Lisa Dillon, Ballina
While we’re busy getting on with our comfortable lives, the refugees that we’ve detained in New Guinea and Nauru are suffering the torture of not knowing when, if ever, they will be released.
As a result, most are suffering mental illness and many, due to inadequate medical services, are also physically ill. Some have broken bones that have never been treated.
These are human beings, just like us, and yet we treat them worse than murderers, rapists and child molesters – even though most have been assessed as genuine refugees.
Australia’s criminals at least know the length of their sentence, whereas the refugees have no idea when or if they will ever be released. It seems that the Government is willing to leave them there for the term of their natural lives. That was a sentence often conferred on convicts in the 18th Century – which is about the time when we might have expected this sort of treatment – not in the 21st Century in the land of a fair go for all.
One of the men on Manus Island was a mathematician before he fled his country. Another was an air force pilot who was kidnapped and tortured by rebel militia. There is also a barber, a musician and guitar-maker, and a man with a masters degree in linguistics who speaks seven languages. Another, Behrouz Boochani, is a writer and poet who this year won The Victorian Premiere’s Literary Award for his book No Friend But The Mountains.
These people have the potential to enrich our country culturally, to contribute experience and knowledge and to boost our economy. In fact, Deloitte Access Economics has just released a report stating that if Australia increased its annual intake of humanitarian migrants to 44,000 it would boost the economy by $5 billion.
It also costs more than $573,000 per refugee, per year, to keep them in detention off-shore – all of which goes to off-shore companies and governments. By comparison, it costs $10,000 to allow one refugee to live in the community while their claims are being processed. Given that there are approximately 1800 refugees in detention (2015 figure) this would give us more than a billion dollars extra per year to put into hospitals, homelessness, drought relief….
Please do something to help these human beings. Join a refugee advocacy group such as Ballina Region for Refugees, write to Peter Dutton, David Coleman or Scott Morrison (email addresses easily found online) or help this Canadian not-for-profit campaign to get refugees to Canada: https://www.mosaicbc.org/news/canada-caring-society-and-mosaic-launch-campaign-to-sponsor-forgotten-refugees-on-manus-and-nauru/