Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be incarcerated for 12 years? Imagine also that you are innocent of committing any crime. In fact, you’re the victim.
This is what happened to a friend of mine. If I then tell you that he is an asylum seeker, does that change how you’re feeling?
Last week my friend was released. When I found out I danced – literally danced – for joy.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you don’t need to be reading this.
But don’t go away.
I’m one of these bleeding heart do-gooders who is passionate about asylum seekers. My family and I have been helping asylum seekers for 2 years now. And even though this blog is usually dedicated to creative soulful writing, it also celebrates humanity and hope. I’m writing about it today because it is the right thing to do.
This week the issue of asylum seekers in Australia is being highlighted in the media with the airing of Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS. It’s confronting, provocative television. But only because we usually block this kind of reality from our viewing habits. It’s actually just life. Life for most of the planet is confronting and provocative. Whether we choose to be aware of it or not.
My friend fled his home because there were threats to his life in a political systematic killing campaign. He escaped to a country that imprisoned him for 9 years for seeking asylum. He escaped again, this time to Australia where he spent the last 3 years in detention. For the last 2 years my family visited him every week and witnessed his psychological trauma as he lived in limbo.
My friend didn’t know there was an orderly queue he had to join to find safety. Fact is, the queue doesn’t exist. He was not deterred by Australia’s detention policies. Fact is, even if he did get the message (highly unlikely) the risk to his life was a bigger deterrent than detention could ever be.
Have you ever seen a man that is free? You know, truly free? No words can quite capture it. Their skin is radiating. My dad described our friend as serenely happy. He asked him how it felt to be free. His answer (translated to English) was “delicious”.
But it’s also small baby steps. How do you rebuild your mind and your heart after all that time? I can’t even imagine what it would be like not to see my partner and my children for 12 years. I’m pretty sure I’d be crushed beyond repair.
My mum asked our friend where he’d like to go for an outing. You know, to move about and physically touch his freedom. He answered without a pause: the mountains or the sea.
So yesterday my mother, our friend, and another asylum seeker took the train to Circular Quay. The weather was perfect. They got on a ferry to Manly, drank coffee, and walked to the beach.
And with his serene radiating hands, he touched the sea.
Despite what our political parties try to tell us, they have so much truth to catch up on.
This link is an excellent summary of the facts. It really is time for a new conversation: Asylum Seeker Facts: Time for a New Conversation
And here is a letter addressed to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott in response to their off-shore processing policies. It was written by my brother-in-law who has given me permission to publish it here. If you would like to write a similar letter, there’s nothing stopping you.
Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott, you are charged with leading your respective parties in the development of policies that lead to the good governance of this country.
You both know this is not good governance, rather this is good politicking. It’s wretched, hard hearted, economically ludicrous policy.
It does not measure up to any standard, moral, economic or social and clearly punishes victims.
You also both know that is does not deal with the main issue at play here: push factors in the country of origin.
We are signed members of the United Nations Refugee Charter. Dodging our obligations through a legal loophole is fundamentally corrupt.
History will judge this; your legacy is on the line.
Stop peddling misinformation and fear and rather be the ethically outstanding leaders this great nation deserves, and this broken world needs.