This is a letter sent to Senator Macdonald through the GetUp! Campaign to encourage Senators to vote against the proposed changes to the Migration Act, including the deportation of Asylum Seekers with a 50% risk of facing harm, torture or death. Please follow this link and write to your Senator.
Dear Senator Macdonald
I am extremely concerned with Scott Morrison’s latest announcements of deporting asylum seekers based on the notion of a 50% or less chance of torture or serious harm. I have particular concerns about women and children seeking asylum. The specifics concerning gender specific torture or harm are never discussed or exposed, in a debate about asylum seekers which is generally silent. The following is an excerpt from a letter I sent to the Prime Minister and Minister for Women in December 2013. I hope the following influences your decision to vote against Scott Morrison’s proposal to return asylum seekers to the risk of harm, torture and death.
In a journal article published in the journal of Refugee studies, “Marginal Women, Marginal Rights: Impediments to Gender-Based Persecution Claims by Asylum-seeking Women in Australia”, McPherson et. al (2011) have identified two barriers to women’s claims of Gender Based Persecution: Emergence Barriers, and Assessment Barriers. Emergence Barriers speak to the factors impeding articulation of a claim. Although the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship has responded to the authors of this journal article, the following were not addressed:
Women applicants should systematically be interviewed separately from their spouse and should be allocated a female case officer, interviewer and interpreter.
Case officers should receive training and advice, from appropriately qualified staff working in the women’s violence services or refugee trauma support services, to help them understand the psychological effects of trauma, and its links to non-disclosure.
Every negative decision should be independently reviewed by a second officer or panel. Applicants should be systematically informed, from the outset, that asylum requests may be based on claims of GBP.
This article also highlights that:
“The bases upon which clients of our interviewees made asylum claims included sex slavery, rape, sexual abuse and attack, fear of honour killings, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, one-child policies, discrimination due to sexual orientation or feminist political activism, children being under threat, general religious restrictions on women, sexual harassment, denial of education, forced marriages, slavery, trafficking, and imprisonment” (p. 331)
It is my concern that this Government’s hard-line stance on Asylum Seekers and ‘turning back the boats’ has become instrumental in ensuring that the reasons women seek asylum remain silent, through the absence of leadership highlighting the atrocities asylum seekers are fleeing from, particularly women. It is also my concern that this Government’s hardline stance and popularity on the issue, has become instrumental to the increase in expressions of hatred and vilification of asylum seekers, particularly noticeable across social media forums.
Once again, this Government’s leadership highlighting reasons women flee asylum is absent and your Government makes no move to challenge this growing discourse. This only serves to further oppress and harm women, fleeing abhorrent levels of violence which ordinary citizens in Australia could never imagine. It can be summed up by this quote:
“Before atrocities are recognized as such, they are authoritatively regarded as either too extraordinary to be believable or too ordinary to be atrocious. If the events are socially considered unusual, the fact that they happened is denied in specific instances; if they are regarded as usual, the fact that they are violating is denied: if it’s happening, it’s not so bad, and if it’s really bad, it isn’t happening (MacKinnon 2006: 3, cited in McPherson, et. al, 2011).
The Hon Judi Moylan MP states in her article “Desperation, Displacement and Detention: Australia’s Treatment of Asylum Seekers Past and Present” Prison Service Journal (2013) that:
“It is axiomatic that tough deterrent policies have not stopped boat arrivals and it is unlikely that any civilised jurisdiction can invoke penalties so harsh, that they stop people escaping unimaginable brutalities. Managing the human dimensions of refugees fleeing war and civil unrest will require a return to regional processing, including ‘effective protections’ and a commitment to resettlement by participating host countries as indicated by UNHCR”
It is my concern that there is a plethora of research which highlights that this Government and the former Government’s stance on off shore processing, only seeks to place those seeking asylum, particularly women seeking asylum under more hardship and harm and as the Government’s policies encourage this.
Senator McDonald, considering the above information, I implore you to vote against Scott Morrison’s proposed changes to deport asylum seekers within the proposed changes to the Migration Act.