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.

What now for Manus?


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. 


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

#BringThemHere, drat it!

Anyone else see the Four Corners episode on Monday night?


😦 Those poor children…we need to get them out of there. They belong in Australia, where they can be safe, not on Nauru in indefinite limbo, too frightened to go to school. We’re torturing them – for that is what leaving them in that environment, exposing them to physical, psychological and other forms of abuse is. See here: convention_on_the_rights_of_the_child

They’ve been through hell in their birth countries and have been classified as genuine refugees. They’re no longer in the “detention centres” on Nauru…but their situation, living in a hostile community that doesn’t want them, hasn’t improved.

They should be here!

And the government has the frikking nerve to criticise the ABC and Amnesty International, whose scathing report on the situation was released yesterday. They’ve trotted out the “saving lives from drowning at sea” line again, insisting that the refugees are the responsibility of the Nauran government (which, by the by, has accused the ABC of being racist and an “embarrassment to journalism” after the program). Pathetic! The Australian government doesn’t care about the welfare of the people restricted on Nauru…all they care about is being “tough on borders”.

I’m sick of it.

When will politicians have the political and moral courage to admit that they are wrong in continuing this – and seek a better way? There needs to be a compromise, a true multilateral solution that focuses on the humanity, vulnerability and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers.

In the above link, Amnesty International suggests the following:

Amnesty International urges the Australian Government to show genuine leadership and adopt a better plan for refugees which could include:

  • Boosting Australia’s aid program to help neighbouring countries better protect and support refugees. When people are legally recognised, have safe accommodation, can send their kids to school, and can work and access health services, they won’t be forced to make dangerous journeys to Australia.
  • Making sure the most vulnerable people are resettled within our region and globally. Pressure on individual countries can be reduced if Australia works closely with New Zealand, Japan, the USA, Canada and others to ensure everyone does their fair share. This includes Australia welcoming a minimum of 30,000 refugees per year through its resettlement program.
  • Including refugees in existing visa programs. In addition to Australia’s core resettlement program, to recognise the valuable skills and qualifications of many refugees by including them when allocating student, work and family reunion visas.
  • Assessing refugee applications within a defined time period. When people know they will be assessed in an efficient and orderly way, they are less likely to make a dangerous boat journey.
  • Undertaking timely search and rescue operations. Instead of hazardous push-backs of boats at sea, Australia can run search and rescue operations that save lives.

How about it, politicians?

It’s upsetting. My heart goes out to those children and young people. I pray that the situation will improve – and until it does, you bet I’ll keep speaking out about it.

[Convention on the Rights of the Child accessed here.]


Close the Camps & Bring Them Here. Now.

Tomorrow there are rallies across the country taking place in support of bringing the refugees languishing on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia. PNG’s Supreme Court decided in April that the detention on Manus is unlawful and that the detention centre would have to close. It’s been four months and still the issue is being treated like a political football between the PNG and Australian governments, not to mention the Australian Opposition and other parties. What’s more, the end of August marks fifteen years since the Tampa affair.

I hope something changes soon, though i’m not holding my breath. It gets tiring doing the same things over and over, just to try and shift the “decency levels”a little. Right now, the politics of fear dominate. But the politics of decency are rising in some quarters. Activists need to take heart and try not to burn out as we speak out again and again.

Politician need to have the political courage to generate the will to do more – to bring them here and let them stay.  Some do have that courage. Others are gaining it bit by bit, or are at least open to decency’s possibility. I’m not wasting my breath on the hard-hearted xenophobes who aren’t even that.

We can give support through signing the petition below and then turning up to a rally tomorrow. Come on Australia – let’s show the politicians how much we want the refugees (most of the men on Manus have been found to be genuine refugees). I’ll see you there.

Petition link from GetUp!: https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/refugees/bringthemhere/we-say-bringthemhere

Rally details:
Sydney: https://www.facebook.com/events/266932076997739/?ti=cl
Melbourne: https://www.facebook.com/events/521484394717053/?ti=cl
Brisbane: https://www.facebook.com/events/1813808322182387/?ti=cl
Perth: https://www.facebook.com/events/1735011373427628/?ti=cl
Newcastle: https://www.facebook.com/events/276908372691641/
Darwin (28th due to NT election)

London (26th): https://www.facebook.com/events/814326572002602/?ti=cl
Tokyo: https://www.facebook.com/events/1574975659473330/?ti=cl

Positive Action for Refugees


In the upcoming election (which will be my focus for posting this week), remember:

Last time I talked about not being silent. Implicit in that call was a promise to do something, or some things, to help. Currently, I connect with refugees in my local community and support them through going to rallies, to luncheons and other fundraising/ activism community events.

I also follow a number of pages through social media, who suggest further things to do.

One is Sister Jane Seeks Asylum. Sister Jane is a nun who set up camp in from of Parliament House in Canberra last December (in Advent) to raise awareness about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Right now, she’s running a “Make a Ripple” campaign – each week listing actions one can take to help – like sending phone credit to Manus, so the men there can keep in touch with their families. Check it out!

Here is a Pledge one can take, supporting the action we want to see. Somewhat symbolic, but sets out the objectives clearly, asking that the signer commits to working towards these goals:

  1. Immediate release and settlement for all those suffering at our hands;
  2. End mandatory detention; 
  3. Raise the refugee intake substantially;
  4. Safe and just passage of asylum seekers to Australia, with no punishment based on means of arrival;
  5. Give permanent settlement visas, citizenship with full rights including work and family reunion.”

Here is Julian Burnside’s explanation of why we should care, as a reminder, with some potential humane solutions.

