- Date published:
12:04 pm, September 9th, 2015 - 12 comments
Categories: activism, afghanistan, aid, australian politics, human rights, International, iraq, Syria, war - Tags: Manus Island, Nauru, refugees, syria
Where has our outcry been these past years as desperate refugees rode airplane undercarriages to their deaths, drowned in the Pacific or the Mediterranean and otherwise wasted away in the ‘middle of no-where’, in transit camps or detention centres?
We can’t say that we didn’t know. We did know. But we chose to shuffle the knowledge away.
Even now, with sizable numbers of people here demanding something be done about Syrian refugees, we are stepping over the misery and desperation of people interned in Manus Island and Nauru. Some of those people came from the same places and countries as those trying to escape to Europe (if that matters), and yet we appear to be shuffling knowledge away again.
Why will our apparent and new found empathy extend half way around the world to connect with people who we imagine to ‘know’ via extrapolations from a photograph, yet continue to stay firmly ‘switched off’ to the compatriots of those same people, who have been thrown into Australia’s ‘black sites’ in the Pacific?
Are we ‘John Key’ comfortable that guards at Nauru, a privately run detention centre operated by Wilson Security* , a subsidiary of Transfield Services, set up by the Australian government, apparently sexually predate the children and women there? Are we similarly relaxed at evidence of the men being beaten and tortured?
A revealing 10 minute ABC report on the situation in Nauru is here
I know that we as New Zealand society can’t be expected to solve the worlds’ refugee problems, but the people on Manus Island and Nauru are in our back yard. As such they are, or ought to be to us what the Afghani, Syrian and Eritrean refugees are to the peoples of Europe at the moment.
Our government is fairly close to the action. McCully just cut NZ$1.2 million of aid to Nauru’s justice sector the other day just when it’s meant to be taking the Nauru allegations on board. Coincidence?. Because our government has far more political sway over Australia than it has over (say) Hungary or Romania, it’s incumbent upon us, if we care, if we are serious, to join with Australians and pressure our government to lean on the Australian government to end its heinous ‘Pacific Solution’, and get those refugees currently detained on Nauru and Manus out and on to safety.
If European, specifically UK newspapers headlines are any kind of a barometer for where we our ‘correct’ thoughts and sentiments are meant to lie, then we only have a very small window of opportunity to push our institutions in a humane direction. Already, the same newspapers that amplified the hue and cry over Aylan Kurdi’s drowning, are calling for increased military action in Syria. Now see, I can’t quite articulate the vile insanity of that logic.
First, our governments wanted to bomb Assad, whose enemy was Isil. Now they want to bomb Isil, whose enemy is Assad. And yesterdays heroes who retook Kobani from Isil are now demonised and on the receiving and of air strikes by Turkey…who are also bombing Isil. Meanwhile, our governments are upset that Russia might be gearing up to fight the same guys that they themselves want to see defeated. It’s as though an international virus of madness has taken hold of foreign policy strategists . Ground rules for all sides in Syria looks to be along the lines of – ‘If it moves, kill it’. As though (Hello Winston) more killing and violence will reduce refugee flows.
Something about refugees. If there are four countries between you and a country of safety, I’m not saying you can’t make that journey without a passport and money, but with those things, you can maybe get a bus or a train or ferry and go through normal border check-points and otherwise ‘grease the wheels’ of your escape. Poorer people can’t do that so readily. So maybe just like you – all those tertiary students, lawyers, managers and what not were doing well; then they were in a foreign country, in a camp and had nothing.
If the infrastructure and services for refugees in NZ is lacking, then we ought to insist that they’re developed and expanded. Refugees aren’t going away any time soon. As pointed out here, climate change contributed to the situation in Syria. It’s uncomfortable, but maybe we need to reflect that this is at less than one degree of warming; that two degrees is in the rear view mirror and three degrees is in the offing with four degrees possibly rumbling on down the pipeline. People fleeing intolerable situations is going to be common place, and Australia, though not quite the canary in the coalmine, is slated to be hammered particularly hard by climate change. I guess though, that the NZ government will have no problem ‘stretching’ resources for obviously white people who speak the same language as us. And sure, no worries for the rest of it because in general we are a long, long way away and safe as Japan.
In conclusion, if I’m reading John Key correctly when he says.
Inevitably these things are heightened when the media coverage is so intense and over time some of that might dissipate a little bit.
then he hopes listless hobbits, ignoring the likes of what’s been outlined above, will just send off that check or hit that donate button and go back to the slumber of a week past Wednesday or whenever.
Some people will do that, and that’s fine. But I want to join with those who are ready to step beyond the lethargy of politics as mere consumer choice: those who are awake to the potential of willful citizens generating political heft. You?
* Uh-huh, in case you wondered, Wilson Security who run Nauru, if logos are anything to go by, is the same company that run car parks in NZ.