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letters to Courier Sun

The Bellingen Courier Sun is more likely to accept a letter if sent by email

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Letter - Entitlement or Compassion? submitted for 30 July 2014 edition

Dear Editor

Entitlement or compassion?

Last week Darcey Browning repeated the political slogan from Joe Hockey “the age of entitlement is over”.
Another politician stated 
"You can judge politicians by how they treat refugees: they do to them what they would like to do to everyone else if they could get away with it."
When Darcey finds out who said that he will explode.
A safer path is a biblical reference
"Do for others what you want them to do for you." Matthew 7:12


David Wallin
Spicketts Creek

Wednesday 14 May 2014

30 April 2014

Letter to  Mr Hartsuyker

I used to be proud to be Australian; to be a citizen of a nation that led the world in moral matters, that believed in a fair go, that had a government devoted to humanity and social progress.  Now we have a government so ethically debased that it is prepared to use the benighted and disadvantaged asylum seekers as political pawns in the game of petty power politics.  
Your government has manipulated and maligned the most powerless, has sacrificed the vulnerable in the pursuit of getting elected.  In so doing, you have demeaned your office, you have committed systematic cruelty and you have appealed to the lowest in humanity, reducing our once noble nation to an assembly of the mean-spirited.  I am ashamed.

I have some questions to which I would appreciate your considered answers:

Do you support locking up children and pregnant women?

Do you think PNG or Nauru can really support refugees for ever?  The Amnesty International report into conditions on Manus was absolutely damning and the latest outbreak of mosquito-borne disease on Nauru is a symptom of the inadequacy of these off-shore concentration camps.

Do you think spending billions of dollars on a few thousand people is wise for the country as a whole? Would it not make better economic sense to hold these people only for as long as required for basic health and security checks, before releasing them into the community, where they could obtain work and independence, as happens in other countries?  Why are we locking these people up instead of processing them, when we know the vast majority will prove to be genuine refugees?

How do you plan to protect the rights of children who arrive with no parent or adult family members? How can it be in the best interests of any child to be sent away from Australia and into remote, indefinite detention with no certainty around resettlement even if the child is a refugee?  Should one child be punished in the hope of helping another? You have children: how would you feel about your children being locked up in a remote detention centre?  I am a mother and I would find it agonisingly insupportable.

What are your thoughts on the suicides and mental harm caused by indefinite, remote detention? 

If we don't increase the number of refugees we take from Indonesia and Malaysia we are not saving any lives, they are just not dying in our ocean near our media attention. They remain home and die or are completely unsafe stuck in limbo between their homes and Australia, often for decades.  These inhumane off-shore gulags are not about ‘saving lives at sea’: please do not insult our intelligence with this manipulative, fraudulent posture.

If we deny refugees family reunion we are actually going to attract whole families on boats out of desperation, not just fathers or husbands.   What is your view on this matter?
How did your forebears come to Australia?  Did they come seeking a better life for themselves and their families?  Does that mean they were brave and enterprising?  Does that mean they were economic refugees?  Or were they fleeing persecution?  Did they have a right to come here?
In the name of justice and humanity, I wish to see an end to mandatory detention, an end to the persecution of people who have no choice but to arrive by boat without visas, an end to the deliberate infliction of misery upon these victims with the malicious aim of making them abandon hope and return to countries where they are in danger. I would like to see Australia live up to its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention for the treatment of asylum seekers.  I am mortified we are denying them freedom of movement, access to education and the other human rights to which they are entitled.
I wish to see an end to the travesty of democracy where love of country is corrupted to xenophobia, where a propaganda war is waged against the voiceless and the vulnerable, where compassion is thwarted in the service of political careers.   I want to see an end to the denial of human rights to legitimate claimants that has brought international shame on our once great nation.
You do not represent me when you vilify the persecuted and the suffering.
Yours faithfully

