Shame, Shame and Disgust

The Afghan Rights Monitor has stated that 2010 has been the most violent of the past nine years of war in that country. By mid-July 2010 more than one thousand civilians had already been killed under the banner of ‘collateral damage’. Targeted ethnic cleansing has wiped out many hundreds more. In late June the Taliban stopped a van carrying eleven Hazara people in the Uruzgan province, and beheaded each of the passengers. In mid-August, a group of Taliban-backed Kochi nomads rampaged through south-west Kabul, shooting Hazaras. In the demonstration that ensued, Afghan police shot dead another 25 Hazaras. Even in the traditional city of refuge, Quetta (Pakistan), Hazara people cannot leave their houses without fear of ethnically motivated killings. After the accidental war casualties and the targeted ethnic cleansing, there still remain the random insurgent attacks, suicide bombings in public places (especially markets) and roadside explosive devices.

Australia is paying many millions of dollars to international agencies and the Indonesian government to facilitate interception, arrest and imprisonment of asylum seekers who have set out—mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka—to reach safety in Australia. They have not embarked on these journeys for fun, or to find a better job or a bigger house. The decision to leave home is invariably characterised by grief, loss and fear. It is not taken lightly, and its aftermath is life-long. When a boatload of asylum seekers bobs onto the horizon at Ashmore Reef, or in the waters surrounding Christmas Island, we are not witnessing the final chapter of a ‘choose your own adventure’ story; we are receiving the human fallout of the worst conflicts and human rights violations on the planet today. It is a failure of human compassion and government leadership that as a nation we do not discuss refugee policy in these terms.

I have nothing more to add.