With the latest story about the Asylum Seekers hitting the airwaves again, Australians are again in uproar about how we either need stricter border control or that we need to be treating Asylum Seekers more humanely.
Under the Howard Government we had the “Children Overboard” debacle. A ploy by the then Government to win an election. I don’t want this post to be political. I find it sickening that the treatment of human beings can become an opportunity for Polies to score points. I find it disgusting.
I am a migrant to Australia. My parents felt that they could give us a better future if we moved here and even though I wasn’t convinced at the time, I now call Australia home. Being a migrant and having to make your life in a foreign land comes with many challenges. Adding being Muslim to being a migrant thanks to 9/11 makes the challenge, well, more challenging. But Alhumdulilah, we made it through, settled in well and are now all very happy living here
Australia, is a nation built on migrants, those that colonized it, those who choose to come here for a better life like my parents, those who are brought here as refugees and others again who risk everything to seek asylum on our shores.
The story of refugees and asylum seekers are not just an Australian thing but is a worldwide movement where people are forced to leave their homes because they are at risk.
I want to share a few stories of people that I know.
Aunty Joyce was born in Rwanda. She had 7 children. During the Rwanda Genocide her family ended up being split with her husband taking two children and she taking 4.There was one more kid left but he was taken away from her. Rwanda is famous for it’s brainwashed child soldiers. She ended up in Zaire. Just for information it was officially reported that in 100 days 1,174,000 people were killed. Just sit back for a moment and think about that.
Before she left, she saw her mother who was elderly and her sister brutally gang raped. Her and her kids narrowly escaping. She moved from Zaire to Burundi from what I can remember and then eventually was processed to come to Australia. She made the journey here, after never being on a plane, hardly speaking any english or knowing anything about Australia. Back in Rwanda she never worked, she had no skills. She made a life for herself here, learning english, trying to adapt to Australia.
She had no idea where in the world her husband and other two kids were and most importantly she had no idea what had become of her other son. She always had nightmares of him killing people and the reality is, its what he would have probably been brainwashed to do. Aunty Joyce is one of the strongest women I know. She worked against all odds to learn English, to get a job, to learn things and she never gave up. She was determined to see her kids have a good life.
Eight years later in Australia she was walking through the shopping centre and sees her husband. He ended up also being processed and coming to Australia. He had tried in vain to find out what happened to her as she had with him. Neither knew who was alive and who was dead or what happened to the other kids. The thing is, he moved on. He remarried. He never knew if he’d ever see her again. It’s been a long and hard road for them. With all of that she remains a strong positive women.
Let me tell you then about Fatima and her family. Their story is again abit different. Fatima came from an affluent family. She talks about her childhood in Iraq with much fondness. Through years of war and sanctions her family seemed to manage life with relative ease. But then one day they came for her uncle and he disappeared and things started to change. It was no longer safe for her family to remain in Iraq. They were basically smuggled out or Iraq in the middle of the night, hours and hours driving. They made their journey from Iraq and eventually ended up in Syria. They stayed a few weeks with some people she didn’t know in Syria and she remembers it as an extremely anxious time. Everything was hush hush amongst the adults and she says she remembers her mum crying alot. It was time to board a plane but her dad was not coming with them. He had to stay behind. They flew to Indonesia. She remembers being scared and sad. They stayed in a hotel that was not very nice or clean she says. They had limited money and her cousin would leave them every morning and come back at night until it was time for them to go. All her mothers jewelry was given away, the price you pay for freedom. They got on a rickety boat to made their way to the land of freedom. She remembers that they were all sick on the boat and hungry because the food went off and she didn’t want to eat the tinned fish. They thought on many occasions they were going to die. She remembers the stories they were being told by her mum about how wonderful Australia was. I guess she was trying hard to keep their spirits up. Her first encounter with Australians were border patrol with guns and shouting at them. They spent two years in detention which she remembers as a nightmare as they were being processed. She went on two hunger strikes in her time there. She is now settled in Australia and happy here. She saw her dad once more after a few years and he has now passed on in Iraq.
So when the narrow minded bigots come out and say we need stronger border patrol and harsher laws to deal with migrants, I wonder if they think of people like Aunty Joyce and Fatima. People who really are escaping torture, people who’ve been through unimaginable trauma. Just for a moment think of what it’s like.
Think of how desperate one must be to sell everything, to risk your life and your childrens life to make your way from Iraq all the way to get onto a dodgy cramped boat in Indonesia and make the treacherous journey across the sea all for freedom, all for life. Let’s treat them humanely, let’s make them feel welcomed and at home. Let’s treat them like fellow human beings and not a number to be processed.
Keep the Asylum Seekers in your prayers. We don’t know when we might become the one’s seeking asylum. These people didn’t ask for war and countries like Australia and the USA who are so happy to join wars should be equally happy to take in the refugees from the wars they create.