Tag Archives: asylum seekers

Dear Mr. Turnbull

It won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I think Donald Trump is a cretin.  About a month ago I was feeling my usual sense of outrage about the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, but I was expressing this upset in a series of Facebook angry face icons, and article shares with like-minded lefties on my newsfeed.  The problem is, it wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to do more than be a social media activist – and marching at rallies is not my thing (too much walking!)  Writing is my thing though: so I decided to mobilise my anger and tell someone that matters how I was feeling: the PM of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and my Federal Member, Tony Smith MP.

Dear Mr. Turnbull,

I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling outraged and disappointed by the US political decision to ban refugees and immigrants from various, predominantly Muslim, countries.  I am relieved that, for the time being, the judicial system has halted the travel ban, and that a US federal appeals court has turned down the White House’s emergency request to resume the travel ban executive order.

It’s a troublesome reminder of how dangerous and prejudice the Trump administration is promising to be.  I am frightened by this explicit discrimination based on religion and the underlying tone of it harks back to some very dark times in world history. I don’t believe the rest of the world can sit by, mincing our words, trying to placate a bully.

It is easy for me to be a keyboard activist.  To use the sad face and angry buttons on Facebook every time I see an article that disappoints/angers/WTFs me. But for me, it is now not enough to agree with my peers about how horrible the whole sorry affair is, or to share petitions, or shake my head and laugh at Trump memes.

So I am writing to you as the most senior representative of the Australian people, and ask that you convey what your constituents are telling you.  That many of us; millions of us, are opposed to the actions of the US administration and we urge them to reflect on their history and role as providers of safe passage and opportunity for generations of refugees and migrants.

I would also ask the Australian Government to reflect on our own local pedigree of being the ‘lucky country’ and land of opportunity for many.

Let me be very clear: I am not opposed to Border security.  My father enjoyed a long and respected career as an Australian customs officer.  I get it.  I’m not saying ‘come one, come all don’t worry about the process.’  I understand there are very real threats to the safety and security of the community.  I believe that with appropriate checks and timely processing of asylum seekers these risks can be mitigated, and it is our global responsibility to offer sanctuary to the people who genuinely need it.

I don’t think your job is easy Mr. Turnbull.  I don’t think that Mr. Trump is open to a fair and respectful discourse about the subject.  I understand there is bureaucracy, and power hierarchies, political ramifications, and alliances that you need to consider.

But it is unethical and dangerous for you to be complicit in a so called ‘safety measure’ that specifically targets the Muslim faith.  You own party touts to believe in the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.

You recently said it was not your place to “run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.” You must understand this decision reaches far beyond the shores of the US.  It is your responsibility as a leader to speak up about issues and conflicts that affect a global community.  It is your role to try and assert your influence and to speak on behalf of citizens who don’t have a hotline to the decision maker’s office.

Given my own personal opposition to the discriminatory and inhumane approach to refugee and immigration intakes, I am putting my money where my mouth is.  In addition to this letter requesting your action (cc’d to my Federal member Tony Smith MP) I am making a donation to the Unicef Syrian Refugee Fund and to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.

Thank you for your time.

Last week Tony Smith MP responded to my email, and he acknowledged the points made in my letter. His office called me more than once to make contact; he wanted to assure me he had read every word.  They were cordial, patient and pleasant to talk to.  I feel lucky to live in a country where I have both the access and the means to be heard by members of my own government.

Tony towed the party line, and stated that the domestic policies of the US were not something the Australian Government should or would comment on or interfere with.  He also acknowledged the points I made about Australia’s Border Security policies: he respectfully disagreed with my position on this; acknowledged my opinion, but stood by the current policies for offshore processing of asylum seekers.

I’m publishing this letter now because, whilst I am still not satisfied that our Government is meeting its ethical obligations of acting against injustice, Tony’s response proves that you can reach the decision makers in Canberra if you try hard enough.

Maybe you might like to express your thoughts on a particular issue that is important to you.  If you do, follow this link and Contact your PM.

And if writing is not your thing, and you too are concerned about the global refugee crisis, why not send a few quid to the organisations who are doing their best to rescue those in need of liberation.  Unicef, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

In short: If you see something, say something. (Seriously: say it.)



Fit to board: the book blog gets political (again!)

