It seems like our government has sentenced asylum seekers to a slow death by neglect. How else can one interpret the treatment of those on Manus, Nauru and in Australia itself?
On Manus, refugees are offered the “choice” of returning to the country where they were persecuted or joining a local community already resentful of their presence. Relocation to the USA remains uncertain, and men who have family members already in Australia cannot be reunited.
On Nauru, many have waited three years or more without classification of their refugee status. In Australia hundreds have suddenly been deprived of having income support. These cruel tactics may be keeping asylum seekers from our shores, but they also affect our relationship with the rest of the world. In 1967, Australia signed an agreement with nearly all nations to offer sanctuary to those seeking asylum as a just and moral act designed to mitigate the tragic consequences of conflict and persecution. Obviously, like the climate agreement signed in Paris last year, this was, for Australia, merely a gesture to keep face with the international community. Like Paris, we didn’t really mean it.
The consequence is that we will be seen as a selfish and xenophobic nation happy to renege on our obligations while leaving poorer countries to do most of the work.
It is to Bass Coast Shire’s credit that we “welcome refugees and asylum seekers”. Let us hope that we will get the chance to be as good as our word and prove to a reluctant federal government that welcoming asylum seekers is not just a moral act, but one of mutual benefit.
Richard Kentwell, South Dudley.