Your actions show us Refugee eX-detainee lives
are not worthy by greedily stockpiling in the name of COVID-19
By eX-detainee and RISE founder Ramesh Fernandez
At times the eX-detainee community in Australia have been neglected when there is an emergency. The eX-detainee community is always an afterthought for everyone in Australia. A perfect example is when during the recent bushfires, neither the government or any other organisation made any evacuation plan, particularly for eX-detainee community members on “Safe Haven Enterprise” visas (SHEV) with conditions that require them to work or study full time in regional areas for extended periods of time. Most of our members called RISE for help or worked things out among themselves with limited resources and knowledge of what to do. People blame the government but the underlying issue is that society also neglected and forgot us eX-detainees during the bushfire.
Now, coming to COVID-19, again we the eX-detainee Refugee community, almost all are people of colour, are forgotten and pushed to breaking point by the Australian public due to stockpiling. eX-detainee community is an isolated community in Australia. Many of us are barred from accessing proper welfare support through your established white supremacist refugee policies. You have chosen the Australian politicians who have made our lives this way. By over stocking, you chose to consider only yourselves, not others and forgotten vulnerable communities like the eX-detainee community, living below the poverty line with minimal support. Most of us also suffer from chronic health conditions caused by Australia’s mandatory detention policies.
How can eX-detainees including families with kids, unemployed, the homeless and people with no work rights survive when you stockpile everything in your households? Some of the offshore eX-detainees from Manus and Nauru have to wait once a fortnight to buy groceries after they receive welfare payments (about $260 per fortnight per person). When they get to supermarkets there is absolutely nothing to buy.
Most eX-detainee workers, including many who completed university before seeking asylum in Australia, are also leading a hand to mouth existence working as labourers on farms, in factories, as cleaners etc. The actions of mainstream Australia show us that the majority in this country don’t care if we die or starve and our community is discarded in the same way as the Australian government that pushed us out of sight, out of mind into detention centres, back into the hands of our persecutors or into the ocean.
When you say you are self-isolating from the public, it is a self-centred privileged comment disregarding the fact that some of us don’t have this choice. Don’t forget that your government forcibly isolated our community over the last 30 years, in and out of detention centres and systematically marginalised us. Some of us were forced to isolate ourselves from the WORLD for 1 to 2 months on boats to seek protection in Australia from war and persecution and some of us survived and some of us did not. When we arrived we were penalised and indefinitely detained in your torture camps. When there is an epidemic such as COVID-19 we are pushed to the limit to die because the government doesn’t have a damn plan – we are the last to be considered, except by a few refugee supporters. For this treatment, we are told we have to be “grateful”?
When you are infected by COVID-19, you have been instructed by public health officials to take precautions for over TWO weeks and not be in the public. When you selfishly stockpile food items for ONE month or ONE year, who will suffer from this? US eX-detainees and those like us who are living below the poverty line and surviving with minimal fortnightly wages. Be sensitive and sensible, when you make a public comment about COVID-19 and think about those who are becoming more isolated and vulnerable by your actions. Don’t be greedy and selfish. If there is a lock down for 14-30 days which is possible, how are those vulnerable eX-detainee community members and those similarly disadvantaged, going to survive? Can we come to your homes and use your food storage items stockpiled for a month to a year? Many houses in Australia seem to be better equipped than supermarkets!
The most isolated people in Australia are detainees locked up in your damn refugee torture camps both offshore and onshore and eX-detainees with no income or work rights or permanently disabled due to mandatory detention policies – not the people in your suburbs with wifi, Netflix or Stan.
Finally, to protect Refugees who are detained in both offshore and onshore camps and hotels around Australia, from COVID-19 and many other threats to their lives and wellbeing in these torture camps, they must be immediately released to the community with proper support. It is an irrevocable fact that Refugees have been developing appalling health conditions and even dying in your torture camps for decades while you have done nothing to shut them down.
RISE foodbank is starting to dry up at the moment : The RISE Food Bank is located within the RISE drop in centre and is the only central resource for eX-detainees, Refugees and Asylum seekers in Victoria. RISE places NO VISA REQUIREMENTS on who can access its services or any other restriction beyond being a resource specifically for refugees. It is refuge. You can make a tax deductible donation to our foodbank here https://www.givenow.com.au/riserefugee