Well, if I thought things weren’t going so well when I wrote to you in November, they have really gone to hell in a hand-basket now. Many commentators talk about a “race to the bottom”. Well, I think the bottom has well and truly been reached. The murder of Reza Berati on Manus Island on February 17th assured that. The only thing worse now, is you trying to spin it to save your job.
Much had been said and written over the past week, of events which occurred on Manus Island which resulted in the murder of Reza and the injury to another 67 asylum seekers. Truth will finally out and we will know what really happened that dark evening….same as how the truth of “children overboard” eventually came to light and will forever be a stain on the political records of John Howard & Peter Reith.
It seems Reza’s murder has become a watershed which galvanised a complacent public. Tens of thousand of people turned out to more than 700 plus #LightTheDark events across Australia organised by GetUp. Incredibly sad it took a murder to do this. Great it has happened but so many other atrocities have gone barely noticed.
I have to be honest Mr Morrison and say it is not just about Manus for me, disgraceful as it is. It is how you treat women & kids in all detention centers.
Last November, I wrote of Latifa who had been transferred to Brisbane from Nauru for an emergency caesarian. Remember her, the woman your staff were keeping from her seriously ill baby.
Your plans to send Latifa and a very ill baby Farus back to Nauru post haste were ‘interrupted’ when lawyers, acting pro bono, gained a court injunction to allow them to stay in Brisbane ( in detention of course) so that both Latifa, a diabetic and Farus could continue to receive ongoing medical treatment. To any reasonable person this would seem fair and right. Not to you it seems, as you are still fighting this in the courts. You are disputing the “legal” status of Baby Farus who was born in the Mater Hospital Brisbane. A birth certificate was issued for Farus. His parents are stateless Rohingyan who have spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Rather than do the humane thing and allow this family to stay in Australia, you are spending tax payer’s money appealing to the High Court to overturn the injunction and have them returned to Nauru. Your legal argument is that baby Farus “arrived” by boat as an “illegal maritime arrival” and is therefore not entitled to a Protection Visa. It now seems the unborn are counted in your pathetic definition of “illegals” Unbelievably pathetic. The matter is still before the courts.
And now to Salima whose story is heartbreaking beyond belief. Salima is also Rohingya. She was sent to Nauru with her husband in early December 2013. Salima was 6 weeks pregnant at the time. She had her pregnancy confirmed by a medical officer on Nauru. Salima made the heartbreaking decision to terminate her pregnancy because she and her husband could offer “no hope” to their unborn. They both portray life on Nauru and the appalling conditions in which they exist. They both believed their baby would not survive Nauru, both the horrendous conditions as well as the lack of hope. Salima was brought to Australia for the termination. Her weight has dropped to 35 kgs following the termination of her pregnancy. She is now in detention in Darwin where she is receiving psychiatric care. The depths of despair we are driving people to….is this the Australia we want.
And what about kids…Your “no exceptions” policy has recently seen 13 unaccompanied minors sent to Nauru. This adds to the numbers of unaccompanied kids already sent off shore. You had better check on your colleague Joe Hockey. He said in the last parliament that it would be ‘over his dead’ body that unaccompanied minors would be sent off shore. The trafficking of children across international borders is appalling and is well articulated in this compelling article.
The safety and wellbeing of children should be the highest priority of any government. We now see at the Royal Commission into the institutional sexual abuse of children, what happens when the oversight of the safety of children falls off the radar. How much harder this will this be when we place children in detention in a foreign country with all the “secrecy” surrounding detention centres. You informed us last week, that you could “guarantee” the safety of asylum seekers who stayed within the compound. I would like some clarification on “safety”. Are you just talking about physical safety or are you humane enough to advocate for emotional, sexual, cultural & spiritual safety…bit to think about there. I am seriously concerned about what is happening to children particularly unaccompanied minors…you are after all their legal guardian making these decisions on their behalf. Second thought, I would feel a whole lot better if you appointed a specific Refugee Children’s Commissioner who could do this. Your track record with pregnant women, babies and kids isn’t doing so well.
Still on the topic of women…I hear your office is being inundated with tampons. I know you described the campaign by Destroy the Joint as “juvenile” but the thing is Mr Morrison, many of us woman were appalled to hear that women in detention were not being provided with adequate sanitary supplies and were having to ask male security for these products and were then provided with them 2 at a time. Just one of the many ways in which people or in this case women, are degraded and dehumanised in detention centres including those within Australia as well as those in detention on Christmas, Nauru and Manus Islands.
The world is watching and judging us badly. The United Nations have condemned conditions within detention centres on Manus & Nauru. Likewise so has Amnesty International. Indonesia have rebuked us for our military operation and tow backs where people are “forcibly” removed from boats, put into life boats and towed across the Indian Ocean. We now have a ‘show’of faux sympathy for those who perished at sea when it was yourself who publicly complained about the cost of bringing family members from Christams Island to Sydney for the funerals of their loved ones who perished in the ship wreck off Christams Island.
For the thousands in detention and the many thousands in the community facing visa cancellations, I say enough.
For Reza, Latifa, Farus Selima and the tens of thousands nameless asylum seekers, my heartfelt apology. This has never been about you, it is about shameless politicians who are appealing to the worst of human nature to gain and maintain political power. Thing is, the vast majority of Australians are decent people who may have been misled but once informed are appalled
We can all do our bit in our own way to end this madness by saying enough. I personally encourage everyone to March in March.
You Minister Morrison can do your bit by resigning and leaving the parliament.