28 March 2014

So we are now encouraging employers to bring in large numbers of overseas workers under the 457 skilled migrant category and at the same time punishing people who are supremely able to contribute their skills to this country by forcing a potential workforce of refugees onto bridging visas where the conditions attached, particularly the prohibition on working means asylum seekers face poverty or homelessness.  Without the ability to support themselves through paid work, people become dependent on community services for their basic needs.  Past experience in Australia has shown those restrictions which prevent asylum seekers from working and earning an income can negatively affect their physical and social wellbeing, resulting in problems with health and nutrition, isolation, depression and other mental health issues, and family breakdown. Being able to work contributes both to an individual’s dignity and to the survival of that person and his or her family.  It also allows them to fulfil their wishes to contribute to this country they so fervently wish to be a part of.  Allowing asylum seekers to work would enable them to be better prepared, both financially and psychologically, for their transition to life as Australian residents if they are granted protection visas. This is significant because in previous times around 90% of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat were ultimately found to be refugees and were granted protection visas.
And now we have yet more cruelty and inhumanity foisted upon these vulnerable people - Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has quietly reintroduced a ''backdoor'' alternative visa arrangement to the controversial temporary protection visa, meaning asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat or plane without valid visas will never get permanent residency.  Under the ''Temporary Humanitarian Concern'' visa, refugees will not be permitted to apply for family reunions, nor will they be able to settle in Australia.  The move has been widely criticised by human rights groups who describe the visa - which has very similar restrictions as the temporary protection visa that was voted down in the Senate in December - as cruel and counter-productive.  Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia stated that "For people already traumatised by their refugee journey, living on a temporary humanitarian visa brings uncertainty, unfairness and fear for the safety of family members in dangerous and desperate circumstances. It's using existing visa sub classes in a way in which they were never intended.  It will also retrospectively apply to the 20,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat and are waiting on bridging visas.
Surely Australia is better than this?


Not in our name

Not long ago former high court judge Michael Kirby presented his report about North Korea to the world community. In his final conclusion Kirby said other nations could not say of North Korea, as happened with the Nazis, that they did not know the extent of the crimes: "Now the international community does know. There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn't know. It's too long now. The suffering and the tears of the people of North Korea demand action." 

Thankfully Australia is by far not as bad as North Korea, but in regards to the treatment of asylum seekers by Australian authorities Kirby’s words could easily be used. Thousands of people who have fled horrible conditions in their home countries and asked Australia for protection are either locked up indefinitely in concentration camps in impoverished nations like PNG and Nauru or sent back from where they came from or they are dumped back on Indonesian soil. Our fellow human beings who haven’t committed any crime (it is legal to ask for asylum in Australia) are treated like cattle, locked up in inhumane conditions (including children and unaccompanied minors) and now some were even killed or severely injured. Though everything is done as secretly as possible, keeping journalists or any other observers away from boats and the lockup facilities, everybody who wants to know can’t have any doubts that in our name and with our money most vulnerable people are brutally punished for knocking on our door for help.

The argument used to justify that such a punishment is necessary to stop the boats to save hundreds of people from drowning is a very populist argument from people who don’t really care about the suffering of asylum seekers. A humane society does also not kill or indefinitely lock up people who committed crimes with the argument that this would save lives because then these people couldn’t reoffend. Anyway, Australia has signed the UN refugee convention and is obliged to protect and not punish people who come to this country, but this commitment is permanently violated by the politicians from both big parties. For political purposes humanity is the victim and it’s time that we stop to be silent and try everything possible to change these state crimes committed in our name. Not such a long time ago Australians were told that it was okay to remove aboriginal children from their families or babies from unwedded mothers etc. and place them in horrible institutions and unfortunately not many of us objected at that time. Isn’t it better to do something now instead of apologizing sometime in the future?

If you also think that something should be done then please come to our first public meeting on Sunday, 9th March at 3pm at 5 Church St to discuss how we can best support those incarcerated and stop the cruelty.

Walter Schwarz, Bellingen

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