EEight years have passed since the Australian government made offshore detention mandatory for all asylum seekers arriving by boat, leading to the banishment of more than 3,000 refugees to Nauru as well as Manus Island in Papua -New Guinea.
Since then, we have heard many tragic stories about stranded refugees – stories of death, violence, child detention, family separation and countless human rights violations.
We have heard the stories of hundreds of traumatized people and 14 people killed. We learned Reza Barati who was surrounded by a group of guards and beaten to death. We were told about Hamid Khazaei who developed an infection in his leg, ended up in a wheelchair and died in detention. Faysal Ishak Ahmed also died in a Brisbane hospital.
When I think of the stories of these refugees, including myself, the first thought that comes to my mind is the kidnapping of human beings at sea. We have been kidnapped and forcibly transferred to an island we do not have. had never heard of it. Our identity was stolen. We have turned into a chain of numbers through a carefully planned dehumanization process. We have been led into an evil system which was designed to diminish our identity.
The offshore detention policy was a form of official hostage taking. For years, the Australian government refused to accept us, while preventing us from being transferred elsewhere. Even when it succumbed to public pressure by signing a resettlement agreement with the United States, the government prolonged the transfer process. After all these years, many refugees are still detained indefinitely.
In addition to being a form of official hostage-taking, politics has provided a platform for the propagation of populist ideas and false claims. Kevin Rudd, for example, announced the policy just before the 2013 federal election, while Scott Morrison went to Christmas Island Detention Center alongside a dozen reporters in 2019 and heroically posed against the backdrop of sea.
they cheated the public to believe that the offshore detention policy was like a building that would collapse if a brick were taken out of it. They warned of the invasion of boats on the Australian coast, but no boat arrived. What boats anyway? They all returned to Indonesia.
This is a key point, because every time public opinion has put pressure on the government since 2013, officials have highlighted the risks of opening the borders. It turned out to be an outright lie. What the government has done is create unwarranted fear by hiding behind the notion of national security.
The reality is that they needed our bodies to maintain their political power. Along the way, they created a $ 12 billion detention industry that has greatly benefited politicians as well as some security and medical companies. The contracts signed with Paladin are the only example leaked to the media, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Australian government has done everything it can to keep its industry out of detention. When thousands of refugees were transferred to the United States, the government brought in a group of New Zealanders previously detained in Australia. Ultimately, human bodies are the fuel for this lucrative torture machine.
The policy of offshore detention is a combination of hostage-taking, deception, secrecy, corruption, populist propaganda and, of course, systematic torture. It is sadistic, expensive and unnecessary. After all these years, Australians must find the courage to look in the mirror and ask themselves: to have have we won? What do we have lost? These are crucial questions.
It is time to question the foundations of this deceptive policy. Over the past eight years human values have been undermined, over $ 12 billion has been spent, and Australia’s international reputation has suffered tremendously. The key question to ask yourself right now is, “Who has benefited from this policy?”
Written by Behrouz Boochani, Associate Principal Investigator at the University of Canterbury