opinion

"36 minutes into the new Handmaid’s Tale, I saw how refugees could be treated. It left me in tears."

Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 ahead.

Thirty six minutes into episode one of The Handmaid’s Tale season 3, I began to cry.

As Emily (played by Alexis Bledel) walked into a Canadian hospital cradling her friend’s baby, she was greeted with love. Doctors, nurses and patients began to cheer for their safe arrival.

The pair had been smuggled across the border, fleeing the authoritarian regime that ruled their home country, Gilead; a place where women were raped and stripped of their fundamental rights.

The baby’s mother, June (Elisabeth Moss), had remained behind in the hope of rescuing her other daughter from the same fate.

Myth-busting facts about refugees. Post continues after video. 

When she arrived in Canada, Emily was not asked if she was a terrorist, if she had come for economic reasons, or if she could live in line with true Canadian values and was willing to assimilate. She was asked if she was okay, and told to watch her cholesterol.

She was, by all means, welcomed home by a country that was not her own.

And so I cried. But my tears were not of joy or celebration, they were of distress.

It struck me that if Emily, a white refugee woman, arrived in Australia with a white baby, we would likely have greeted her with applause too. Sadly, that welcome is far from the kind that’s extended to refugees of colour who seek shelter on our shores.

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Dystopian television series are meant to put a mirror up to society, to highlight the ways we are hurting ourselves and each other. They are built to show exactly what the world could be like, to reflect the worst-possible ramifications of our behaviour and methods of governance.

The Australian government can and should be celebrating the arrival of refugees to our nation. We should be standing on the shores, cheering at the arrival of boats full of men, women and children who risked their lives for a chance at true freedom. Instead, we turn them around. We send them elsewhere. We leave them on island prisons where they live in conditions so poor that they would rather kill themselves than stay there for any longer.

According to Behrouz Boochani, a refugee and journalist on Manus, 27 refugees have attempted suicide on Manus Island since the election results on May 18 2019.

That’s 27 people in 21 days. The conditions aren’t poor, they’re horrific.

According to The Guardian’s Nauru Files, 51.3 per cof the incident reports about assault, sexual abuse and self-harm involved children. This is despite the fact that they make up only 18 per cent of the people on the island.

The reports detailed a young classroom helper who was reportedly allowed two minutes longer in the shower in exchange for sexual favours. In 2014, a young girl had reportedly sewn her lips together. A guard laughed at her.

This was the “better life” they risked so much for.

We are sending vulnerable victims of war and rape to a place they can’t escape from, where they are raped and their fundamental rights are stripped.

Sounds familiar…

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