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Australians are wimps for allowing asylum seekers to be ill-treated and killed

Slain Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.

Slain Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.

Oh lovely readers, I do not even know how to write this. I'm despairing of what has happened to Australia since 2001, since that first time, in my memory, we turned back those seeking refuge.

This doesn't feel like my country, the country which provided a haven for my darling parents.

Honestly, I'm a ferocious flag-waver. Australia, I'm for you. But the murder of Reza Berati, in front of others he knew, made my heart pound.

It took me back to when I was 11 years old. I think I was 11. It was the time in my life when my overprotective parents told me the truth about my grandparents - or, at least, what they knew.

What they knew was little, only that sometime during World War II my grandparents disappeared. My father's parents. My mother's parents.

My own parents were not graphic. All they knew was that their parents had disappeared, were gone. My father's younger sister disappeared too.

There are lots of 11-year-olds who have vivid imaginations. That was me. And my imagination was fuelled by what I discovered about the ways Jews were killed during what is now called the Holocaust.

So, I do not know exactly what happened to my grandparents. My parents did not know what happened to their parents. I do not know what happened to my aunt. My father did not know what happened to his little sister.

But when I was young, I used to wonder how they died. I had no difficulty in terrifying myself with what little I knew. We barely spoke about the Holocaust in our house.

My father never spoke of his time in a forced labour camp; my surviving aunt would wear long sleeves so no one would see the number tattooed on her wrist.

My world didn't have much horror then, but I had the frantic imagination of a young child adored by her frightened parents, so protected that I wasn't allowed sleepovers for years.

But when I knew more, when I could spend time at the library, looking things up, I used to wonder how they died. The four of them would have been in their 50s when the Nazis came.

Photographs show them as portly and unlikely to look fit enough for work, but when the Nazis did come and dragged away the very old, the very young, the sick, those who didn't fit in, their methods were clinical.

Those not fit enough for work would have been gassed, either by carbon monoxide produced by internal combustion engines, or with hydrogen cyanide, called Zyklon-B. If you are interested, I can direct you to photos of the murdered, piled high.

We had one distant relative who was the subject of medical experiments. She and her sister had their reproductive organs sliced out of their bodies.

Sometimes the old people were just shot - point-blank - in front of spectators. Sometimes a child was shot in front of her parents, then the parents were shot in front of their neighbours.

Clinical. Systematic. Six million dead.

And strangely, what terrified me most was imagining that the Nazis would take over Australia and come for my parents, kill them in front of me. That, I thought at the wise-old age of 11, would be much worse than if I were killed first.

Don't be ridiculous. I'm not likening the federal government to the Nazis. That would be far too Godwin's, even for me. In 1991, Mike Godwin, a US lawyer, wrote of Usenet groups: "Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies: As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches."

And how ridiculous would it be if I popped in that famous Heinrich Himmler quote: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy.

''All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

As far as I know, the government is not herding people of a particular ethnicity into camps and then killing them. Well, not killing them on purpose.

But those who run our country are now prepared to tolerate, without much fuss, the murder of refugees. Inside a detention centre established by Australia. Yes, they are. And they are doing it in all our names - not just those of you who voted for the Coalition, but all of us.

Robin Margo, the immediate past president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, spoke at a Light the Dark rally in Sydney on Sunday night. "Jews know what it means to seek asylum and we express our solidarity with all asylum seekers, of any religion or none," he said.

He also urged the government to comply, to the letter, with all of Australia's obligations under the UNHCR refugee convention.

Author Tara Moss wrote a compelling Facebook post yesterday, with information directly from a worker on Manus Island: "The '20+ shots fired' (not 'a couple', as previously claimed). The spent shells. The evacuation of staff (but not asylum seekers) before the violence began.

''The fact that people from outside came in and opened fire on the people there. The fact that it happened deep within the compound where people were trapped, far from the entry gate.

''All of his info has proved true so far. Every last detail. And though he is stationed there, and can't speak publicly, he wanted me to know that many of the staff there are excellent, highly qualified expat Australians doing the best they can in bad conditions, but that Manus Island detention centre should be shut down as unsafe."

I'm sure neither Scott Morrison nor Tony Abbott gives a shit about what the UN thinks. Rather, Abbott's world view is one of goodies and baddies, wimps and those whom he considers decent. But The New York Times ran a story on Saturday quoting the UN's human rights' office saying Australia's treatment of refugees was "cruel, inhuman and degrading and it violates international law".

