By Julie Grint
Many issues about human rights are dear to me as a former refugee. Two of these issues: the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by the military junta and the inhumane and cruel treatment of asylum seekers by the Australian government in defiance of the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, treatment meted out by political leaders from both sides of the aisle leads me to ask “why?” Why are we so cruel and indifferent to the fate of our fellow human beings when we call ourselves Christians?
I have written to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten with my plea. A plea for human rights. Here are my letters:
The Hon Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,
Dear Mr Turnbull,
I would like to bring the following matters to the attention of your good self and of your cabinet colleagues.
Minister Dutton is trying to illegally refoul Rohingya Muslims from Manus island, right now. Men are being coerced to sign papers stating they wish to return home.
I appeal to your consciences to oppose such moves by your Ministerial colleague.
The ethnic Rohingya people of Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia are being massacred. These barbarous acts are being carried out by Neo-Nazi racist groups like the RNDP (Rakhine Nationalities Development Party), ALA (Arakan Liberation Army), NaSaKa border police and 969 monks led by Monk Wirathu, the self-proclaimed Bin Laden of Buddhism. The Government of Myanmar is at best ignoring the slaughter of these people, just like the rest of the international community, and at worst is participating in the crimes.
The Burmese military junta considers the Rohingya to be sub-human and denies them almost all basic human rights. Often, they are subject to torture, gang rape, starvation, slave labor, and have been forced to live in the most dire camps in the world – some call these refugee camps but they are concentration camps. Over the past few months, thousands of Rohingya have been encouraged onto boats and sent out to sea with not enough food or fuel, and left there to die. Some of the boats were attacked and sunk, with women and children on board.
Whilst the United States claims to defend human rights, their record clearly reflects a government that will only intercede when their business interests are threatened. While politicians occasionally pay lip service to the horrific conditions in Myanmar no effective action has been taken by the UN or the US.
The only people neglecting the situation in Myanmar worse than the U.S. are the 4th estate who consistently ignored these atrocities or report them as ’ethnic clashes’. Since they have failed to document these crimes in any way, I would consider the media to be complicit in concealing the situation from the rest of the world. The acts of genocide being committed against the Rohingya people must not be ignored. The Rohingya are now anticipating a third massacre in which the junta attempts to force them all out of Rakhine State until there are no Rohingya left in Burma.
The Hon Bill Shorten
Dear Mr Shorten,
It is clear that Minister Peter Dutton is trying to disperse as many people from the Manus Island prison as he can, even resorting to using the excuse of “medical treatment” when in fact medical support provided by IHMS has been criminally lacking on Manus island for years. Men are being flown in manacles, like criminals, to Port Moresby (POM) for so called medical care. Which BTW they are NOT receiving at the Pacific International hospital.
Some 100 men have been sent to POM, leaving 700 on Manus, these are not even the sickest of the cohort. No one seems to know the basis for the selection of the transferees although many fear that they will simply be dumped in POM and left to fend for themselves if they do not agree to return to their home countries, despite 86% of those who have been processed, being found to be genuine refugees. Some of the men have refused to participate in the process conducted by PNG Immigration as they do not trust it and do not think it is fair. As a result of refusing to co-operate these men have been automatically deemed to be non- refugees and have been earmarked by DIBP for deportation.
I believe that Dutton is now in full panic mode and is doing everything he can to hide the crimes he has committed whilst he has been the Minister for Immigration & Border Protection. On his watch 5 men have died on Manus island and 2 have died on Nauru by self-immolation. Countless other refugees have taken their own lives in Australia due to the harsh and punitive system that Dutton has established for refugees living in the community and in onshore detention centres. People are being kept on Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) for years, being unable to work or study, having to rely on charity and a meagre Government stipend and living in limbo and uncertainty. Never sure when the knock on the door is from DIBP telling them they are being deported without rhyme or reason purely at the whim of the Minister.
What is happening on Manus island, on Nauru and in Australia’s onshore detention centres is unspeakably cruel and inhumane and breaches Australia’s obligations under the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, The Rights of the Refugee, The Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture. Australia is a proud signatory to all but the last Convention against Torture, maybe if we were Dondale would not have happened.
Australia’s asylum seeker policy and offshore detention regime shames our country and ALL decent humane and thinking Australians. Ever since the Tampa affair during John Howard’s Prime Ministership and the children overboard LIE which was deliberately created for political advantage Australia has been travelling ever downwards to the abyss. Our asylum seeker and refugee policies are cruel, harsh and just plain wrong. It is TIME for a radical rethink!
Australia’s political prisoners on Manus and Nauru must be brought to Australia for resettlement. John Howard quietly resettled the refugees on Nauru during Pacific solution Mark 1. The sky did not fall in and no one comments on that fact. Let these poor people come here and settle so they can start to rebuild their lives. All they want is to be afforded protection and safety and to be given a chance to make a contribution to Australia.
These people have many talented and educated folk amongst them, one man even speaks 6 languages, one is a journalist/film maker, one is an award-winning cartoonist, one is an actor/comedian these people will be an asset to Australia just like all the refugees who came to this country before them.
It is TIME for Labor to join the Greens in calling for an end to indefinite offshore detention of asylum seekers and refugees. These people are Australia’s responsibility no one else’s. The LNP Government has been unable to find a realistic resettlement option for these asylum seekers in four long years. It is fairly obvious that the so-called refugee swap deal with the USA is a sham and a phoney and very few if any refugees are going to America. Those not accepted by the Trump administration, the vast majority, must be brought to Australia immediately to have their health restored.
Could Labor approach the commercial airlines who fly to the Middle east and Africa, such as QANTAS, Emirates, Qatar, Singapore airlines etc and ask that they refuse to participate in the Australian government’s illegal refouling of refugees to their countries of origin. If this LNP government and Minister for Immigration want to persist in refouling refugees they will just have to use the RAAF to do so.
When is Mr Shorten and his executive team with media in tow going to visit Manus island and Nauru to see conditions for themselves in a well-publicised effort to end this impasse?