The Australian Solution (Many
thanks to Ranjan Abayasekara)
Governments search for solutions to problems that beset their nations. The 'problem of asylum seekers' was highlighted at an electorally opportune moment, in Australia, to impose a solution based on misinformation, fear, prejudice and outright falsehoods. The damage this solution has inflicted, and is continuing to inflict, can be seen in the eyes of any of those indefinitely imprisoned in this wide brown land, and adjacent poor nation islands. Not only is it seen in these 'alien eyes', but in the eyes of Aussies who visit them, or who work inside the Detention Centres.
ABC's 4 Corners report of 19 May, SBS' Insight Report of 10 July, and countless recommendations by psychiatrists attest to the fact of trauma and mental torture. These 'centres' have been built in remote locations, so that Aussies may not become aware of the realities of 'the solution' being implemented in their name.
The 14 July issue of Time Magazine article by Tom Dusevic, highlights how New Zealand opened it's doors to the asylum seekers from MS Tampa. New Zealand authorities found all that all 143 persons sent for processing were genuine refugees, although Australia has rejected, and is seeking to send back, most of it's 'processed quota'. Many are languishing in limbo, while some have been forced to sign papers to be sent back. 27 Year old Fatima Irfani died in Perth, her husband and motherless three young children were sent back to an unknown fate.
The new lives being built by the young Hazara men in New Zealand, exposes the shame of Australia's Solution. How ironic that two adjacent nations, of similar heritage and cultural links, could be so far apart when it comes down to the core question, of how we treat and recognize those who may come to us, in their hour of desperate need.
The eight who have so far died in the Australian Solution, and the many who are affected for life, the children who will never be able to live normal adult lives, the infants born and bred as captives, all these are part of this politically expedient solution. The Insight report dwelt on the case of Shahin Agdar, a fifteen year old Afghan boy incarcerated in Port Headland, blind in one eye, and likely to lose the sight of the other, while the Immigration department dithers.
It appears that winning elections produces such a glorious, long lasting & blinding flash, that the Australian Government is unable to see this suffering, imposed on those who mistook Australia as a humane and international-law abiding nation. To put it in 'Ministerial speak' a 'satisfactory outcome' for the Government is reached, by allowing these horrors to continue.
A Christian chaplain who visits Baxter has described how the Australian Solution has seen the need for "primitive, stainless steel, non padded cells with security cameras on you even when you shower or sit in the toilet". These are the Solitary Confinement Units those imprisoned are dispatched to, when they display mental anguish! The camps located offshore are mostly out of bounds to journalists. A few of the horrors attached with these places have come out on secret TV reports, and reports of psychiatrists.
Is this how Australia is to march ahead in the future? Are there no other options? Should we not change the 2nd verse of the National Anthem, if this is the accepted Australian Solution? Looking again at New Zealand's solution, and how the young Hazara men (on whom the Gods were truly smiling when they were not sent to Australia) are faring, is an eye opener. In the Time magazine article Julie Sutherland, who is Service Delivery Manager for Child, Youth & Family services in Otahuhu, says this: (Looking after them) "is like tending exotic plants in a greenhouse; with the right input, conditions & right support they will and have blossomed like exotic flowers." How it contrasts to what happens in Australia.
As you sow, shall you reap. What do New Zealanders' reap for the solution they have implemented? They get "warmth, gentleness, openness, a respect for others, a strong sense of justice, gratitude to teachers, mentors, coaches, carers, helpers, and clinicians" from the young men they have helped to forge a new life. So far the Australian Solution has brought 8 deaths, Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, Family Separation, Mental breakdown, Child Abuse, Self Harm and the like. The fate and probable deaths of some of those deported are not of interest to our Government.
The Government openly states now (although it did not do so in the early years) that the Australian Solution has to be used, to send a message to people smugglers. In other words, it justifies the suffering of innocent people so that overseas smugglers "get the message"! Is this the Australian way? Would we use the suffering of our children, if we want to "send a message" to a bad school principal or teacher? Would we allow the suffering of an elderly parent to "send a message" to a State Minister of Health? Enough is enough. Let the Government put an end to this Solution. It is not a Solution at all; only an abomination, which will lead to more problems without any solutions in the years ahead.
(C) Ranjan Abayasekara 2003