By JAMILA RIZVI
The image below is a screenshot from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.
This is the Department charged with enforcing new requirements, that people who attempt an unauthorised journey to Australia by boat, will have no chance of being resettled in this country.
This photo was one, amongst several, that was published on the Department’s website today. The photos depict the various stages of informing and deporting a group of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea. The photo is captioned ‘A female asylum seeker comes to terms with the fact she won’t be settled in Australia.’
If the woman in this photo and the people seated on the floor beside her are proven to be refugees under the UN Convention definition, they will not be granted protection in Australia as they had so desperately hoped. Instead they will be resettled in Papua New Guinea; a country with a woeful record on issues such as violence against women and homosexuals, and whose standard of living falls well short of Australia’s.
Now, I understand that my country has a new set of rules for dealing with asylum seekers who arrive by boat. And I understand that this is an incredibly complex policy issue, with intricacies and consequences that I am unaware of and do not understand. I also recognise that while a law may be distasteful and repugnant to many, it is still the law and that the people enforcing it are simply doing their jobs.
But surely Australia does not have to gloat?
Why must we so willingly draw public attention to the pain and anguish of this woman. She is an Iranian citizen, which means she has fled her home and made a perilous journey halfway across the globe in the hope of starting over in Australia. And she has just been told that that hope was a false one. Surely we can afford her the dignity of leaving her alone with her grief rather than taking some kind of gleeful PR delight in the tears streaming down her face.
I remind you that this is not a photo from a news or opinion or charitable website. This is the Government publicising its own activities, to the public it was elected to serve. And today the Government chose to do that by photographing, exploiting and reveling in the pain of someone who came to our country and asked for our help.