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Speech: Treatment of Refugees

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 24 Jul 2019

I must say, it boggles my mind there are people sitting in this parliament who want to repeal a law that allows sick and injured people to receive the medical attention they need. How full of hatred must your heart be to say someone should be denied the medical treatment that they desperately need, simply because they are a refugee or an asylum seeker? Australia has imprisoned these people, there is no other way around this, and providing them with medical care is our obligation.

I find it interesting that Pauline Hanson's One Nation party has brought this matter of public importance forward. Perhaps they are concerned that the Liberal Party is now even more callous than them in their continued persecution of asylum seekers, and they are seeking to play catch up. When One Nation talk about asylum seekers being a risk to border security we know what they really mean. Twenty years ago, they didn't want Asians in this country. Now their target is Muslims. We know why they don't want these asylum seekers to come to Australia. It's because they don't look like you. If the medevac bill is repealed, you will be taking away medical treatment from people, and that is simply unconscionable.

The government controls the lives of those in detention, but at the same time it pretends that they aren't its problem. The government says they aren't in a detention centre but they are locked up every night at 6 pm. Those opposite say they are free to leave whenever they want but won't let them take the offer of humanitarian resettlement from the New Zealand government and now want to take away their access to medical care in Australia. The government is playing games with their lives.

Mandatory detention is killing people; that's the stark reality. The number of suicide attempts and acts of self-harm since the election has reached 100. One young man set himself on fire inside his room. Australia's onshore detention system is killing people as well. Just this month, a 23-year-old man, who fled war-torn Afghanistan six years ago, died at a Melbourne immigration detention centre. We had him locked up for six long years. In September last year, a 22-year-old Iraqi man died in hospital after attempting to take his own life at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia. He had been transferred from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney to Yongah Hill a few weeks ago, away from his family, including his two young children.

Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong recently penned an opinion piece called 'How did our treatment of refugees come to this?'. They said:

Imagine losing your eye in an assault and going slowly blind in the other, but having no medical treatment available. Or having your kneecap torn loose, causing intense pain and swelling, but being given nothing but paracetamol and a bandage. Or having a stroke, and needing to see a neurologist, psychiatrist and a cardiologist, but being offered aspirin. These things have happened to refugees held offshore, on Australia’s watch. How did it come to this?

Yes, indeed, how did it come to this? It came to this because of the bipartisan cruelty of both the Labor and Liberal governments. It came to this because they don't see asylum seekers as people just like us. It came to this because they choose fear over compassion. The authors go on to say:

In essence, Australia has sought to create conditions that are so bad that they come close to rivalling the life-threatening conditions from which people are fleeing in the first place. Currently, more than 800 people remain on Nauru and Manus Island, living in idle despair. Many have been there for almost six years, with no clear end in sight, even though most have been found to be refugees. More than 80 per cent suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reading this and knowing what we all know, it is appalling that this government's major priority is to torment them even further. Enough is enough. We need to close this terrible chapter in our history and find some humanity in our hearts.


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