Update on “What Now for Manus?”

Last week I sent an email to some Parliamentarians as part of my personal actions in support of the men on Manus.

A spokesperson/ staffer/ etc. has got back to me from one of them. Below is the email he wrote and the one I sent back after I’d read it.

Stupid wedge politics.

His email:

Dear Clare,

Thank you for writing to the Shadow Minister about refugees in PNG following the closure of the former Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton have been woefully incompetent in their management of offshore processing arrangements – including failing to be upfront from the start about access to essential services at alternative accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees.

The standoff at the closed Manus Island RPC could have been avoided if the Turnbull Government didn’t wait until the last minute to finalise ongoing arrangements in PNG.

Following the transfer of refugees from the closed Manus Island RPC to alternative accommodation, Malcolm Turnbull has a moral obligation to ensure refugees have access to essential services including food, water, security, health and welfare services.

Manus Island and Nauru were set up as regional transit processing facilities but have become places of indefinite detention because of Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton’s failure to negotiate other third country resettlement options.

Labor strongly supports the US refugee resettlement agreement and has called on Malcolm Turnbull to work with the US to expedite the resettlement process.

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton have put all their eggs in one basket with the US agreement and have failed to secure other third country resettlement arrangements.

It’s extremely disappointing Malcolm Turnbull has failed to show leadership and accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle eligible refugees from both Manus Island and Nauru.

Of course, there would need to be conditions on any resettlement deal with NZ in the same way there are conditions on the US arrangement.

Malcolm Turnbull needs immediately begin to negotiate the New Zealand and other viable third country resettlement options to get eligible refugees off Manus Island and Nauru as soon as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Shadow Minister on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Timothy Dunlop

The Hon Shayne Neumann MP | Federal Member for Blair

Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

My response:

Hi there,

Thanks for answering my email. I’m still left feeling a bit dissatisfied.

In my original email I asked certain questions, namely: “Has anyone from Labor attempted to go and see conditions for themselves? Where has this idea that the offered alternative accommodation is acceptable come from? Why [was] the onus on the men to move there, rather than the violence to stop? The men have been asking us to listen to them about this. Why are you ignoring their voices?”

Are there any answers for these?

Thank you.

 

We’ll see what happens.

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What now for Manus?

Urrrrgh.

I bloody hate this situation.

I’ve made phone-calls, including to Peter Dutton MP (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection). I’ve also sent an email to my local member, Bill Shorten MP (Opposition Leader) and Shayne Neumann MP (Shadow Minister for Immigration).

See that below. This sickens me…. and I feel so hopeless and helpless about it.

Check out the statement from Shadow Minister for Immigration here:  http://shayneneumann.com.au/news/immigration-and-border-protection/former-manus-island-regional-processing-centre/ A lot more mealy-mouthed than I’d hoped for. Luckily I saw it when looking up his contact details and could address the icky bits in my email (they’re the bits in red). In the email, when I speak of the “current situation” I’m referring to the situation today. The angle I took was influenced by a phone-chat I had with a staffer from Shayne Neumann’s office.

 

Dear Mr David Feeney MP, Mr Shayne Neumann MP and Mr Bill Shorten MP,

My name is Clare Keogh and I am a young university student living in [suburb], Victoria. I am deeply concerned about the situation on Manus Island that has been unfolding for several weeks and escalated today. I am also keeping the people detained on Nauru in my thoughts, as they should not be forgotten either.
I know that the current situation is not Labor’s doing and that the centres, when Labor restarted them, was intended to be used for regional processing rather than indefinite detention. 
 
However, the fact remains that the current situation is not the responsibility of PNG but of Australia. There have been reports of AFP involvement in today’s crisis on Nauru, after all. 
 
By what right are the men’s phones being seized? By what right are their few belongings being taken and destroyed? By what right have their only means of getting water and shelter been destroyed? By what right has their access to even the most basic medical aid and food been removed? Why has Behrouz Boochani been arrested?
 
I understand that, as you are in Opposition, it makes it harder to make concrete change. But you and your colleagues should speak up about the situation still. Perhaps you are advocating for them behind closed doors. Can you explain, concretely, how? 
 
