I Think Of The Terrible Cruelties We Are Heaping Upon Asylum Seekers

Tonight people around Australia are attending candlelight vigils for a slain asylum seeker, Reza Barati. He was killed in circumstances that we still really don’t know a lot about, in another country, Manus Is, PNG, because successive Australian governments have played the “I can be crueler than you” policy game and determined that vulnerable people seeking safety in our country will instead be turned away and sent to places that can only be for one thing – to heap more cruelty upon them.

I didn’t participate in an organised vigil. Having chickens means we are bound to be home within a time that we can lock them away, keep them safe from foxes and other predators. That’s before dark and candlelight vigils work best after dark. Instead my partner and I held our own. We considered what we could do to change the way our government is treating asylum seekers, doing it in our name, painting us as selfish and craven across the world.

We’ve not come to any firm conclusions. We will keep supporting political actions, protests, petitions, and the social justice focused not-for-profit organisations that do this work and much more. Organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Sanctuary and others work with asylum seekers to assist them to survive in a policy landscape that has been set against them. Most have no income, no work rights, no access to Medicare, little capacity to support secure housing and not even access to schooling for their children.

These organisations work with everyone who is placed in our community while their asylum claim is determined; access to those in the detention centres on Nauru, Manus Is. and Christmas Is. is restricted and fraught with legal and policy barriers. They also advocate and support asylum seekers and refugees through the legal minefield that is the Australian refugee processing system.

The ASRC has around 900 volunteers and they achieve amazing things. I want to be part of that too. When my health settles, and my finances, I think that’s the next thing for me. I am not silent and soon I will be an active contributor to this important social justice cause.

I cannot change what has happened. I am only one voice (among many) who abhor our current government’s policies and secrecy around the off-shore detention centres. Our voices are not being headed but our actions can let those asylum seekers amongst us know that they are welcome here.

Remembering Reza Barati, I blow out this candle and hope that his senseless loss of life can help galvanise us all to fight for others like him. I hope we can all find a way to stand up and say “Not in my Name” to our leaders. I hope.

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