I’m always wary of a blog that starts with ‘As a mother,’ because what normally follows is a diatribe about the amount of refined sugar in children’s cereals, the violence in video games, the importance of keeping a family routine, or the amount of screen time a two-year old should actually have.

But at the risk of sounding slightly hysterical, I’ve got to say it.  As a mother, it’s been a really tough week to watch the news.

But more-over, it’s been a tough week for anyone who has a shred of compassion and sense of moral responsibility. So, as a human, it’s been frustrating, and embarrassing and saddening and enraging to watch the news this week.

My first ‘as a mother’ inspired outburst was when I learned of the 31 year old asylum seeker, who was transported from Nauru to give birth to her baby at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital.  Delivery was by c-section and the baby boy, Farus, was born with respiratory problems and had to be cared for in the neonatal special unit at the hospital.

However just four days after giving birth, the mother Latifa, was discharged and then confined to the Brisbane Immigration Transit accommodation, 20 minutes away.   She was only allowed to visit her baby boy between 10am and 4pm, as per the hospitals visiting hours.  It is claimed that her husband, who is also detained, was not given access to visit his son.

It’s important to note here that the hospital has rebuked the Government’s claims that they were responsible for enforcing the visiting time rules.  The hospital said in a statement:

“Once a Mum is clinically well enough to go home, she is discharged from hospital, but is encouraged to be involved in the baby’s care wherever possible to help establish her bond with her baby.  Mater places no restrictions on women and they can visit their baby anytime where possible.”

But I suppose that Mum, (after having major surgery) is a threat to national security right?

So I swallowed down that news with difficulty, and swore and ranted for a bit about the Government and our apathy and at the fuckedness of it all.

And then I read this and cried…

“A profoundly disabled four-year old Tamil asylum seeker in a Brisbane detention facility will be transferred offshore along with her father, probably to Nauru.” (The Global Mail)

Cared for by her father, apparently the girl cannot talk or walk, and is confined to a wheelchair.   She was separated from her mother and siblings in Sri Lanka as they boarded the boat for Australia. (Her Mum was arrested and later released.)

What is even more shocking is how she became disabled. A victim of a bomb blast in her homeland Sri Lanka, she was struck by shrapnel while in-utero and was badly injured.  So before this kid was even born, she was in immediate and mortal danger.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has reiterated his hard-line stance on the processing of asylum seekers who arrived by boat after July 19 this year.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re an unaccompanied minor, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a health condition – if you are fit enough to get on a boat, then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing.”

The girl boarded the boat strapped to her father.

Morrison is satisfied that the Nauru detention facility is suitable for disabled children, and says its equipped to handle medical cases like this with appropriate care.

However, according to The Global Mail, a nurse with over 40 years-experience, likened the Centre to a concentration camp, after she worked there for three weeks.  Oh, and that little human rights organisation Amnesty International, reckon the conditions are deplorable.

I’m finding this really hard to write about, and even harder to accept.  But here is what I know to be true.  The medical facilities on Nauru will not be enough.  Will there be a physiotherapist?  A speech therapist?  A child psychologist on hand to care for her?  Will she be given access to the right medicine, and pain management techniques?  Are there ramps for all the doorways?  Is there a toilet/bathroom with a hoist?

Just because she is physically disabled does not necessarily mean she is intellectually disabled.  She may be just like any other four year old on the inside.  She’ll miss her Mum, and be confused, and will need stimulation, communication and education like any other tot her age.

Three years ago, I said goodbye to a very special person who was also severely disabled.  He was adventurous, funny, and brave.  In his short time, he contributed more to his community, his school and his family than most people do in a lifetime.  He couldn’t talk or walk either.

He had access to the very best doctors and specialists.  Received treatment in world-class hospitals, and took medication that sometimes eased his pains and symptoms.  He had a super cool motorised wheelchair, trained respite carers and basic communication technology.  He had good financial resources, a modified and comfortable home, and he also had his mother, father and extended family loving him for every second of every day.  It was still bloody unfair and tough. He had all these things and deserved so much more.  He had all these things and made it to eleven.

So what hope does this poor tike have?  Locked up in a deplorable facility, in a bankrupt country which doesn’t even have a health system for their own people.

But I suppose, why should our taxes pay to prolong the inevitable anyway?

I feel sick…

Yours, in shame


Postscript:  After writing this piece I sought permission from the Mum of the disabled boy mentioned above.  She endorses this post, and shares in my sadness.