I am particularly concerned by some of the information that has been presented in the statement produced by Mr Neumann an hour ago: 
 

The situation at the closed Manus Island RPC could have been avoided if Malcolm Turnbull was clear from the start about refugees’ access to essential services at the alternative accommodation in PNG.

Turnbull has a moral obligation to work with PNG to deescalate tensions and guarantee the ongoing safety and security of these people.

Labor accepts that the former Manus Island RPC has closed as the result of a decision of the Supreme Court of PNG.

The men at the closed centre need to relocate to alternative accommodation – such as East Lorengau – to access security, health and welfare services.

Footage and reports from advocates who have visited the East Lorengau site make clear that the “alternative accommodation” at East Lorengau is not ready. No water, toilets, or showers. No power. Inadequate shelter for the tropical conditions. No security and no safety. The locals do not want them there. After all, Manus Island is a tiny part of PNG, with scarce resources for the local population.
 
Has anyone from Labor attempted to go and see conditions for themselves? Where has this idea that the offered alternative accommodation is acceptable come from? Why is the onus on the men to move there, rather than the violence to stop? The men have been asking us to listen to them about this. Why are you ignoring their voices? 
 
 
Nauru is also a small place that is struggling to care for all of its people. Yet today I heard news of a new contract being given to Canstruct to build more facilities (described as “garrison-type”) for those held there. There are children and vulnerable women on Nauru. Can nothing be done for them? 
I thought Australia was better than this. It makes me sick at heart to think of this going on, when it would be so much cheaper and more humane to fulfil our international and moral obligations and either bring them here or resettle them in another country who are willing and able to take them – like New Zealand – while working with other countries in the region to create a viable long-term solution. 
 
The idea that these measures are in place to “save lives at sea” or “protecting Australian borders” is rubbish. There are far cheaper and better ways of preventing people risking lives on boats to Australia, like investing in real regional dialogue and processing, providing support and resources to countries, like Malaysia and Indonesia, where the boats set out from. 
 
The current situation is a punitive measure created to encourage asylum seekers to think that going to Australia is worse than staying where they are. Now that has led to desperate people being treated like animals, denied even the most basic human rights. 
 
Please do something. This is a major sticking point for myself and many others in terms of voting. More than that, making a stand is the right thing to do. Have some political courage, listen to those who are experiencing the crisis, and act, please. The situation has gone on for far too long! 
 
If you reply, please don’t use an automated response but something real. 

#Iamwatching – For Crying Out Loud, #bringthemhere!

I just spent 10 minutes calling my local MP’s office, as well as the offices of Bill Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton to express my “utter disgust” (as I phrased it to Turnbull and Dutton’s staffers) at the current situation on Manus. Why, why, why do people still insist on treating refugees and asylum seekers as political footballs? Why do people not see that using punitive measures creates far more problems than it solves? Our response should be compassionate and respectful. Instead, we have this toxic dehumanising scary situation.

For those of you who are still unaware of what I’m talking about, here’s ASRC’s CEO, Kon Karapanagiotidis:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAsylum.Seeker.Resource.Centre.ASRC%2Fvideos%2F1591307030907437%2F&show_text=0&width=560

As of 17:00 today (i.e. 30 minutes ago), all food, water (drinking and running water, so no sanitation!), electricity and medicine access to the men imprisoned in offshore detention on Manus Island has been cut off completely. The Australian government workers and contractors have walked off the site and left “control” in the hands of the Paupa New Guinean military forces – the same group that has repeatedly threatened and made attempts to harm the men.

Supply is being cut off in order to force the men to move to a “transit centre” in another part of the island. A centre which hasn’t been built yet! If they more there? Well – as Kon says above it’s not the fault of the local people, who didn’t ask for the men to be on the Island in the first place. But moving 816 men into East Lorengau, with a population of 4,000 people, where resources are scarce enough to begin with – is quite frankly a worrying prospect. As Kon says in the video (starts about the 4 minute mark), the locals do not want them to come. They have petitioned against it and also made threats. Now, why would the asylum seekers want to move there?

