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An open letter to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen

Re: Omid Sorousheh LIC017

“I want justice
I am human”

Dear Minister,

Omid Sorousheh has been on hunger strike in Nauru for 45 days. He has had no water for three days. Today he has again stated his intention to die unless sent to Australia, and there is evidence that his health is failing. Along with 19 others, Omid is exercising the last kind of power that he has available: the power to refuse a life that is worse than death.

In my teens I regularly wrote letters to distant regimes urging them to release those who were unjustly imprisoned. I never dreamed I would grow up to find myself urging Amnesty International to act on my behalf and intervene with my own government. Let alone having to do so repeatedly over the course of years and to a Labor government.

What does it mean to have to tell the world “I am human”? What does it mean to make a human being choose between two kinds of death?

There is a dual failure at work here, both a moral failure and a failure of consensus. At present, more compromise leads to more harm. At some point there needs to be ethical leadership. There are lawyers, non-government organisations, and international institutions who can provide this leadership. If the government cannot solve this humanitarian problem in a humanitarian manner, then it must answer to the international community and the human rights charters to which we are signatory. As long as you continue to assault the human rights of those in need, this government will have no legitimacy in the eyes of the Australian people.

Time and again, from solution to solution, we have seen that leaving human beings in limbo, unable to work or settle, places them in a kind of hell. But even this hell is still not as awful as the place they fled. They are choosing death. And you are more concerned for the fate of sheep and cattle than you are for these men, women and children.

We who have some power, and wealth to spare, we have options. I choose to articulate my anger and horror at this continuing regime of exclusion. You can choose to help those who most need help. Australians did not work our way out of being a prison island to spend our boom years as a developed and civilised nation building more prison islands. Again and again we find that the escalation of cruelty as a deterrent fails, and again you escalate this cruelty. Community detention can work.

There is no deterrent stronger than what these people are fleeing, from which even death is an escape. I beg you, as a citizen and as a fellow human being – one who does not have to plead for their life by declaring “I am human” – to save the life of Omid Sorousheh. Close Nauru immediately, resettle all those imprisoned there on the Australian mainland, and allow all future asylum seekers to be processed in the community.

Jennifer Mills

One Comment

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    Monday, November 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink