I havent blogged since January this year and its been a real challenge to take the time to reflect and put into words anything that I thought was worth writing about. Well this week I had the opportunity to do something that i have been wanting to do for about twelve months, something that I knew would not only be eye-opening but would potentially change my life. I spent two hours at the Melbourne Immigration Transit accommodation centre, otherwise known as a Detention centre for Asylum seekers.
For readers not in Australia, the issue of asylum seekers arriving on our doorstep, especially those who have made the choice to travel by boat has been an on going politcial storm for awhile now. My intention is to not make this blog entry all about how much i hate what the Australian Government is doing/not doing and point the finger in anger at all the human rights violations taking place as there is enough of that already.(I might leave that for another entry but for now my Little rant is over;-))
I said earlier that i have been keen to visit asylum seekers in detention for quite some time. I am in my second year at university doing a degree in International Community Developement and during this time i have been working out what i want kind of work/vocation i would like to be involved in when i finished my study. Outside of uni i have had t to expectnumerous encounters with people who had fled their countries because of conflict, arrived here by boat and spent time in detention. Every time i would walk away really impacted by their stories.
On the way to the detention centre i was really anxious, i realised that no amount of preperation could actually prepare me for what i was walking into. Yes it sounds dramatic in a way, but the people who i had met out in the community who had unfortunatley been locked up both here in australa and abroad spoke of a deep deprerssion and the struggle coming to terms with their freedom, especially with the rest of the their family on the other side of the globe or the memories of oppression always at the front of their minds. How much more intense would it be on the inside?
Well it was intense and extreemly confronting but it didnt take long before i was reminded of a couple of things. 1. The visit was never about me and 2.They are not boat people(many refer to them as that) I have my freedom and all the privilidges that come with it…and i take it for granted as well. I can leave my house whenever i want and have visitors at any time. I know where my family is(well most of the time) but im certainly not worried for their saftey and even though there was a time in my life when i was displaced..well i think you get the picture.
What an honour it was to meet these men!. All of them had been through hell(&some more than others still are)to get to Australia and now live day to day having no idea what the future holds for them. Missing their wives and kids or knowing that family memebers are missing and are not in a postion to do anything but wait. Yes their stories are sad but the i saw a spark in many of their eyes that said something very different. STRENGTH. I may be able to visit them regularly and give them encouragement and hope(and thats exactly what they need) but i have no doubt in my mind that spending time with them will mean no more standing on the sidelines.
Have you ever been to a detention centre or refugee camp, met any asylum seekers or been one yourself? If so i would love to read about your perspective. Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading