From camps to destitution – refugees deserve justice

by Julie Macken

I never want to go to another Palm Sunday rally again. Over the last two decades – with a brief respite during the heady days of national compassion, or indifference , from 2007 to 2012 – I have been to almost every such rally.

The numbers tend to ebb and wane depending largely on the media cycle and whether there have been riots or drownings or more results showing the brutal nature of this policy. But the chant remains the same: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it” Now.”

Last Sunday we all gathered again – though this time under the beautiful new purple and white banner for Catholics for Refugees. The numbers in Sydney were down in part I think, because a lot of the community think this is all old news. Afterall the boats have stopped and nearly all the families, the kids and single men are out of the camps in Nauru and Manus Island. Slowly the men held in hotels across Australia are leaving, so what’s the problem?

Well dear friends the problem is this; During the pandemic services like JRS and House of Welcome have seen demand for food and housing and hope grow by over 300%. There are at least 120,000 people on either temporary protection visas or entirely undocumented, living in Australia.

For many of the women who have come here seeking protection and living without any kind of permanency or financial support or work in the real economy, this means they are left to survive on the margins of our community. They become victims of predatory men, brothel owners and victims of modern slavery. For others they are left in abusive relationships because it is their partner who has the visa.

With all the caring and sharing going on in Parliament at the moment, about just how awful the lives of women can be when abused by men, there is not a whisper of concern for these women and young fellows. The inhumanity of the Coalition’s policy now ap[pears to be totally normali9sed.