“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin.
A regular, Australian woman is in a violent relationship.
Every single day she is subjected to verbal, mental and physical abuse.
She’s threatened with death, beaten, and terrorised by her partner.
One day, fearing for her life, she flees to a nearby house for help.
Upon her arrival, she tells her story, and begs for help.
Instead of helping the woman, the owner of the house declares that she is a law-breaker, trespassing on his land and has her arrested.
Within 48 hours of seeking help, the woman is imprisoned.
She is not provided with adequate health checks, despite her obvious wounds.
She is not provided with adequate access to legal advice.
The conditions in the prison are hot, overcrowded, and there are not enough showers or toilets for the prisoners, with around one toilet for every 40 prisoners.
The woman is forced to share a cell with dozens of other prisoners, with only basic bedding providing. There is no ability for her to enjoy any privacy, with beds lined up next to each other without privacy screens.
The prison is infested with lice and rodents.
And the woman is given no indication as to when she can expect to be released.
All she wanted was help to save her life.
Horrific, right? And certainly not something that we’d consider fair treatment for one of “our own”. I can only imagine the public outcry were such a thing to occur.
For the asylum seekers that are currently being detained in Nauru and Manus Island, due to the draconian laws of successive Australian governments, this isn’t just an arbitrary anecdote. This is real life.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recently released damning reports about the conditions on Manus Island and Nauru. The UNHCR found that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers constituted arbitrary and indefinite detention in unsafe and inhumane conditions that did not meet international standards.
Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, seems to disagree with the UNHCR, declaring that the conditions of the camps are better than those at Australian mines – a statement that is truly laughable. (Disclaimer: my mother has worked on two mine sites this year. She is given all the food she can eat, has her own air conditioned room that has cable television, is serviced daily and has its own en-suite bathroom, the workers on site are provided with entertainment, get flown home every two or-so weeks, and get paid a butt-load of money. Hardly mandatory detention, Ms. Bishop.)
This week it was revealed that those detained on Nauru and Manus Island would no longer receive humanitarian assistance from the Salvation Army, who have been providing emotional support to those subjected to the conditions of the detention centres. The team that provided advice about asylum seeker health issues, including psychologists, psychiatrists and GPs, has also been dumped.
A group of doctors who work at the Christmas Island detention centre have written a 92-page letter outlining “numerous unsafe practices and gross departures from generally accepted medical standards which have posed significant risk to patients and caused considerable harm”. They provide examples of inadequate medical care and shortages of facilities, equipment and medications, among other issues.
We look back in horror at the way the world has treated some members of society. From Jews during the Holocaust, to our treatment of Indigenous peoples around the world, to the South African Apartheid, we hang our heads in shame and wonder how. Why didn’t anyone stop it? How did we allow it to happen? Yet here we are again.
Australia, we have and are continuing to allow the demonization and cruel treatment of human beings. Right now. By our government. And history will judge us harshly for it.
The government will not continue this inhumanity in my name. And they shouldn’t do it in yours. Write to your local MP and Senators. Contact the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Immigration Minister.
It’s time to stand up.
Enough is enough.