These men do not deserve this. Bring them here

The men have been imprisoned for more than four years on Manus Island in squalid conditions. There are better ways of “dealing” with them!

Let’s reiterate some facts:

  1. Seeking asylum is NOT illegal, whether you come by plane or boat (or land but that’s not possible in Australia)
  2. Locking the refugees up doesn’t “stop the boats”
  3. Asylum seekers leave their countries because they’re FORCED to – because they’re scared for their own lives or the lives of their families.

Australia will have blood on our hands after this, I fear.

Read more about the current situation here and here and here.

I’ve written about potential solutions before #BringThemHere, drat it! and REBLOGGED: Alternative to Offshore Detention and many others – search my blog using the keyword refugees and you’ll see. I hate this situation.

😦 I wish the politicians would actually behave compassionately rather than punitively. It bloody sucks.

Who Really Inhabits the Refugee Activism Space?

Every day, it seems, there are things going on in the world that are just plain awful. I glance at them and pick a few to get properly worked up about. Then I take action about those things in some way – like going to the Palm Sunday rally. It was blooming cold and a little wet, though luckily most of the wet had occurred the day before. Still, there was plenty of people there – some reports said 5,000. We listened to the speakers – of different faiths and backgrounds, young and old, male and female – give witness to the truths as they saw them. Including one articulate woman, Idil Ali, who had the courage to speak truths to the power of a dominant force in the refugee movement, the Action Collective. She’s part of RISE – Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees, a group that is run by refugees, for refugees. Why aren’t they more mainstream I wonder? Is it because they don’t quite fit the narrative that other “mainstream” activist groups want to send?

See video here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FRefugeesSurvivorsAndExdetainees%2Fvideos%2F1613517298688403%2F&show_text=1&width=560

At all of these rallies, the dominant presence are the loud, sometimes confrontational, people from the Refugee Action Collective or Network. There are other groups too – I need to do some investigation at some point into how the groups are connected.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s rally there was some friction – as mentioned in the video I think. It’s reminded me that we all need to be critical thinkers as activists, to make sure that the cause we’re fighting for is what we really think it should be.

I have a little motto for these things that I was given last year after hearing from a good speaker. Solidary and allyship, three bits of advice = 1. don’t be a dickhead – it’s their space/agenda/issue, not “yours”; 2. respect the main people affected by l-i-s-t-e-n-ing and following their lead in actions; 3. remember that issues are all connected (i.e. climate change issues are connected to refugee issues are connected to land rights issues and so on). Or, as RISE say, “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

A failure to listen properly has caused hurt here. But if that’s acknowledged and the wake-up call is heeded, things can improve.

There were some really good messages during the speeches. A moment that touched me was when one speaker asked us all to make hearts with our hands as she took a photo to send back to Nauru, to show those waiting in limbo that we’re still here, still pushing for change, still wanting to bring them here with us. Pressure is key – things are shifting. we can keep building momentum. Four years in limbo is far too long – let’s create change.

 

 

Palm Sunday Refugee Walk for Justice

Banner for refugee rally reading: "Walk for Justice for Refugees - 2017 - Bring Them Here - Close Manus, Close Nauru Welcome Refugees Permanent Protection - Palm Sunday, April 9. In the top right corner, a young girl holds a sign saying., "It's not fair".

Taken from the Walk for Refugees 2017’s profile picture

This event is occurring this Sunday. I’m excited – it’ll be the first time I’m able to attend. (Meant to go last year, but the knee intervened…)

I saw this photo up at my uni the other day.

Poster of baby in red t-shirt lying on white floor looking away from camera - text underneath read: Malcolm Turnbull #LetThemStay

#LetThemStay poster at uni – on one of the health student discipline-specific noticeboards. Way to go!

It made me happy. A bunch of my friends – including some who did the #LetThemStay group shot with me last year (well, the same student club) – are going along to Sunday’s rally.

