Get Up! Perth Stands for Sanctuary
Tonight as we gather here, 267 people battle with with fear and anxiety, unsure as to whether or not they will be whisked away in the middle of the night to be sent back to hell on Manus or Nauru. Right now, men, women and children are sleeping in mouldy tents. As we speak, the men on Manus are taking their daily cocktail of sleeping pills in an attempt to survive one more miserable night inside the camp where almost two years ago their friend Reza Barati was brutally murdered. As the darkness of the night creeps in, despair takes hold as all those behind the fences lay restless contemplating their indefinite detention and the possibility of forced deportation back to the torture and war zones that forced them to leave their families and homes.
While the detention environment is particularly destructive to children, it is important not to erase the bodies of over 900 men on Manus and over 450 men and women on Nauru. Many have been beaten, broken and traumatised, countless women have been assaulted and raped; it is not only the 267 vulnerable individuals who are at risk of being returned to Nauru and Manus that need sanctuary. Every man, woman and child that has been sent to one of Australia’s pacific black sites needs sanctuary; every person who has crossed dangerous waters to make it to our shores needs sanctuary, indeed that is why they came here in the first place. NO ONE should be subject to arbitrary, indefinite detention.
This morning I was talking to a man who is currently trapped on the prison island of Nauru. I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to say tonight, he said “good morning. those protests have been done all about people onshore to be free. Those voices has been out was for kids whom are intended to be send back to this damn island but there more people here suffering and hopeless here from kids ,infants and adults. I hope your voice out for us because our situation is more terrible than those onshore. Anyways, still is victory for us if you guys can set them free and will be great job to be accomplished. Thanks to all of you and I hope current government listen to its people..please don’t let government send back those people. because we will totally lose our hope if this happend we all don’t deserved to be treated like that… I feel so sad and tears got my eyes.we have no right here…30 months is enough if I even I made crime to asked for protection. I have been punished enough and learn the definition of justice from Australian government…To be honest I’m speechless and so disappointed with this situation but then again thank you good luck on your protest ”
This man came on the same boat as other people I know who are currently living in the community in Perth on bridging visas. If you speak to many of the men interned on both Manus and Nauru, they will tell you how some of their boatmates are in Australia, while they languish in the camps. They will explain how people were arbitrarily divided on Christmas Island, some brought to the mainland and others condemned to become political pawns of the offshore processing regime. As a friend interned at the Yongah Hill Detention centre recently told me, “It’s not justice to put the same boat people in different situations by chance. Some r living free and some r suffering in tiny island. I think countries stand on law not chance. So which law say that in Australia to put difference between refugees in a same boat.” There is absolutely no reason why we can’t process and resettle refugees here.
Meanwhile there are around 30,000 people living in the community on bridging visas who are subject to ‘fast track’ processing. A regime so manifestly unfair that even those who are found to be refugees will be condemned to the tortuous and cruel limbo of life on a temporary protection visa. Under the previous system the grant rate was about 90%, under ‘fast track’ we expect only about half of the people will be granted a tpv. Over the next few years thousands of people may be vulnerable to being redetained and potentially deported back to danger – to be tortured, shot at, bombed or imprisoned. These people will need sanctuary and we must ensure that if our government fails to provide it, we step in.
A few days ago, a friend was trying to explain to a 7 year old I know that 267 men, women and kids are potentially at risk of being sent back to Nauru. Her response was, ‘they can stay with me…I’ll sleep with mummy and they can have my room’ I think we should follow her lead.
So from this cathedral let us raise the call to let them land, let them stay, end offshore processing, free the refugees and provide people with permanent protection in Australia.