Mary Sayed

Mary Sayed

Mary is an Australian-born Egyptian who will rant to anyone who will listen about social justice issues including human rights, refugees, education, poverty and domestic violence, in no particular order. You have been warned. :) Opinions expressed are her own personal opinions and do not represent or reflect the opinions of her employer.
Mary Sayed
Refugee camp, Myanmar

Refugee camp, Myanmar

The latest low to which the Australian Government – current and previous – has sunk in order to push refugees out of sight and out of mind has made headline news.

The major parties’ blind determination to treat refugees as inhumanely as possible seems to know no bounds.

We are now refusing to allow boats to enter Australian waters on the premise that we are “saving lives”. We claim to want to put the people smugglers out of business. Yet we seem to be paying people smugglers to turn back their boats. How are we saving lives by pushing boats back to danger?
What is criminal for people smugglers to do is fine for us, in the name of cruelty at any cost. In any world other than the parallel universe we now seem to inhabit, we’d call that hypocrisy.

The Abbott Government is not only hypocritical in this regard; it is also furiously working against itself in order to cut into aid – which accounts for only 1.2 per cent of the Budget.

About a month ago, the Abbott Government cut aid to Africa and the Middle East by 70 per cent. Not 17, 70! Nearly half of Indonesia’s aid was also axed as part of a 40 per cent cut overall to aid for Asia.

This Government claims it wants to combat terrorism…yet cuts aid that can help achieve this. There is a direct correlation between aid and fighting radicalisation: aid contributes to education. Education opens minds. Open-minded children do not hate. Preventing radicalisation produces peace. Peace in homes, communities and countries.

Radicalisation produces groups like Daesh, the very “death cult” we claim to want to fight.
How can we justify stopping aid, when it could loosen the hold of groups like Daesh on vulnerable hearts and minds? 

In claiming to fight Daesh, yet withdrawing aid that fights radicalisation, aren’t we missing the point? Aren’t we punching ourselves in the face?

We aren’t just fighting ourselves here. If radicalisation increases, so does the harm it causes. The innocent flee the extreme actions of the radicals; they become refugees.

In cutting aid, we indirectly take part in pushing refugees from their countries, yet we refuse to help them. We refused to assist Rohingya refugees stranded at sea (“Nope, nope nope”), then lectured Myanmar on treating them better. Shortly after, we withdraw aid from Myanmar. How can we insist that Rohingya remain in Myanmar, yet refuse to help them there, or at sea?

We refuse to help those already languishing in our own Guantanamo, when we put them there. Considering the push factors of conflict, violence by radicals and cuts to aid, how can we ever claim that refugees put themselves in this situation?

What is wrong with this picture?

We are pushing against ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot.
We are pushing desperate people out of their own countries, where they could help themselves, if we would only help them.
We are pushing against human rights and the UN.
We are pushing boats back out to sea and paying people smugglers to take them.
We are pushing refugees back toward death.
We are pushing ourselves to new lows and our international reputation through the floor.

Tony Abbott refuses to acknowledge the authority of the UN; what will it take for him to listen? Would a letter from Pope Francis, the leader of his church, do it? The Pope visited refugees in Lampedusa and frequently shows kindness to them, whilst our Prime Minister tells Europe to harden their hearts toward refugees.

Human misery seems to buy votes. The Government seems to believe that on some level, Australia approves of their cruelty. How much farther will they go before we cry out in protest?

If aid cuts affected us immediately, we’d protest. What we don’t realise is that in saving so little – and keeping 98 per cent of the budget for ourselves – we are slowly hurting ourselves, withdrawing such vital assistance from others as we go.