There are rallies across Australia:

Details of Palm Sunday Rallies for Refugees 2017: NSW - Sydney (2PM, Hyde Park North to Circular Quay); Newcastle (12:50PM, Wheeler Place); Wollongong (2PM, Crown St Mall); Lennox Head (11AM, on beach front near bus stop). ACT: Canberra (1PM, Civic Square). VIC: Melbourne (2PM, State Library); Bendigo (SATURDAY, 10AM, near steps of info centre). WA: Perth (1PM, St George's Cathedral). QLD: Brisbane (2PM, King George Square); Townsville (4PM, Rock Pool, The Strand). SA: Adelaide (2PM, Victoria Square). NT: Darwin (5PM, Esplanade Park, from southern to northern end). TAS: Hobart (1PM, Parliament Gardens); Launceston (1:45PM, Princes Park to City Square).

Palm Sunday Rally 2017 details.

 

 

(Source: Catholic Religious Australia)

I’m going to the Melbourne one and I”m really pleased that some issues regarding solidarity – doing these events with refugees, not for or to them – appear to have largely been resolved. See the link below/.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FDemocracyInColour%2Fposts%2F1902309170026451&width=500

See if there’s a rally near you and come along!

Donate to RISE Foodbank

RISE are a group of “refugees, survivors and ex-detainees”, who help out refugees in need. 

Their Melbourne foodbank could use a little love (see attached pics). 

Also, I’m supporting their call for the Palm Sunday rallies (and other “supportive” spaces to have more direct involvement (e.g. Speakers) from refugees, especially ex-detainees. Not just advocates speaking on behalf of them. Solidarity means putting those affected first, by creating spaces for them to share their stories (for starters)… See this link for more info. 

Rest is in pictures because reblogging etc. from the Facebook mobile app isn’t the best. 

#BringThemHere

Still, we must protest and raise our voices. The US-Australia deal is all-but-dead…why can’t the government show some courage and bring them here to Australia? close the camps!

Excellent analysis by David Manne in the following article: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/05/opinions/us-australia-refugee-deal/

Also, a perspective from America focusing on the humanity at the US-Mexico border: https://vox-nova.com/2017/02/05/brains-bodies-borders-biases-and-the-circle-of-holy-belonging/#more-29821

Refugees, Education and Activism

On Monday, VCE results came out. Among all the stories of achievement there were a few interesting ones. Like the one about Saad Al-Kassab. A Syrian refugee who came to Australia two years ago and has only learnt English in that time, he has graduated as dux of his class, with an ATAR of 96.65. Way to go, mate!

Recently, the topic of refugees and education has reared its head in a different form. Check out this article – the group Teachers for Refugees is standing up for those in detention by wearing t-shirts with slogans in their classrooms this week. Naturally, the government aren’t happy, saying silly things like “politics doesn’t belong in the classroom”. As the article says, of course politics belongs in the classroom – how else are students supposed to engage with history and current events? They have a right to speak their minds about the hell in detention (and to protest against the Border Force Act that stops them). Our treatment of asylum seekers is shameful.

If we gave them a chance and brought them here, imagine how life could be. Saad Al-Kassab started off in Australia working as the school’s gardener and after a few months got into the classroom. He now wants to go and study medicine. I wish good things for him and his future and hope that others will get the opportunities he’s received soon.

 

Gifts for Refugee Children Nauru

Concrete ways to help. Shared from Facebook via a copy-paste (only edit being the “# of days to go”). Links to the original are below. Imagine if everyone who saw this post did one of the actions suggested…that’d be something! You have TWELVE DAYS.
No automatic alt text available.

Rochelle Van Der Merwe to WE CARE NAURU – Gifts Network

🎈IT IS HEEEEERE!🎈

📛DEADLINE: Fri, 18 Nov (12 more sleeps!)‼️

🎁YOUR chance to make an actual, TANGIBLE difference to a child’s life this Christmas. Despite being trapped in Nauru detention for yet ANOTHER Christmas, it has not crushed these children’s hopes that perhaps they could get a 🎁pressie🎁from their wish lists.

🌈Would you like to help us make this possible? Would you like to help us make sure that EVERY SINGLE CHILD there has at least ONE of his/her wishes fulfilled?

