Why I’m standing in solidarity with people seeking asylum

JULY 19, 2016


My name is Monique Machin and I am in year nine at Padua College, Rosebud. About two months ago I went to a social justice conference day in Abbotsford with a few other students from my school. On that day, I became more aware of one of the world’s growing problems. It was a big shock.

As Australians, how much do we know about our government’s policies regarding people seeking asylum? I don’t know a whole lot, but I do know something. It doesn’t feel right.

They are PEOPLE. They are human beings like us. Yet in one respect, they are not like us. They have had to flee their homes, their families, their communities and their countries because of injustice.

Imagine fleeing from your home, your home that you’ve grown up in and loved. Fleeing with nothing. With just the clothes on your back and hope in your mind. Hope that you’d be welcomed into open arms and cared for. Hope that you would arrive somewhere safely. Hope that you would survive. Escaping the trauma, terror and injustice of your country.

When we look at reality I don’t think anyone, and I really mean anyone would understand what that would feel like, unless they had been through that dreadful experience.

Our country only receives 0.29% of the world’s refugees.

Do you know what Australia is doing to help these desperate people, who are trying to seek a safe place to live? As Australians are we truly helping these people seeking asylum?

According to the Oxford dictionary the definition of the word help is: to contribute to alleviating (getting rid of) a pain or difficulty. Another definition is to provide with the means towards what is needed or sought.

In my opinion, as a country I don’t think we are helping these people seeking asylum.

Many people all over the world have opinions about letting people seek asylum. Asylum seekers have a right to flee their homes if they don’t feel safe.

It is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that fundamental human rights are meant for everyone, no matter what skin colour, religion, sexuality, gender and no matter what nationality.

Article three in the declaration says that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Article five says that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article fourteen says that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” What is our country doing to these people rightly seeking a better life?

Does being held in detention follow these human rights laws, or the definitions of the word ‘help’? What are we inflicting on these people? We are discriminating against them.

A recent article from the Age by David Manne (Executive Director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre) and Kate Bones, indicates the truth of what is happening. “Independent bodies such as the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Moss Inquiry have confirmed widespread allegations of child abuse, sexual assault and rape in detention on Nauru. Children are suffering from extreme physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress tantamount to child abuse. Self-harm is rife.”

Around 90% of people seeking asylum who come by boat are found to be genuine refugees escaping from war and persecution. When they finally arrive here in Australia we are locking these people up. We are just replicating the kind of inhumanity they have fled from. What is our government doing to help change this situation?

An article from the Age ‘Refugees are our past and future’ written by Kon Karapanagiotidis states: “We all have a story to tell. Australia has one that’s 60,000 years old. We are a nation of boat people on Aboriginal land. We are a country built on immigration by migrants, refugees and First Peoples.”

To all those who think people seeking asylum are different than us, I believe you are wrong. People seeking asylum, refugees and migrants are all human beings. Who knows what qualities they have? They could be future world leaders. And what are we doing to help those people achieve their dreams? We are all part of this country. As a nation we seem to be smothering their dreams and their hope for a better life. Their hope for a chance in the world.

Australia has obligations to protect the human rights of all people seeking asylum who arrive in this country. In our national anthem we sing “for those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”. Are we sharing these boundless plains? Are we accepting enough of those people who have come across the seas into our country?

In my opinion, no.

3,062. That is the number of people seeking asylum currently being detained by the Australian government here, on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. But we shouldn’t look at this statistic as a number. We should look at how it really is. 3,062 people, wanting some love, wanting some open arms. These people seeking asylum aren’t coming to our country to ruin anyone’s lives. They are set on a journey, a journey escaping the horror and trauma of their past. They don’t want money. They just want safety and the opportunity to give back and create a better life for their families.

No one chooses to be an asylum seeker.

I believe it’s time we start taking action and start spreading the word. People seeking asylum are not any different from us. As a country we shouldn’t be treating them like we are. I think it’s time to stop. I think it’s time we start doing something to change this situation.

Speaking about this issue is a good start and feels better than being a bystander. There is nothing worse than being aware of a problem and just watching it get worse. If you see something is wrong, you should do something about it. If more people start to discuss, learn the facts and actually meet people seeking asylum, hopefully we can slowly start to make some positive change in this country.

We need to give voice to those who are rendered voiceless.


Monique Machin is a Year 9 student at Padua College, Rosebud

Her school is participating in CAPSA’s National Day of Prayer & Action to express solidarity for refugees and people seeking asylum.

Read more about the event: http://capsa.org.au/standing-in-solidarity-a-national-day-of-prayer-action/