees on Manus Island to Australia for further processing.”
(Both of the above statements were first published on 6 November 2017).
As I have posted before, there is a solution beyond offshore processing, a solution that has worked before. It lacks the potential to be used as a wedge, so neither side of politics can be bothered with it.
The problem, of course, is that fear of "the other" has always been a powerful political weapon in this country.
The humane treatment of the Vietnamese must have been an aberration.