They are places devoid of human dignity and decency, yet humans are forced to inhabit them.
By night women tremble in fear of attack, children are torn from their families. Grown adults and children sew their lips together in protest, men throw themselves into barbed wire fences, and families starve themselves until they need hospitalisation and are force-fed via a tube.
By day men set fire to buildings and stand on the roof waving makeshift banners out of bed sheets, some written in blood, while the media watch from a safe distance with a fresh latte in one hand and a microphone in the other.
It, and others like it have been described by medical experts and “mental illness factories”.
Another location see’s similar chaos amongst its involuntary male inhabitants except it is located in a position where the temperature regularly exceeds 40 degrees. Here men are separated from their families and kept in utter isolation with little or no contact with lawyers, family or the outside world. Conditions at this facility were even described as “harsh” by the Minister who controlled it.
The facilities I speak of are not in Nauru or Manus Island they are in Sydney and Western Australia, Villawood and Curtin to be precise.
This is onshore processing, the processing that the Greens are calling for.
This is the processing that saw hundreds, maybe thousands die at sea trying to become a part of, clearly unaware of the brutal conditions they would be imprisoned in.
The debate around asylum seekers in this country has taken a turn for the surreal.
Suddenly it’s not about the treatment these poor souls receive only the location in which they receive it.
If asylum seekers were put in luxury accommodation at Bora Bora while awaiting processing would offshore processing still be a bad thing?
Offshore processing only becomes a bad thing when the care of these families seeking a better life and freedom from persecution is put out to tender and sees Australia condemned by the United Nations due to the horrendous conditions we leave them in.
There are some involved in this debate who have taken it so far off track that it seems to be more about a rating system for countries than it does about those we imprison there.
The sight of Sarah Hanson Young on Q&A wearing a T Shirt emblazoned with “Let Them Stay”, one of those three word slogans she has spent years decrying made me wince at the hypocrisy.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Perhaps a Party born of the two-word “No Dam” slogan back in 1983 should be congratulated for now adding an extra word to their repertoire. It has taken over three decades for the Greens to find three words someone else put together that they can rally around, maybe at this rate they’ll find a whole sentence of similar ilk by the turn of the century.
It is under whose care asylum seekers should stay and the conditions they are kept in that is the issue. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that with the family is the best place for the kids and that is always where we should let them stay. It’s under whose care we place that family and for how long we place them there that is the issue.
It’s not that I don’t support the “Let Them Stay” campaign, I do, it is just that this is only a small part of the issue, seeing them treated with dignity wherever that may be, for me is the real issue.
Let’s be clear about this, Nauru and Manus Island are not hell holes, it is the detention centres on them that are. The same as Christmas Island and the rest of Australia are not hell holes, but as I think I have shown earlier, the immigration detention centres on them are. If Hamilton Island had a detention centre on it we’d be referring to it as a hell-hole, or at least some of us would.
The issue that seems to have been left off the discussion board is processing times. Maybe that’s because nobody has a realistic solution to the problem.
I know that “We need to put some funding and resources into speeding up the asylum seeker processing system” doesn’t quite fit neatly on a badge or a T-Shirt, but it is surely the issue we should be addressing.
What we need to do as a nation is not waste time or money erecting politically opportunistic billboards, but actually seek a solution. We should be trying to take the politics out of the equation, not going to extreme lengths and expense to ensure it is at the centre of the debate.
The erecting of a slogan laden billboard in Adelaide by the Greens regarding refugee children showed its real motivations and true intent by the only images shown on it. Not images of refugees, not detention centres, nothing related to the issue they claim to be concerned with, but images of Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull. The only other image being the Greens logo, the one that now adorns the flag of Indigenous Australia apparently.
The billboard from the Greens could have had Richard Di Natale or Sarah Hanson Young’s face on it in place of Shortens as they are also part of the same government and have just as much input into how the Coalition operate as Shorten does.
While the Greens erect billboards the Labor Party affiliated union members will continue to stop the government taking children from hospitals like Asha in Brisbane to send them to Nauru via real action, just as they have done in the past in Melbourne. Action over attention seeking.
In my view it is the thought of languishing in a detention centre with no end in sight that weighs heaviest in the heart of most of these refugees. It is also the long-term detentions that are the cause of many of the riots, and is also likely to be a factor in a perpetrator thinking they can abuse a detainee and it will never be reported. We used to be a nation that believed in the presumption of innocence, so you would hope that speeding up the process of determining that innocence would be at the top of the priorities list.
What we should be ascertaining is what an acceptable length of time for processing should be, then figuring out how much funding is needed to achieve that. Then it’s just a matter of where we want the money to come from and fund it once and for all.
It sounds simplistic but it isn’t. Sacrifices will have to be made and we will need to suck that up and not try to milk the cuts, taxes or levies for political gain no matter how tempting that may be.
All Parties should agree to a pact of secrecy, put some representatives in a room like adults and work out where the dollars come from and the government of the day put it through parliament. Any Party that refuses to be a part of the funding negotiation process should be excluded from the debate entirely by the media as they clearly have motivations other than finding a solution.
At the end of the day it is a solution that is needed.