Tuesday, August 28, 2012

a new “solution” part I .... unhcr, mental health, refugee status

Now this was a national disgrace


Asylum seekers, offshore processing, and mental health

At the last Victorian election I scored a day’s work at a polling booth. While standing with a bunch of other casual workers, sorting formal from informal votes and doing a rough preliminary count of votes, I somehow got talking to a chap about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], and Vietnam Vets.

Even if he has a healthier lifestyle and better genes than me, there is no way he this chap is old enough to have served in Vietnam himself – though he may well have been somewhere else or be a CMF member.

For all that, I was startled by his dismissal of Vets with PTSD, stating “most of them were f****d in the head before they went – implying that they were a bunch of wusses, and/or that war cannot affect normal people.

I mention this because it goes to the heart of a recent United Nations High Commission on Refugees [UNHCR] comment on Australia’s new/old policy of offshore processing, to deter asylum seekers coming by boat.
We do not want to see a return to lengthy delays in remote island centres for asylum seekers and refugees before durable solutions are found. We are also concerned about the psychological impact for those individuals who would be affected.

Call me callous, but I would suggest that many of the people who will be held in detention have already been exposed to things that would affect their mental health.
I should imagine the only other thing that should affect their mental health further would be a loss of hope – an inability to imagine a future for themselves.


Offshore processing and Hope

Allowing for inevitable human snafus, I trust my government [much as it pains me to admit it] to make reasonable determinations of status. The very few refused asylum are probably refused for good reason.

Few people in detention have any reason to suddenly lose whatever hope they had on arrival. Au contraire, I would suggest they have more reason for hope than they had while handing over their money to some boat organiser.

Most of the people processed by Australia – either onshore or offshore - are granted refugee status and given either temporary or permanent visas.

Now, of course, the first bunch sent offshore are on a hunger strike because they are being processed offshore. This has an impact on children – something that always has and always will piss me off.

It would be unfair of me to dismiss them with a comment like “they oughta getta life” because they don’t really have one, but I do wish they would get – or be shown a reason to get – a better sense of perspective.


Not everyone rejected is a victim of Australian racism

In a previous post reviewing a book about Ali Al-Jenabi, I pointed out an inconsistency in his story  

a) his claim that there is no queue, and
b) his comment that he had already been rejected by the UN in a country where he had insisted there is no queue.

More recently The Age published a couple of articles written about/by a Hazara refugee. I don’t for one minute assume his life has been one of endless joy, but he too made a statement that he had previously been to the UNHCR elsewhere and not granted refugee status. This left him with no choice, he says, but to try a boat.

In his situation I might do the same thing, but I do wish we were not getting the same sort of misrepresentation from asylum seekers that Tony Abbott has made his own specialty. They simply can’t compete.

part II – fraser’s policy, australian resentment
part III – multiculturalism
part IV – it’s all a matter of perspective
part V – onshore, offshore, and other questions

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