We are the ones wimping out on our international responsibilities. We are now the baddies.

Twitter @jennaprice or email jenna_p@bigpond.net.au

19 comments

  • Well written.

    It is a slippery slope, and fear is a powerful tool, for sure.

    I'm surprised that Australia flouts the law it is a signatory to. People scream and yell about boat arrivals breaking the law, which is apparently bad, but when Australia breaks it, it's ok, because it keeps those "terrible foreign boat people out".

    I don't care how people try to paint it or defend this government. It is racism, it is xenophobia, and it's dressed-up as something else.

    Why not just admit it? People are who they are, why try to hide and pretend it's out of concern for their safety when in reality it's to keep "potential terrorists" out?

    Commenter
    James
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 25, 2014, 10:27AM
    • JAMES, you have not got a bloody clue have you, you are another oxygen theif like Milne, Hanson Young and Rintoul.

      Commenter
      NITRO GANGSTER
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 11:06AM
    • My Father worked for Care Australia in the 90's on the Iran Iraq border. He partly ran a Kurdish refugee camp. My Father only cried twice in his life. Once briefly when his Father died (a veteran of the Western front in WW1) and the second time when he described the conditions of the Kurdish refugees coming across the border to Iran. The only thing at the time the Iranian and Iraqi government could agree on was their hatred of the Kurdish people. In his opinion at the time they were both committing crimes of genocide against the Kurds. Reza Berati the refugee killed at Manus island was described in the press, simplistically as an Iranian. I now hear reports he is a Kurdish Iranian. I do not know this man's personal history, But if his back story is anything like what my father described, he would be a very desperate man. De-humanising people like this does us no service. It is beneath us. My father saw first hand and on the ground the conditions from which people like Reza flee. There is a lot of Ignorance around this issue.

      Commenter
      David
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 11:30AM
    • David - that is awful to hear and yes there is a lot of ignorance around this issue.

      I really don't see what the big deal is about letting people seeking asylum into our country. I'm not afraid, why should I be? The humanitarian in me wants to help such people.

      If people arrive for illegitimate reasons then sure - send them back. If people arrive out of desperation and prosecution, then we should provide refuge for them. It's a no-brainer, really.

      Funny how if the same hateful posters found themselves in a situation where they needed someone's help, they would readily embrace it. Do they deserve it? Probably not, based on how they would treat others in the same predicament.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 11:38AM
  • I couldn't give a shit what you think Jenna. Oh and btw CT, i would find it massively hypocritical of you not publishing my comment because i said shit when you allow Jenna to use that very word in her article.

    Commenter
    zzREXzz
    Date and time
    February 25, 2014, 10:49AM
    • Those who are pro-asylum seeker only think about today without any regard for what's down the line in 20+ years. Ghettos, slums and violence would eventuate and become more common (if they are rioting why would one want them here in the first place?)

      If one so desperately wants to let them in, have them all live in your suburb.
      )

      Commenter
      Red Hill
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 11:09AM
      • So, I take it you are against any form of immigration then? You seem to be blaming refugees for creating slums, violence etc. Strange. Plenty of white trash in slums all the way round this land, take a visit to any city and their are slums and violence with every persuasion.

        Commenter
        Singledom
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        February 25, 2014, 11:39AM
      • And if Manus Island is so bad they need to riot, maybe they should go back to Indonesia or back to their country of origin. It is not the job of one country to look after everyone who says they're unhappy in another country.

        Commenter
        andyl12
        Date and time
        February 25, 2014, 12:03PM
    • Haven't read so much left wing drivel for ages, really amusing . The real wimps are the Greens and ALP who oversaw the drownings of at least 1,000 souls , including children during their time in Government - they are the wimps for not facing up it. No mention /criticism of them from Ms Price ?.... just politics, move along .. nothing of any talent to read here

      Commenter
      gc
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 11:14AM
      • Climate change is only going to make the desire for people to relocate even higher. If you're so concerned about boat arrivals, maybe do something about climate change?

        You can't have your cake and eat it too.

        NITRO GANGSTER - whoa take it easy - you didn't have to take what I said personally if you're not in the category I was talking about.

        If you're not racist that's fine - I wasn't talking to you - I was only addressing people who are racist.

        If we're signatories to the Geneva Convention, we have to abide by it's laws. If not that would be a different story. I'm law abiding, and I expect my country to also be law abiding - what's wrong with that?

        Commenter
        James
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        February 25, 2014, 11:25AM

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