Chasing Asylum 2

Some hope amid a sea of despair

Eva Orner is an Oscar winning documentary maker. Her documentary Chasing Asylum was released in April 2016 and is currently screening at the Nova Cinema, Carlton. It is compelling viewing and every Australian should see it to appreciate the inhumanity we are sponsoring at Manus Island, PNG and at Nauru.

Over the next few weeks I will be writing about Chasing Asylum, the film and the book. My hope is not only to raise awareness but to pique enough interest to get people to watch the film and buy the book.

I am hoping and praying that the populace can rise against the inhumanity of our offshore detention policy.

This is my second blog on the book and film.

Australia’s policy is that those asylum seekers arriving by boat after 19 July 2013, will not be settled in Australia, under any circumstances. As such off-shore detention is indefinite detention.

Australia’s refugee intake in 2013 dropped from 20,000 to 13,750. Per capita Australia ranks 67th in the world for intake of refugees.

John Howard’s legacy, as continued by successive ALP and Coalition governments has turned Australia into a less compassionate and less caring country. Asylum seekers are viewed as “illegals” or as terrorists. They are vilified and treated with cynicism by our politicians and media alike. The Australian population is largely apathetic to their plight.

One of the many touching vignettes in the film is the story of a school in Cisaura, Indonesia that was established by refugees who were waiting in limbo.

The story begins with Khadim. He was a tall, gangly 18 year old. He is an Afghan Hazara. His father was forced to flee Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban.

The family relocated to Quetta, Pakistan where they thought they were safe until Khadim’s school was blown up killing 150 people, many of them his friends.

Khadim has been given refugee status by the UNHRC but he is stuck in Cisaura.

Cisaura has become a centre for refugees who cannot travel to Australia because of the present embargo. They have no money or resources. Some would say they have no hope. But from the midst of despair these people have created something amazing.

Khadim and his friends decided to form a school.

The school is in a small house. In the film there were about 50 young children crammed into one room. The children varied in ages. Younger ones learning to read and write and the older ones learning maths.

Everyone pitched in. Everyone contributed to the community school. The children were taught in English in the hope that this would improve their chances of settling in Australia.

The school has given the community some hope. There was laughter and excitement in the classroom for both the students and the teachers.

Orner reports that she was moved by the positivity and resilience of these people. They have made something out of nothing. They have brought light where there was darkness.

These are the people we are spending over a billion dollars each year keeping away from our shores.