Sunday, 6 April 2014

Insane Asylum, or How to Get Away with Racism

I want you to imagine, for a moment, that you're having a nice, pleasant evening in your home. You're just at home, maybe watching Game of Thrones and eating dinner, when there's a panicked knock at the door. You go and see who it is, and open the door. Then, behind the locked flyscreen door, you see your neighbour, she lives on your street, you've seen her watering her garden some days, but she doesn't speak much English, so you never got to know her, but you always were kind of scared, because you hear loud arguments from their house at night some times, but you don't understand what they're arguing about. Now here she is, standing on your doorstep and she looks terrified. Then, in broken English, she asks you if she can come inside, for the night, because her husband has threatened to kill her and she's scared - she makes it perfectly clear that he said he would kill her.
She's not holding a weapon and you've never seen her be violent, she came here because your house was the closest one she could get to. She just looks terrified, standing on your doorstep and she wants to come inside, so that she can feel safe. What do you do?

I'd like to think there are some kind people that would let her inside. I know it's scary, she's a stranger and you don't know her. This isn't always black and white, perhaps you would call the cops for her (or on her) but when someone is in need, I'd like to think that at least some people would help her.
But if you were the Australian Government, I know exactly what you'd do. You'd close the door and say "Go home". Or, even worse, you'd step outside, grab that woman by the arm and walk her to another neighbour's house, much further down the street. You'd put her there and tell her to stay there (despite the fact that your neighbour, called Papa, doesn't want her there),then go back home and continue watching Game of Thrones. My metaphor is starting to break down, but my point is, the Australian Government would be a racist arsehole to that poor woman.

How do I know this? How could I possibly make such libellous statements about the callous reaction of my own government to a woman in need? It's because there's a precedent. It's happening right now, and I want to tell you about it, because not only is it absolutely disgusting - it's literally criminal. The Word of the Day is: 'ASYLUM'

Asylum /ə'suyləm/ n. 1. Obsolete A home for the care of the insane, the blind, children without parents or the like. 2. A sanctuary as formerly for criminals or debtors. 3. International Law A refuge granted political refugees: Political Asylum. 4. Any shelter offering safety.

The hypothetical situation I just described reflects the current situation in Australia, whereby many, many people are fleeing from persecution - and execution - in their home country, yet we are refusing them entry to our country. Australia has taken to calling these people "Boat People", because many of them arrive by boat. I know that a lot of people don't like foreigners coming to this country, but those people are usually racist. I want to sidestep the racism thing, first. I mean, I can't entirely - that's a huge part of the issue - we'll get back to that, but I want to put it to the side for a moment, because I want to talk about something important.

A lot of people seem to agree with this policy of Australia, and there's a huge political campaign at the moment called "Stop the Boats" whereby Australia has put in place operations that either refuse these people entry into Australia by towing their boats to neighbouring countries; returning them to their home countries or deterring them from leaving their country in the first place.

Now, let me be clear here - we need to stop calling them "Boat People". The only reason we call them Boat People is because of Governmental Propaganda. Because they're not "Boat People", they're Asylum Seekers; they're Refugees, they're people seeking sanctuary from their own country, because their government wants them dead, or they're seeking safety from a country which is unsafe for them.
Now, one might look at this and say "Yeah, but they're breaking the law, they're illegal immigrants", but that's not the case. Although it is true that these people are entering Australia without a visa, there's a reason for that. Australia will refuse to grant a visa to persons from certain countries. But more importantly, it is not illegal for a person to seek asylum without a visa, in fact, it's a Human Right. And whether or not you believe that, Australia does. Or, at least, it did at one point, when it voted in favour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. One of the many rights we grant immigrants is the Right of Asylum.

So, when the Australian government refuses to allow asylum seekers to their persecuting countries, it breaks the international law known as "non-refoulement", which forbids countries from returning victims of persecution to their persecutor. It's not the "Boat People" that are breaking the law, it's the Australian Government.

Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the issue. Because even if you get past all of that. Even if, as an Asylum Seeker, you get past our boat-towing policies and off-shore resettlement policies and somehow make shore in Australia, we also have a strict policy of Mandatory Detention for illegal immigrants that arrive without a visa, which we continue to implement on these asylum seekers.
Now, I personally don't like this policy, but I understand it. It's basically a little safety check, at least that's the idea, stop people, make sure they're not criminals, make sure they're healthy; make sure they're not carrying third-world country diseases and make sure they are genuinely fleeing from a country that would persecute them. Like I said, I personally don't like it, but I could never convince people that a little spot-check does more harm than good. It makes sense . . . in theory.
However, in practice,the conditions within these centres are worse than most prisons; the buildings are dilapidated and unsafe, there's little to no privacy, the food does not provide enough nutrition for the many children that have been detained & and the majority of detainees have increased suicidality and suffer from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.
And these people have to live in (and with) these conditions for at least at year, and at most, for the rest of their natural life as there is no maximum time limit for detention, and there are a number of deaths and suicides in these facilities. Then, after all that, there's still a high chance that their appeals of asylum will fall through and they won't be granted entry to Australia, instead they'll be sent right back from whence they came.

But it doesn't even stop there. It gets worse, because Racism is a big issue in Australia (I told you I'd get back to that). We have a high number of migrants in this country, 27% of Australians were born overseas (according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, June 2011), and since the original Australians are technically Aboriginals, and they only amount to 2.5% of the overall population (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006), then 71.5% of Australians born in this country are descended from migrants, we have a huge multiculture.
So to me, it doesn't make any sense to cast this distinction. Because so-called Boat People are immigrants just as much as we were, the only real difference is that we got here first. In fact, many of the first Australians were criminals with records, and they were treated better than we treat innocent asylum seekers. But that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the fact that Australia has a heavy racist undercurrent. And many reports state that Racism is on the rise, not only with increased coverage of racially motivated crime, but the Scanlon Foundation's Social Cohesion Report  has found that in 2013 the percentage of individuals discriminated against because of their ethnicity, skin colour or religion had risen to 19%, the highest it has ever been recorded, since the Foundation began this annual study, in 2007.

Now, it's just extrapolation on my part, but is there not reason to believe that part of the reason why racism is on the rise in this country, is because these immigration policies encourage racism?
There's no room for interpretation here, our policies are telling people to stay out of our country, we are removing incoming boats that try to enter this country and we are telling them to go away and stop trying to come to this country. Actions speak louder than words, so I think these actions are much worse than some thickhead racist telling Asian people to "Go back to your own country". This is the worst kind of racism - it's "approved" racism, government sanctioned and supported by the people that are supposed to be the leaders of this country.
So, that's how you get away with racism, in this country: Be the Government.

We shouldn't be unlawfully forcing people to return to persecution, we shouldn't be forcing them into dilapidated, unsafe and torturous facilities & we shouldn't let the government get away with discriminating against people just because they're foreign.
I may say all the time I'm a narrator, not a dictator; but this is unlawful, it's violating human rights, it's cruel and unusual punishment for innocent people and it's just flat-out wrong.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I am disgusted that this is the way my country treats victims of persecution. It's unAustralian.

1 comment:

  1. If only it were a problem peculiar to Australia; the United States has the same problem with most other refugees from the Caribbean. The only thing we can do is fight these social constructs with words, and to get the words to the right people, namely politicians and citizens willing to protest such injustice.

    Racism isn't just unAustralian; it's inhuman and done on a subconscious level. It's also done all around the world, so we have to fight it where we live and with the tools in our hands.


Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.