This is the letter I sent today to my Federal Labor MP, Catherine King.
I have been and remain horrified at Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, and so I write to you as a constituent to ask that you press your Government for humane treatment of these desperate people.
What if it was your mother, father, children or friends who had no other option than to flee their country, leaving behind a lifetime of memories and in many cases the opportunity to earn a living for some time. Would you want them denied succour in a new land? Imprisoned for indefinite periods? I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country that locks people up under these conditions.
Not only do we know onshore processing works, it’s the only humane option. Leaving asylum seekers in limbo in places more palatable to our politicians is a national disgrace, and poorly represents a country I know to be full of kind and generous people. The Government is not reflecting community sentiment, even if it claims to be.
The puerile ‘debates’ over so-called ‘boat people’ are even further evidence of how impoverished political discourse is in Australia. It is clear that people fleeing war, famine or persecution will leave by whatever means they can, including the life-threatening voyages some take by boat. You can help re-focus the debate on what’s important – how can Australia help people who seek asylum on our shores to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges we take for granted?
We need leadership, not pandering to the most base sentiments of our society.
It’s time Australia stops destroying people’s lives (and in the worst cases, committing murder when people take their own lives rather than suffer in detention centres any longer) by locking them up with no hope for months and years on end.
Distrust and incarceration are not the answers, compassion and hospitality are.