Last month when another refugee on Nauru set herself on fire, Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton attacked advocates for providing “false hope” to people seeking asylum. The Minister’s comment reveals the strategy at the very core of the offshore detention camp policy – to destroy every tiny shred of hope in the heart, mind and soul of these people seeking asylum. Not a single crack of light can be allowed in. The only option people are being offered is to go and die somewhere else.
Many people who have experienced serious mental health difficulties will have some recognition of what it is like to not be able to see or feel any hope for the future – when every single waking minute is permeated by a belief that things will not and cannot ever get better. When this is your reality day after day, it is hard to think of a more horrible form of suffering, particularly when it extends to seeing your family and children in the same situation.
Certainly one should avoid trying to create expectations in people that can never be realised. When I was previously in the Senate, I visited refugees on Nauru four times, as well as many others in detention centres around Australia. I was very very conscious of the importance of not promising something I could not deliver. But I was also very conscious of how critical it was to keep encouraging people to keep hope alive, to let them know they were not alone and that many people were working to ensure they would one day be somewhere safe where they could see and build a future. It is one reason amongst many why we need to keep pushing to end the enormous cruelty of the offshore detention camps, even though with the two largest parties supporting this it can sometimes seem like this can never change.
We all have a responsibility to encourage people to see that there must always be hope that something can change for the better, even if it can sometimes be hard to know exactly when or how.
To put people in a situation where they cannot see any hope in even the distant future is one of the cruelest acts imaginable. This is the inevitable end point of punishment based policies towards people seeking asylum. It is a major reason why mandatory indefinite detention must end and the offshore detention camps must be closed.
As part of Refugee Week activities, there is a rally being held in Brisbane on Saturday 18 June from 11am. Please consider supporting this, or the many other Refugee Week activities being held around the country.
You can read some of the posts I made on this blog years ago about my visits to Nauru, and related matters, at this link.