Desperate people seek help

Outrage: Protests have been held around the country against Australia's policy of detention on Nauru and Manus.

Outrage: Protests have been held around the country against Australia's policy of detention on Nauru and Manus.

So far most of my articles have been about offshore refugees (people who received their settlement visas while overseas). This article will be about those who intended to apply for a settlement visa when in Australia.

Applicants who came to Australia before August 2012 were sent to Christmas Island or housed in detention centres on mainland Australia. Some were given permanency while a large number have been given temporary protection visas. 

Temporary visa holders live in our communities but are denied access to many services. All have received comprehensive health and security checks. They know their future is limited and problematic and they will never be given permanency.

In 2012, the Rudd government, then enforced by later governments, rightly appalled by the many deaths at sea, designed a deterrent. All future “boat people” would be detained on Manus Island or on Nauru. 

These innocent people are virtually imprisoned. “It is not a crime to seek asylum from persecution or other serious human rights abuses” (Article 31 of the Refugee Convention which Australia has signed). 

They are now living under conditions, which we would not tolerate for our worst criminals in our prisons.  Physically and emotionally, they are being permanently damaged.

The Australian government has been at pains to hide their appalling conditions. Much has come to light in recent times.

There are increasing numbers of protesting respected Australians. Many have suggested ways of humanely settling those on Nauru and Manus. The UN and many countries have expressed grave concern.

In August, the Guardian published a report of over 2000 cases of serious abuse and other incidents on Nauru. At lease half of these concerned children.

We were horrified at the treatment of Aboriginal children at Don Dale and our prime minister immediately called for a Royal Commission. Why are other children less worthy?

Many people, including children, feel driven to self-harm and even suicide. They have fled the horrors of persecution, then bravely struggled to reach a second country where their long-term safe settlement was impossible and so they took the only alternative. 

They tried to get to a third safe, peaceful country. Many Iraqis, Afghanis, Sri Lankans, Rohingas from Burma thought this would be Australia. They were wrong.

No wonder some use their last remaining energy to rebel. Some, including children, have self-harmed.

The worst aspect of Manus and Nauru is the hopelessness of their situation. Children absorb the despair of adults and from a very young age, many develop a psychological state known among refugee workers as “the look”. This is gut-churning to see. 

Just what are we doing to these children? Each one of them is as worthy as our own children. Each adult too is worthy of humane treatment.