Two days ago, Josefa Rauluni, a Fijian asylum seeker, was killed.
The newspapers reported he ‘fell’ from a roof, before quoting those who knew it was a suicide. Josefa pleaded with the government not to deport him. They didn’t listen. He jumped from the roof a few hours before they were going to expel him to Fiji.
We shouldn’t just blame the bureaucrats who callously made and stuck to their decision. We should blame the mainstream political spectrum. Labor and Liberals agreed that refugees are a problem, and this problem should be solved by preventing them coming here. They did not stand for the basic proposition that refugees are human beings, the persecution they suffer is awful and we should be proud and eager to help out those who think Australia should treat them better. Obviously, Labor and the Coalition don’t think Australia should be a refuge for those suffering persecution in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq and so on.
And we shouldn’t just blame the politicians. We should also blame the media, for its incessant demonisation of asylum seekers. Depicting them as problems and threats, urging us to look at them as dangers to us, seeking to harden our hearts against their humanity. The casual response to Josefa’s death should not surprise us. Sending a refugee back to be jailed or killed does not cause offence to our crusading zealots of hysteria against asylum seekers. Paul Sheehan urged the asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking be sent back to Sri Lanka. Who cares if they were genuine refugees? Who cares if they would be killed?
Just a few days ago, Piers Akerman warned readers (again) that Gillard left a ‘welcome sign for asylum seekers’.
Obviously, the message he – and Andrew Bolt, and Tony Abbot, and Julia Gillard et al – wants to send is that they are not welcome. If they had a megaphone, they would call out something like this:
You are not welcome here. You are not wanted here. We want you to leave, and we will make your life miserable until you do. We don’t care how miserable you are. We don’t care how desperate you are. We don’t care if you’ll be executed if we send you to your home country.* You are different, and you will never be one of us.
I don’t know why Australians find it so hard to relate to asylum seekers and refugees as human beings. A major part of the story must be the constant hatred and fear peddled in the Murdoch and Fairfax media.
Josefa died because he thought he was going to be sent back to Fiji. Another human being has been destroyed by our hardheartedness.
*Though this doesn’t affect the sincerity of our passion for fighting for liberty in Afghanistan.