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I couldn’t have felt more of lonely desolation somehow, had I been robbed of a belief or had missed my destiny in life…
― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary
Today the SMH ran an article that proved to me we have truly hit rock bottom when it comes to the humanitarian handling of asylum seekers.
The article by Konrad Marshall, Family of asylum seeker Leo Seemanpillai cannot attend his funeral, concerned Leo Seemanpillai, a Sri Lankan asylum seek who took his own life almost three weeks ago under the ongoing pressure (18 months up until his death and who knows how much longer had he not taken his life) of not knowing whether he would be given asylum in Australia.
Notwithstanding a life of disruption and misfortune, Leo Seemanpillai taking his destiny into his own hands in such a tragic way because no one else was prepared to help him is a humanitarian disaster, albeit in it’s singular, micro way.
And yet the tragedy has been exacerbated further by Australian authorities who have decided to rub bitter salt into the wounds of the grieving family of Leo Seemanpillai. Rather than be allowed to follow their own death customs and see their departed kin finally laid to rest after a lifetime of the opposite, Leo’s brother Ezekeil’s request for a visitor visa was denied on the grounds of such factors as his unemployment.
But let’s call it what it really is – ugly fear, masquerading as inhumane right-wing policy that plays to the worst in human nature.
Yes, Australia, this is the place we have become.
The Abbott government’s hard-line neo-con approach to asylum seekers not only lacks any whiff of humanitarianism for those fleeing persecution or awaiting asylum seeker application processing – it is now pushing those already in utter despair down the dark paths that Leo Seemanpillai took to end his torment.
Furthering the government’s inhumane approach to asylum seekers, Scott Morrison announced today that, despite Julie Bishop’s fine words about offering humanitarian aid to Iraq in terms of the unfolding civil war (after, ironically, cutting the foreign aid budget just weeks ago), the Abbott government will not halt the return of Iraqi asylum seekers to their war-torn country.
The ALP in Opposition is no better.
Yesterday it had the chance to bring back some real humanitarian policy at the hands of Labor MPs Melissa Parke and Anna Burke who urged the caucus to soften the ALP stance on asylum seekers. Fear of electoral damage, however, won the day, with the right wing of the ALP ensuring no plans to change offshore processing policy, although a motion was called for refugee claims to be processed in a “timely manner” to avoid asylum seekers being left in a state of uncertainty.
When a country as wealthy as Australia has not the conscience or the heart to allow a family to farewell their dead, we are as good as dead ourselves, at least spiritually.
Vale Leo Seemanpillai.
And vale Australia – or at least an Australia that cares about those who need our help.