Children continue to suffer untold cruelty under Australia’s indiscriminate asylum seeker stance. Senior editor Michelle Pini reports.
A 12-YEAR-OLD CHILD is gravely ill. She is self-harming and making repeated attempts to end her own life. She is being refused medical treatment.
If this was happening in Australia, there would be outrage.
But this scenario is unfolding on Nauru — the "invisible" land where people who have committed no crime, even innocent children, are sent by Australia to be imprisoned and forgotten.
At this very moment, despite Minister Dutton claiming that all children had been removed from detention, approximately 109 children (exact figures are difficult to obtain) are being held under indefinite detention on Nauru.
Many of these children are suffering from a severe trauma-related psychological disorder known as "resignation syndrome".
Any illusions we may have held that a new immigration minister might exhibit the semblance of a moral compass, however, has been firmly put to bed by the latest incarnation of Minister for Cruelty, David Coleman. He may look like just another self-important bureaucrat but like Morrison and Dutton before him, Coleman is ably continuing their heinous work.
It is early days, but he is doing so already with just the right amount of cold, heartless cruelty, masquerading under the guise of pragmatism, as he mumbles idiotically about our uber-important national security and the failures of previous Labor governments.
Let’s assume for a moment that there is an iota of truth to this maniacal stance — Labor did reopen offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island, after all. (We'll forget Howard's earlier Pacific Solution for now.) This current dysfunctional regime, however, for whom human rights hold as little importance as climate change, has been in power for five whole years! That is how long many of these innocents have been held in detention as criminals on Nauru — some of them, for their entire lives. How many years are required for this Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government to take responsibility, to govern, to do something?
In the meantime, 12 people have died while in Australia's "care" on Manus Island and Nauru.
Coleman has received advice from medical professionals (on many occasions) that a 12-year-old girl on Nauru, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and in a severely depressive state – such that she has made repeated attempts to take her own life – needs urgent medical attention in Australia.
When asked if he would bring this ill child to Australia to receive care, Coleman said:
"We have to look at Nauru in the context of what happened under the previous government. Each matter is assessed on a case by case basis ... the previous government ... Labor ... people smugglers ...
Securing our borders is so important ..."
The idea that refusing medical treatment to a child, who may die as a consequence of denying such treatment, will somehow secure Australia's borders, amounts to the incoherent ramblings of a deranged person. There is no logical connection between these two things — period.
During this Coalition Government's rule, children have only ever been brought to Australia from these concentration camps under Federal Court order sought my medical professionals and activists.
Minister for Home Affairs Dutton – who was previously responsible for these offshore gulags where people are tortured, refused medical treatment and die under our "care" – during his bid to become prime minister, actually claimed that he would bring everyone here from Manus and Nauru if only he could:
"If I could I would put them all on a charter flight to Australia tomorrow."
It seems no one told him that he could grant visas and organise transport for genuine asylum seekers as well as globe-trotting, visa-breaking au pairs, the whole time he was the responsible minister and actively fought against this.
Minister Dutton has denied urgent medical treatment to children (as well as adults) on many occasions, fighting medical professionals, aid agencies and even magistrates for years.
This is the same man who, just two short months earlier, said compassion must not be shown towards refugees:
"It's essential that people realise that the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia."
When current PM Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister, he organised a cold, hard public announcement advertising Australia's abject lack of compassion towards asylum seekers, to be paraded on the international stage. Don't bother coming here, it declared, we won't save you. Of course, most of the asylum seekers currently held on Manus and Nauru missed the memo as they were already here.
Morrison also instigated the ensuing secrecy about the treatment of refugees by refusing to update the country about "on-water" matters, announcing we would be advised only on an “as-needs basis”.
When reports of children self-harming on Nauru first surfaced, it was Morrison who responded by suggesting that Save the Children workers were making false claims – and even coaching children to self-harm – in order to undermine the Government.
And it was Scott "Stop the Boats" Morrison who first asked his Department to advise how asylum seekers could be prevented from ever receiving asylum. He did this before deciding to intervene in ASIO's security procedures and delay security checks for 700 asylum seekers back in 2013 — until visa provisions could be tightened.
Indeed, since the Border Force Act was introduced by this Coalition Government (under Abbott), all other legislative safeguards tasked with maintaining the fabric of society have been eclipsed in Australia’s offshore detention centres — including international law governing the right to seek asylum, the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, freedom of the press and (until recently) freedom of speech.
We must not, then, expect Coleman to be anything other than a disciple of Dutton and Morrison before him. Being cruel and heartless, as well as adept at dodging responsibility, are prerequisites for the job of Australian Minister for Immigration under this Coalition Government.
Let us not expect anything from this Government in the future, either, except a flagrant disregard for human rights, more preventable deaths, untold misery and, if re-elected, many more years of blaming Labor.
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