Readers of this blog will know by now that I have been attempting to cover the latest wave of controversy and events in Australia’s long-running public debate over asylum law and refugee policy that revolves around the key contested issues of onshore/offshore processing: whether or not asylum seekers arriving by boat are let into Australia to have their claims processed here - or whether they are sent to be ‘processed’ in a nearby country or Pacific Island; if they are processed here whether or not they are put into ‘mandatory detention’ (in effect a form of indefinite imprisonment whilst they await the processing of their claim which may take years); if they are accepted as legitimate refugees whether or not they are issued with Temporary Protection Visas - which allow the rights of refuge but only on a temporary basis denying the security of citizenship....Another key area is of course refugee children and how they should be treated.
Those following these events in Australia will also know that the ‘resolution’ of the Asylum Law debate in Australia has been suspended over the parliamentary break. When Parliament resumes in two weeks time a vote will be held to determine whether the Labor government has sufficient support to pass its proposed amendment to the Migration Act to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers in Malaysia, commonly referred to as the ‘Malaysia Solution’ - which the Labor government has said repeatedly is the way to ‘break the people smuggler business model,’ referring to the boats that ferry asylum seekers to Australia - for a sum of money - a dangerous voyage that has resulted in many shipwrecks and deaths at sea. This shows how desperate asylum seekers are to further risk their lives in their bid to save their lives from the situations of war and conflict and environmental disaster that they are fleeing from.
Meanwhile, for if you are in Sydney, there are two significant exhibitions of art by refugees now living in Australia that give a different view from the perspective of asylum seekers and refugees themselves, that you might like to visit in this lull, in the political ‘asylum law debate’ and that I shall discuss in my next blog entry.
The exhibitions are:
‘Unsafe Haven: Hazaras in Afghanistan’ photographs by Abdul Karim Hekmat, a UTS graduate and former refugee from Afghanistan- who returned to his former homeland in the Hazaras regions in 2010 and documented his journey through photographs and text. At the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Tower Foyer, Level 4, 15 Broadway, Ultimo. Dates: 5 September- 7 October 2011.
The Refugee Art Project at ICE Information and Cultural Exchange, 8 Victoria Road, Parramatta. Dates: 8 September- 29 September. 10-4pm Mon-Fri.
I will discuss these exhibitions in a coming blog entry.