Tuesday, September 8, 2015

#LightTheDark vigil in Perth: Deterrent policies don't save lives

"Boat turn backs, mandatory detention, offshore processing and indefinite limbo do not save lives."

This was the comment made by Refugee Rights Action Network activist Michelle Bui before the 1000-strong #LightTheDark vigil for refugees in Perth on September 7.

"You have to understand," she said that "no one puts their child on a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

"Therein lies the flawed logic of Australia's supposed deterrent policies."

Bui said that if Aylan Kurdi had made it to Australia, the government would have shifted him to suffer the torture of the Nauru detention centre.

"We were all shocked and horrified to see that photo of Aylan's tiny lifeless body washed upon the shore," she said.

"What is equally horrifying but something much more difficult to encapsulate in one image is the reality of the indefinite mandatory detention system."

This sentiment was echoed by Hazara refugee Ashraf Mohammad.

"You can't even imagine the impact of the government policies on asylum seekers," he said.

"The agony of life as a refugee is one that is never-ending."

"It is heart-breaking when I see grown up men sitting in a corner sobbing because of the devastating situation they are in as a result of this government's policies."

Other speakers included Marilyn Beech and Jarrod McKenna.

The rally chairperson said that the rally demonstrates that " we choose unity, we choose love and we choose solidarity".

[This story and photos by Alex Bainbridge first appeared in Green Left online on 7 September 2015.]