Alternative policies urgently needed now

Clare Condon SGS

Clare Condon SGS

Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies are like an infected sore eating away at the fabric of society, says Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

The imagery associated with a “running sore” is a stark one. An ulcerated leg or a protruding boil full of pus that cannot heal draws poison into the blood stream, into the whole body. Such a bleeding and infectious sore needs drying out and medication, and often requires the afflicted person to move to a complete change of environment if the whole body is to heal. For good health a radical change is required. A boil needs lancing.

For me, this is a tragic image for Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies. They are like an infected sore eating away at the fabric of society. The present policies supported by both major parties are like a running sore poisoning all of us. The body politic is like a bleeding boil. It will only be healed by a radical shift in thinking and a total change in policy. Our whole society suffers because of inhumane and brutal policies towards other human beings. We are being diminished as a nation and as a people.

Over the past few weeks we witnessed a 23-year-old Iranian refugee, Omid Masoumali, immolate himself through despair in Nauru. He died on Friday April 29. Then, on Monday May 2, again in Nauru, a young Somali woman named Hadon set herself alight and is still in hospital in a very critical condition. These tragedies, amongst many others, are the consequences of despair and hopelessness, where refugees and asylum seekers see no future way out of their desperate situations.

In the midst of these tragic situations, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea on April 26 declared that the detention of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal and called for the closure of these facilities.

Australians are now in the midst of a Federal election campaign. Yet neither major political party is prepared to address its damaging refugee and asylum policies. When will political leaders realise that these policies are unethical and immoral, as well as a breach of international law? These policies are the direct cause of hopelessness and despair for some of the most disadvantaged people in the world; people fleeing civil war, hunger and fear.

The current Minister for Immigration could only express anger and a certain hatred at these recent events. His face was as hard as flint as he faced the media to express the tragedy of Hadon’s condition. He attempted to divert attention from the real issue by blaming advocates who seek to support refugees.

But there are some amongst us who feel compelled to respond to the Minister’s seemingly callous response. In a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on May 4, Robyn Cupitt wrote: “Peter Dutton, how low can you go? Suicide is giving up, not the action of anyone given ‘false hope’ by anyone”. A few days later, Tom Ballard, also writing in the SMH wrote: “Minister Peter Dutton is so wedded to the current ‘solution’ that he’s deaf to any criticism whatsoever, instead preferring to slander senators and to blame everyone from refugee advocates to charity workers to the media for the scandals within his portfolio. It’s all justified by the ‘success’ of the policy. They’ve stopped the boats. Nothing can change. End of story.”

Despair and hopelessness drive people to unspeakable acts of destruction. It is hope that keeps us alive and psychologically well. Alternative Federal government policies are urgently needed now or there will be more deaths through self-harm from desperation.

When will our politicians put the lives of their fellow human beings ahead of their own political ambitions? In the meantime we all suffer from the damage to the social fabric of our nation. The infected sore continues to bleed. We become a lesser people! We are all diminished!

* Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.

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The Good Oil, May 17, 2016. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

8 Responses to “Alternative policies urgently needed now”

  1. Gerri Boylan says:

    Clare, your article is well timed and very poignant. The images of the boil/infected sore are pertinent and are stuck in my mind. We have much to pray about and physically address this horrible situation. Thank you. Gerri

  2. moconnor says:

    Thank you once again for stirring the waters of this foul situation. Marie O’Connor.

  3. Jeanie Heininger says:

    Dear Clare, the Parable of the Good Samaritan flies in the face of what our Catholic Politicians are doing and are steadfastly determind to do as the elections draw closer.

  4. Marie Casamento says:

    As I read your article immediately after listening to Minister Dutton once again speak amount asylum seekers I am so aware of your image of the boil getting bigger and bigger. This morning in speaking about not having enough jobs for Australians he said that ‘asylum seekers were not only illiterate in English they were illiterate in their own language’. I am horrified that he has the audacity to make such statements. In my mind I saw the doctor that came to Australia and is teaching us how to treat those who have lost a limb and how to create more effective prosthetics. Marie

  5. Rita Hayes says:

    Dear Clare,
    Thank you for another pertinent letter. I don’t agree however, with one question you ask viz: “When will political leaders realise that these policies are unethical and immoral, as well as a breach of international law?” Our leaders could not but know this given their educational backgrounds and the frequent evidence given by Human Rights lawyers both of International and Australian repute. The critical factor is that our politicians are convinced that their vehement ‘protect our border’ rhetoric is what the majority of voters want. Sadly, we only have politicians and we lack a leader of a major political party who is prepared to LEAD and show us a way that is in the best interests of all. Unless Australians can show demonstrably that we want these inhumane treatments and policies to change we will be left as a ‘lesser and diminished people’. Can all Churches and people of compassion in every State and Territory show what we really want? Unless we can change the polls we won’t change the policies.

  6. Ern Azzopardi says:

    Rather than suggest that finding a just and humane alternative to the current asylum seeker policy would damage the opportunity for political advancement, I have often suggested that the opposite be true. If we had politicians who genuinely cared about the lives of potential boat people who are “queued up” in Indonesia then negotiating with the Indonesian Government to open a processing centre on Indonesian soil would obviate the need for them to take to the seas and put the people traffickers out of business.Any who then attempted to leave Indonesia by boat could then justly be returned to the place of processing.

  7. Terry Clout says:

    I completely agree and feel deminished by the refugee policies of my country

  8. Elizabeth Murray says:

    Well said, Clare. Thank you. The smokescreen of ‘humanitarian concern’ touted by politicians as their reason for ‘stopping the boats’ (lest people drown at sea), is shown up well and truly now with the continuing refusal to change any policies for asylum seekers and refugees, allowing their desperate situation to continue. Deaths or the ‘living deaths’ of those in detention centres obviously are of no concern. Where is truth now?

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