The refugees held on the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres are imprisoned there for no other reason than to satisfy the political ambitions of Australian politicians. Three years detention (or more in some cases) of men, women and children on this gulag amounts to indefinite and arbitrary detention, which in itself is torture and contravenes international conventions and protocols. The incarceration of these refugees and asylum-seekers has been condemned by the UN Refugee Agency and by Amnesty International (and more recently, in the case of the Manus Island detainees, by the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea). Given the intransgience of the Australian Government to finding a just solution to the fate of these people, the next step, surely, is for Amnesty International to officially re-define and declare them as political prisoners.
In the meantime, those Australians who adhere to even basic notions of social justice could step forward, to provide practical help and moral support to each and every one of those detained in this way by offering ‘sponsorship’ – details below…
Sponsorship of a refugee, or asylum-seeker, or a refugee family held offshore could be offered by an Australian individual, family or even a community (street, suburb, town, community neighbourhood house, etc). Such sponsorship could take a variety of forms. At its most basic it could simply involve regular correspondence (letters, online etc) with a refugee or a refugee family held offshore. There may also be other ways of supporting that refugee or refugee family on an ongoing basis. In addition, an offer of formal sponsorship could be made: i.e. to offer a house and interim financial support if a refugee or refugee family is allowed to move to Australia (this form of sponsorship may be more suited to support provided by a community of people).
Identifying named individuals or families to support could be achieved either by making contact with refugees via their Twitter or Facebook accounts, or by approaching a refugee support agency or refugee advocacy group or similar to make inquiries. On the other hand, one or more refugee agencies, or an NGO, such as Amnesty International, could offer to coordinate and publicise such a scheme.
Critics may well opine that a scheme like this would serve no purpose as the Australian Government will never allow offshore detained refugees into Australia, let alone to live there. However, it’s imperative that Australians who care about what is happening step forward to join such an initiative, as in time their direct support may positively effect the outcome – for even the most reactionary Australian politician (of which there are many in both the LNP and Labor) understand that an outcome has to happen at some point – not if, but when.
So, to all Aussies with compassion, let’s make that outcome sooner, not later.