Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Manus Island Detention Centre

has been declared "illegal" by the PNG Supreme Court. Perhaps the only surprise is that the declaration did not come earlier.
There are about 850 men being held on Manus Island. They are asylum seekers. 
There are two things to note. Firstly they are men. Secondly they are seeking asylum. They are not women and children, not the very old or the very young. They have not yet been classified as refugees. 
There is also another thing to note. They want, quite specifically, to come to Australia. 
I can't comment on their claims to be refugees. I haven't met any of them.
What interested me was the comments of a former refugee. He came to Australia after the war. 
      "I was in the camp when the war ended. I had no family left. They told me I would be going somewhere. I didn't know where. I didn't care. All I wanted was to be safe, to have food and to be warm when it snowed. I would have gone anywhere with those things."
My belief that he would be sympathetic to the situation those on Manus Island find themselves in was soon dispelled.  It isn't that this man doesn't care about refugees. He does. His family has been some of the strongest supporters I know of refugees in our community. They have fed them, housed them on a temporary basis, clothed the children, taken them to medical, legal, and social welfare appointments, been at their side during job interviews and more.
He just has no time for people who are trying to bypass recognised routes and demand they be given asylum in a specific country.  It wasn't what I expected. 
His comments made me wonder. If this man, who was a refugee and came here, has worked hard and done well, does not support the Manus Island Detention Centre asylum seekers coming to Australia then who does? Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was naturally outspoken once again. People have come to expect it from her. Each time the issue arises she is in front of the cameras saying the same things.
        "What," he wanted to know, "would the Senator do with thousands of such men?"
I suppose it is possible to believe that he is prejudiced. He sees them moving into ghettos of a sort, mixing only with other people from similar backgrounds, and becoming disaffected through lack o employment. Certainly there is some evidence that can happen. Taking in refugees is not a simple matter of housing them, feeding them and then trying to find them a job.
His comments left me wondering whether anyone has any real understanding of the depth of the crisis in Europe and the likely impact on the way of life there. As I have said elsewhere I am deeply concerned about the impact the loss of so many young men will have on the countries they come from. 
It seems we will end up with more than one set of disaffected people. There are  those who want to settle somewhere else. There are those who want to help them. There are those who want to help but without affecting their own way of live. And, there are those left behind who must resent seeing their more fortunate neighbours resettled in countries where the streets appear to be paved with gold.
So, I'll ask again, "Isn't it time to start thinking more about temporary protection, skills training, language learning and the sort of help that will allow those who have fled to return and rebuild? Won't that do more to help everyone? Is it selfish?"

It seems this is not a popular idea. I wish someone would explain what's wrong with it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think they can explain why it might not be a good thing.