Wednesday, 1 April 2015

First we were told that

there were children being held in asylum seeker detention on Nauru. Then we were told there were no children. Now we are told there are children. Then we were told they were not getting an education. Now we are told they are getting an education.
But wait. We are told it was not a good education.  Now they are going to close the school and send them to school with the local children on the island.
But wait again. They don't want to go to the local school. Letters are being written. Apparently it is a good education after all. They want to stay in  the detention centre. It's safer there too - although just a short while ago we were being told it was too dangerous for children to be in detention. We were being told that they were being subjected to violence and sexual assault and all sorts of other dangers.
I do not want children in detention. It is simply wrong to have children who have done nothing wrong in detention. They should not be there.
But - and yes, there is a "but" - I do not want children being used as pawns.
The media will say whatever stirs up news. Accuracy is not an issue. "Refugee advocates" have an interest in making sure that the picture is as black as possible. Those seeking refugee status also have an interest in making sure that the situation is reported to their advantage. "The truth" would seem to be whatever people want to believe.
The reality may be rather different. Nauru survives on handouts. It might be said that they had no choice about accepting the detention centre on their island. They needed the money and employment it brings in. There is a small group of local people who are opposed to the idea but, I am told, most accept it as a means of their survival too. Capable young people who care about their own futures tend to go off to live in New Zealand or other places. It might seem selfish but it is understandable.
It makes sense to put any children left in the detention centre on Nauru into the local schools. It will actually help the local schools because it will bring in more money for education from outside of Nauru. That will help to raise the standard of education there. That might give the place some small chance for the future - or at least give young people a chance if they move on elsewhere.
Yes, there are problems. Children in detention are often traumatised. They don't speak the language. There are often behaviour issues. They may not have had any schooling at all. If they have been to school they may still be behind. They may need extra help in many ways. 
But will any children left in detention actually be allowed to go to the local schools? It might be the policy of others but some decisions in detention centres rest with powerful interests among those seeking asylum. If they decide that children should not attend local schools - or even go to school in the detention centre - then they will not go. It matters not to them if children are not getting an education. All that matters to them is the pressure they can put on a government to grant them "refugee status". 
A colleague has just come back from another detention centre. He heard a child pleading to be allowed to go to school in the detention centre. Her mother was saying "no" - "no" because the men in her group had decided there would be no education at all until they were granted the refugee status they wanted. That status is in serious doubt so they are using the women and children as pawns.
Detention centres are vile places but the children in them don't need to lack an education when it is offered to them. That is using children as pawns. That is unacceptable.

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