13 February 2022

Dear Ms Andrews and Mr Hawke,

I am friend of the Centre for a Compassionate Society, which meets every week in the electorate of Melbourne. I live in the electorate of ***. We have committed to writing a letter to your government every week until all refugees and asylum-seekers who remain on Nauru and in PNG under Operation Sovereign Borders are appropriately re-settled. We also seek humane treatment for refugees and asylum seekers on-shore. We are copying this letter to the Prime Minister, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration, and to our local members of parliament.

As author Arnold Zable locked himself into a cage outside the Park Hotel in Carlton, Melbourne, on Saturday, in solidarity with the 33 refugees and asylum seekers you have locked inside that building, he reflected on the fact that it gave him an opportunity to imagine: 

I’m imagining what it must be like, looking through that window, month after month, and now it’s year after year, and trying to put myself in their shoes. And putting myself in their shoes is putting myself in the shoes of my brothers… Putting myself in their shoes is putting myself in the shoes of refugees throughout history. Many of us here in this country have got an ancestor or family member going back one two three four generations who has come from somewhere else, often in search of freedom. So really, the refugee is us. They’re a mirror reflection of humanity’s quest for freedom throughout the ages. 

Writers need a good imagination, but so do politicians, because their actions affect the lives of so many. Ministers, I’m wondering if you would enter into an exercise of imagining what it is like for these men, and others like them around Australia and offshore, to be indefinitely detained at your pleasure for so long. This cruel and unusual punishment is sapping the will for living from our friends, who cannot understand why they are being punished for the deeply human act of seeking freedom and safety. 

Ministers, we cannot understand it either. Another person who locked himself in that cage on Saturday was Rev Tim Costello. Tim was able to inform the gathered crown that even Peter Dutton had admitted to him that the continued detention of these men serves no public policy purpose; and that the ‘ring of steel’ around Australia’s northern shores, not the prolonged and indefinite detention of vulnerable people, is what has stopped the boats of asylum seekers arriving at our shores. 

While you still have a chance, will you leave a legacy of mercy and let these people out to walk free?

Yours sincerely,

*

Send your letter to:

Mr Alex Hawke: alex.hawke.mp@aph.gov.au (The Immigration Minister)

Ms Karen Andrews: karen.andrews.mp@aph.gov.au (Minister for Home Affairs).

Ms Kristina Keneally: senator.keneally@aph.gov.au (Shadow Minister for Immigration and Home affairs)

The Prime Minister via his website HERE.

And to your local Federal MP.

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