At 💚We Care Nauru💚, we are working hard to send every child in detention a gift this Christmas. We know what these children want🎁🎁🎁, as there have been endless requests for some of the simplest of things that we take for granted, such as new clothes, runners (sports shoes), nutritious food and vitamins.

3 WAYS TO HELP:

1. 🎄 FINANCIAL DONATION💌: (https://chuffed.org/…/christmas-for-our-detained-children-i…) Every cent raised will go to our airfreight costs to send these items to Nauru, or to pay for requested clothing, food or vitamins.

2.)🎄DONATE A REQUESTED ITEM🎁:
Deadline: Friday, 18 Nov 2016.
– You can post – or, if in Melbourne, personally deliver – one/some of the requested items to our drop-off location (please PM for address).
– An easy way is to purchase some items online and let them deliver directly to our address.
– The deadline is so that we can wrap, pack & send all these pressies in time for Christmas.

3.)🎄SHARE this post🕊.

List of wanted goodies:
🎈clothes (light summer, sizes newborn to adult medium [for the teens])
🎈dress-up costumes (tutus, capes, anything awesome & magical)
🎈shoes (sneakers for boys & girls; sandals for girls; water shoes/crocs)
🎈Lego (much-needed, very durable)
🎈Duplo (much-needed, very durable)
🎈Mobilo (much-needed, very durable)
🎈other educational activities that don’t require batteries
🎈art & craft (also paper/sketch books)
🎈vitamins (vit D, iron or multi))
🎈nutritious snacks (esp nuts, dried fruit & veggies)
🎈lollies/sweeties
🎈chocolate (such a luxury there!)

🌟Your support means the world on so many levels. Thank you for your kindness.🙏🏻

Open Letter by RISE

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Letter to the Australian Public – Re:Proposed legislation to ban refugees and asylum seekers who come on boats from entering Australia – 31/10/2016

On behalf of our members and governing staff from over 30 of the refugee and ex-detainee communities in Australia, RISE urges the Australian public to say NO to the Turnbull government’s plan to introduce legislation to ban asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being allowed into Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposal to impose a “life ban” on refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived since 2013, as well as future refugees who will be arriving to seek protection, will be tied up with the “No Advantage Policy”, which was crafted and designed under the Labor party.

Therefore, we urgently request the public to resist the Australian Prime Minister’s proposed legislation to ban refugees and asylum seekers who come on boats from entering Australia. You can contact your member in the House of Representatives and ask them to not to support it. Find your member, http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members. Australia as a nation should treat refugees, who come to seek protection, with respect. Instead Australian politicians past and present have used it to become the utterly politicised issue it is now in Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposal only serves political parties like One Nation, Pauline Hanson, and her followers will be proud of their White Australia policies. These fear-mongering leaders will only boost the attitudes of racists and xenophobes, but will not bring justice to our refugee community.

Men, women and children are trapped in Nauru and Manus, held hostage by the Australian government and are used as political pawns. This is deliberately designed discrimination and well managed by Australian politicians. There is enough evidence that Australia’s treatment of refugees is barbaric, and that treating survivors of persecution in this way should not continue.

There are over 65 million displaced refugees around the world. Many are languishing without proper protection in interim camps. Australia’s discriminatory, human rights-violating “offshore” processing system for asylum seekers who arrive by boat adds tally to the interim camps and keeps refugees in isolation. Deterrence measures may lower the number of asylum seekers in Australia, but it is not a just and humanitarian solution for people trying to cross borders by boat, or any other form of transport, desperately seeking a place where they can be safe.

To lobby for international action, click on the following links and raise your concern:
UNHCR Geneva http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html
UN New York http://www.un.org/en/contactus/
World Human Rights Watch hrwpress@hrw.org , http://www.hrw.org/contact/new-york
High Commissioner for Human Rights nationalinstitutions@ohchr.org , infoDesk@ohchr.org

Treating refugees as the problem or as political pawns is the REAL problem.

Link to the letter : http://riserefugee.org/letter-to-the-australian-public-rep…/

RISE TEAM.
‘Nothing About Us Without Us’