Also, if you’re so inclined, here is an open letter from CAPSA (Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum): http://jss.org.au/capsa-open-letter-june-2016/
They, too, have a list of points:

  1. Offshore, mandatory and indefinite detention are wrong.
  2. The principle of deterrence, by which people who have already tried to come to Australia to seek protection are treated harshly in order to stop others doing the same, cannot be justified morally.
  3. People seeking asylum in Australia should live in the Australian community. Those sent to Nauru and Manus Island should be returned to Australia
  4. Those living in the community should have the right to work, access to basic services, and to some financial support if they cannot find work.
  5. Children should not be held in detention anywhere, but be housed in the Australian community with the full range of services necessary for their welfare.
  6. In the Catholic tradition, if people are to live with dignity their family ties are essential. People should have the opportunity to be reunited with separated close family members promptly once they are found to be refugees


Finally, to end on a happy note – a post on Facebook I saw:

The kids are all right, I reckon.




Refugee Week: Chasing Asylum

Hi everyone. I’ve been absent a few weeks because my scheduled posts ran out completely, just when the uni calendar went to exam mode. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, but it’s still pretty busy.


TRIGGER WARNING for links to torture, rape & violence. 😦

This week is Refugee Week in Australia. Last week, I watched the film Chasing Asylum. It’s a film about asylum seekers trying to come to Australia and the conditions in Nauru, Manus Island and Indonesia, as well as a bit of a history lesson in past politics from the 70s and Fraser to now. It was a very good summary of events and conditions. Hmph. Populist politics of fear is what’s driving the determination to keep asylum seekers away from Australia. It’s led to a lack of political will to do something humane instead.

I wish the film could be shown on public television. People need to see it.

Here’s the website for the film: http://www.chasingasylum.com.au/
Check if there’s a screening near you, or host one.

Here’s the trailer for it:

You might have seen this article, too. It’s horrifying.

Hmph. This election, I’m voting for a party that denounces this stupidity and promises to fix it!

I’ll post about the better things of Refugee Week tomorrow.

Sorry Day

Today is National Sorry Day in Australia, to commemorate injustices perpetrated against the Indigenous peoples of Australia, particularly the injustices of the Stolen Generation. Kevin Rudd apologised for that in 2008, but – as I saw in a documentary recently – we still have a long way to go.

There have been so many wrongs against Indigenous Australians since settlement. A good deal of them, as I understand it, came and still comes from, first, the original inability of the white people to see Indigenous people as people (not counted on the census, nor given the vote, until 1967); and second, the inability of non-Indigenous people, particularly governments, to listen to Indigenous people.

The recent documentary I watched makes that very clear. http://www.ourgeneration.org.au/watch/ – Please find an hour and watch it. It explains things very well, by giving some Indigenous peoples – Yolngu, in the Northern Territory – a voice. I learnt about homelands and how the NT Intervention has been a way of taking back hard-won land rights from Indigenous peoples. Among other things.

One of the things I’ve been hearing/ reading a lot lately is the issue of treaty. We are the only country, I think, in the West, who still don’t have a treaty of some sort with our Indigenous peoples. Read more about the importance of treaty here.

That’s why actions like the treaty negotiations between the Andrews Labor Government of Victoria and Victoria’s Indigenous peoples, that have been announced today, are so important. Read this article – by the end of 2016, it’s hoped that the Victorian Government and Victoria’s Indigenous peoples will have a treaty!
It only took us 228 years since settlement.

When we listen and work with each other, things can happen. There’s no denying that Australia is a racist country in many aspects. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If we fix this, we might be able to fix a lot of other things.

Maybe. We won’t know unless we start.





From GetUp! – an email earlier in the week:

The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea has ruled that detaining people in Australia’s abusive Manus Island camp is illegal. That means they must be freed.1

So what happens next? Peter Dutton says ‘nothing will change’2 – but that’s just the final, stuttering scratches of a broken record. In reality, the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia are urgently deciding how to deal with this ruling.

We need to speak up together, right now.

Legally, the government might have a few options – but morally, there’s only one. The Manus Island camp must be closed, and everyone the government illegally imprisoned brought to safety in Australia.

Click here to sign the petition to #BringThemHere

The Australian government’s offshore detention regime has always sat on shaky legal ground (i.e. it’s illegal under international law), but the last six months have seen its corporate and popular support plummet. A growing number of voices – from doctors to investors – have spoken out against the human rights abuses in the camps, and the people power of #LetThemStay is turning the tide.

#LetThemStay showed that more people than ever support allowing people seeking asylum already in Australia to move into our communities. Now, we must prove once and for all that our shared compassion extends to those on Manus Island and Nauru.

While the government is scrambling for a response to this ruling, we need to say loud and clear that the people the government has imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru should be brought here to safety, and the camps closed forever. Sign the petition to #BringThemHere: http://www.getup.org.au/bringthemhere

Today’s news is the latest blow to the government’s brutal offshore detention regime. Together we can make this blow decisive – and build compassionate policies in its place.

Right now is a time of flux. Things are happening and the pressure has ratcheted up again. We have good news – like the protests that occurred today (Friday 29th) and will occur tomorrow (Saturday 30th).

There is also awful bad news – like the man ‘Omid’ who set himself on fire being declared dead (I swore when I read that).

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-29/nauru-refugee-who-set-himself-on-fire-dies/7371112 (trigger warning for suicide).

We have to act, now. I’ll be going down to the Melbourne rally. I will also email my local representative. Things have to change. It won’t be easy, but it is right.

Come on, Australia! We’re better than this – so let’s #bringthemhere to #letthemstay.