Many have been stunned by the Government and Opposition’s recent immigration announcements. The proposals – forcing all boat arrivals to PNG, putting the military in charge of the ‘crisis,’ setting up tent cities on Nauru – are so extreme that they border on farce. But they are real, and they should hardly surprise us given the way both parties have collaborated to outdo each other when it comes to the most hardline approach to a humanitarian issue.
The past few weeks have been a bitter realisation for refugee advocates. After over a decade of protests, debate and advocacy, we are further back than where we started. The campaigns to tell Australians the ‘real facts’ about asylum seekers, to humanise refugees with stories about how they are hard workers with families who want to contribute to Australia ‘just like us,’ it seems, have been completely pointless. In a country that insists on ‘calling a spade a spade,’ we have managed to call border policing, mandatory and indefinite detention and forcible deportation, everything but racist.
The Muslim community has learned the same tough lesson in the years since 9/11 – that racism is not simply a set of misunderstandings that can be fixed with a polite PR campaign that educates the public with facts and good news stories about hard working migrants ready to assimilate.
Now the refugee movement – based largely on appeals to middle-class compassion – has been outflanked by the feigned morality of ‘stopping deaths at sea.’ Australia, once declared terra nullius, ‘a land belonging to no-one,’ has excised itself from its own migration zone. It is effectively a land that no longer exists – a legal black hole in the corner of the globe. We are in the business of outsourcing human misery to PNG and Nauru; a former prison colony that now creates its own prison colonies.
Asylum seekers are the human by-products of a global system that lets us live in peace. They represent the 90% of the world that lives in misery so that we can live in comfort. We benefit from shaking hands with regimes like Sri Lanka and invading Afghanistan and Iraq, but must deny people fleeing the consequences of our actions.
Australia hates asylum seekers because of our preoccupation with invasion – not theirs, but ours – the original crime on which this nation was founded, which it seems will forever overshadow the national conscience.
Submitted by Aamer Rahman (writer and comedian) & published in the Northern Territory News – His final performance of his solo show “The Truth Hurts” is on this Friday at the State Library. All proceeds to Palestine Red Crescent for relief work in Gaza. http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=57151