To give context and reflection on the Let them Stay an the Lady Cilento Vigil lets look back on what has happened in the last 2 weeks.
On the 12th of February, doctors at Lady Cilento Children’s hospital in South Brisbane made a statement that they would not release a child in their care until a suitable home would be found where she would not be exposed to harmful and abusive conditions that led her to the burns she received in Nauru needing to be sent for care. Vigil in support for the doctors was arranged by the local community in solidarity. The girl is known as Asha, is 12 months old and became a symbol for the Let Them Stay campaign against the high court decision that will see over 260 asylum seekers sent back to detention on Nauru.
Baby Asha is the first infant born in Australian detention who was transferred to Nauru.
In the following days, community of refugee activists, families of doctors, local businesses and church members gathered to support, send food, and resist against any possible federal intervention, should baby Asha have been abducted into detention from medical care after her needs had been met.
For 10 days messages of hope and support stood at the corner of Vulture and Stanley streets to broadcast what was happening and make visible through the image of a small child, the greater experience of inconsiderations against those seeking asylum in Australia. Those passing the South Brisbane hospital in their cars would beep in support, and in the lead up to the potential removal of the family, barricade.
On the 21st, Peter Dutton announced that Asha and mother would be detained in community only and not sent offshore, although their claims would still be subject to normal processing. He also took to doubt the legitimacy of the cause in harms on asha as a cause of the detainment. Dutton pushes the front that no asylum seeker coming via boat will be given refuge in Australia as policy, and then claimed the original plan for this family was to take them into community detention. On the 22nd he then stated that after medical and legal issue were resolved the family of baby Asha would be taken back to Nauru. When we continue the momentum the current wave of mandatory detention sentencing has brought to light with the 267 families facing return to offshore detention centres from Australia and the Let Them Stay movement, the tenuous success of baby Asha’s vigil at Lady Cilento Hospital can be reflected on by those who participated or observed it in a number of ways. It is important that we understand the underlying motivations for criticism without being disparaging, rather to find a unification and strength in struggle.
Remember the line that of what a government would to refugees is telling of how it would prefer to treat its citizens.
It is painful news that brought the experience of a family seeking asylum in Australia to the attention and action of the public, and the resolve is that they will be taken into community detention rather than offshore.The truth is that there continues to be thousands of stories similarly unable to be voiced and shared on Nauru for women, young people, men, and families suffering daily through intolerable conditions, facing their abusers and not knowing what the outcomes of their claims..
As we discussed in the episode about the Prison Industrial complex around the world, the companies that own and service the offshore detention centres of Christmas Island and Nauru are known for their incompetent maintenances, inconsiderate cultures of abuse and encouraging the pain of those kept in detention against themselves and each other. Where children suffer, men and women and young people suffer. Babies express pain under abuse with tears where adults do so against themselves and each other. Pain is incremental in an expression of a system which cannot be justified through the manipulations of policy. Peter Dutton purports that the harms caused onto those in detention, such as that onto Asha could have been purposely inflicted by her mother, and that her experience would be not taken as an example for others on Nauru to think they could gain asylum access through similar actions. He took the vulnerability of the sentiment in using a family unit and understood more thoroughly how awful the experience those whose lives he is subjecting to detention is, but then completely undermined the legitimacy of that harmful experience by using the abusive conditions as its own threat of inconsideration.
“Neither is the photograph supposed to repair our ignorance about the history and causes of the suffering it picks out and frames. Such images cannot be more than an invitation to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalisations for mass suffering offered by established powers. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we have accepted up to now that ought to be challenged?” (SONTAG, 2003)
What meaning does sentimentality and action based on emotional rhetoric give for the state? We have been at crisis in this issue for a lifetime.
My lifetime has been shaped by a lexicon of people smuggling, children overboard, border patrol, Nationalist parody of otherness.
These experiences are ongoing and present throughout the Let Them Stay movement, and they are not silenced by it, but what outcomes for these people at all.
Peter Dutton reinforces the myth that those in mandatory detention are being withheld and their experiences nullified for the lack of trust in those who seek asylum. And now we don’t know exactly where baby Asha is, but Mr Dutton has made it certain that all families who arrive by boat will be processed off shore, and that this family will be too. Whether Mr Dutton feels any compassion at all in his attempt to consistently apply a brutal border force and policy scope to this situation, the broader consequences of how we are considering those inflicted by inconsideration in detention and the Transfield or SERCO operations are silenced without any understanding of their individual stories as reality. Without an appreciation that the same could happen to any of us with legitimisation.