‘Boat people’ are risking their lives, only to be put inside of a fenced camp that has many unacceptable characteristics. They deserve to live without fear or lack of safety, but detention centres are taking this away from refugees.
My mother is originally from Cambodia and my father is initially from Laos, but I was born and raised in Australia. Growing up, I have constantly questioned both my parents, asking what their stories are and how they came together to create our family. Although they both have gone through different experiences, their story about leaving their war-torn countries and barely escaping death is the same in the end.
After years of waiting for their visa approval from the UN Refugee Agency, they made it to Australia as legal refugees. After interviewing my parents, I became aware of the process and saw how time-consuming it was, as they had to “wait for who knows how long”, in a place with people they didn’t know.
What I didn’t realise, was that people were arriving in Australia by boats and were also granted refuge. They are often referred to as ‘boat people’ and are too fleeing their country. Those who travel by boats are risking their lives. They face dangerous waters, kidnappings, and possible killings, yet they continue to pay people to smuggle them into another country from places like Africa, where boat arrivals are most common.
Australia has signed the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees along with many other human rights treaties. This allows our country to take in refugees and asylum seekers, but we have set a limit to the number of people allowed to resettle each year. This year, Australia scheduled to resettle 22,000 people. Since there are only a limited number of resettlement opportunities each year, these ‘boat people’ are being put away in detention centres as they wait. The main detention centre is on Manus Island, just north of Papua New Guinea, and it is home to almost 900 refugees.
After their journey and struggles, these refugees are forced to live in a fenced area and are pushed aside by the Australian Government to Papua New Guinea. The centre’s purpose was to hold refugee’s while their claims were being processed for a short period of six months. That ‘short period’ has turned into three years for some, but not long ago, Manus Island officially closed.
The recent shutdown of Manus Island is forcing refugees to go back to their country, apply for refuge elsewhere or go to the other detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Forcing victims to go back to the country they purposefully left, is horrific and this should be stopped. Though Manus Island has officially shut down, more than 600 men remain inside, even as food, water, electricity, and security are cut off. These men are refusing to leave as they do not find it safe to move elsewhere, regardless of the safety our government says they can provide.
With many men still inside the camp, refusing to leave, this highlights the fact that these camps shouldn’t be open to begin with. Those fleeing their country should have the right to be resettled between six months and a year, instead of waiting in detention centres for over three years. Refugees and asylum seekers should be able to leave their country looking for safety and receive that from our government.
Listening to my parent's stories and hearing about Manus Island has made me realise that there are many different processes for resettlement, but each way is unique. After my parents heard that they were accepted to Australia, they finally knew they were safe, but the refugees on Manus Island will never experience that same feeling. Refugees deserve to feel safe and live without fear, so why can't our government provide that?