RIP Josefa Rauluni

Two days ago, Josefa Rauluni, a Fijian asylum seeker, was killed.

Darwin detention centre – AAPThe 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.

Michael Brull

Michael Brull is a columnist at New Matilda. He’s written for other publications including Fairfax, the Guardian, Crikey, Tracker and the Indigenous Law Bulletin.

More by Michael Brull ›

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  1. There’s an emergency protest in Melbourne for refugees on Friday night at 5pm in the Bourke Street Mall.

    It is horrific that this man died and sickening that most people don’t care. Those that do need to come out and show it.

  2. Recently, when writing my pre-election item for Overland on ‘boat people’ my wife suggested I site the articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we are in breach of. When I looked at the Declaration I found we breached so many articles that it would require a separate post to cover them all.
    When seeking to lay blame I’d also point to the majority of the electorate that is too self involved to take the time to look into these issues; it is not too difficult to see through the shallow scaremongering of ‘children overboard’ and all the other pumped up, vote grabbing diatribe.
    This is an absolute tragedy, but sadly I know that this poor man’s life will be twisted by the right wing commentators that control the nation’s information.

  3. Actually, I think people do care; in fact, this is one of the issues that most Australians would say they care about. But I don’t think people are aware of the inhumane treatment or policies refugees are subjected to in Australia – see Pamela Curr’s article, see Jeanette Gibson’s account of life at Curtin. Therefore, citizens [read not politicians, not bureaucrats and not the media] cannot comprehend why detainees would resort to self-harm.

    We live in a country built on racist foundations, so it follows that this racist virus infects our institutions and distorts the way Australia detects ‘threat’.

    [As I wrote in my Ol article:
    In her paper ‘Terror Australis: White sovereignty and the violence of law’, Maria Giannacopoulos contends that the inception and survival of Australian law and sovereignty is dependent on racial violence and unceasing racism. Giannacopoulos theorises that it is not possible for youths with ethnicity to be thought of as ‘local’ or belonging in the Australian landscape. In the case of the Cronulla Riots, the ‘so-called locals’ were portrayed as ‘the un-raced, rightful owners of Cronulla beach,’ with the beach itself ‘their possession to fight for’.]

    The horror and the inhumanness of the detention centre and application process aside, how a country cannot immediately recognise claims for asylum from Tamil and Kurdish people – to say nothing of countries we more explicitly had a hand in destroying [see Iraq and Afghanistan as two recent examples] – is inconceivable.

    Nothing sums up my feelings about this issue more succinctly than Gogol Bordello’s new song, ‘Immigraniada’ and the line, ‘to hell with your double standards!’ No-one is illegal and fuck the border, indeed.

  4. The ABC, our national broadcaster, had the death of Josefa Rauluni (for which the state are directly to blame) as one of the less important news items. Lead story was the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Of course!

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