By Maria Millers
At the opening session of the Hillsong Conference, our Prime Minister told the 21,000-strong congregation that Australia needed more prayers and love.
So where is the love for those who come to us seeking refuge? How is it that on Friday night yet another young life was lost when a 23-year-old man who had fled war torn Afghanistan six years ago died in the Melbourne Immigration Centre.
The official ‘police speak’ was that there were no suspicious circumstances. But we do know that he was stressed over the delays in his bridging visa and that his medication had been stopped two days earlier. And this was not an isolated incident. Two earlier suicides this year, again young men: An Iraqi national at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre and a young Sierra Leone refugee in Western Australia.
And on Manus Island the despair is even more palpable. Refugee advocates say 26 asylum seekers have attempted suicide or self-harmed since the Coalition’s shock victory nearly two weeks ago and local health providers are struggling to cope.
What level of despair must they all have felt to see no hope and no future other than ending their lives? And what sort of a society are we that tolerates the constant denigration and treatment of these vulnerable people whose only crime has been to seek refuge.
Just yesterday Jan McAdam, Director of the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law reminded us that Australia was breaking International Law in its approach to refugees: “What our principles seek to do is to show a pragmatic as well as a principled way forward.”
Hopefully, other than relying solely on prayers and love, our Prime Minister will heed this advice and show more tangible examples of his faith, in making sure young lives do not become political pawns and the red tape he so assiduously wants to eliminate in other areas of government does not condemn them to living in purgatory.
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