Statement from the Jewish Labor Bund

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) fully endorses the following statement by the Jewish Labor Bund in regards to the Abbott government’s new asylum seeker policies.

We are appalled and alarmed by the cruelty and brutality of the Abbott’s government’s asylum seeker policies. They constitute a chilling abuse of human rights and are robbing asylum seekers of all hope and dignity. We are appalled at reports of men, women and children living in tents on Nauru, in sweltering tropical heat, appalled at the conditions of the single man’s camp, where the 350 inmates with access to just four toilets, have been reportedly hit with an outbreak of gastroenteritis, having to wait for in line for a two minute shower to wash away their indignity.

We are appalled at reports of children running amok, their unsupported parents powerless to look after them, at reports of a four-year-old child who has become catatonic and is refusing to eat. We are appalled at the conditions of the 1128 inmates on Manus Island, who, according to Age reports are living in tents, in shipping containers, or world war two bunkers, without mosquito nets, subject to Malaria and a lack of malaria tablets. Appalled at the living conditions of the 100 men crammed in bunks lined up against each other.

We are alarmed at the regime of secrecy of the Coalition’s Minister of Immigration, aided and abetted by the military style Operations Sovereign Borders. We are appalled at the cases of family separation, men being divided from woman and children, at the Iranian asylum seeker who has been told he will not be allowed to accompany his pregnant wife from Nauru to Darwin to be present at her birth. We are appalled at the up to 30,000 asylum seekers on mainland Australia, who are destitute and without hope, an increasing number of whom are living in a state of depression and anxiety, denied of work rights, and forced on relying on charity.

We are appalled at a government that has completely lost its moral compass, and at the cruelties being committed in our name. We are appalled at the punitive measures taken against people who are only doing what our own forebears did. Dismayed by the Minister Scott Morrison’s directive that the asylum seekers be called illegals, despite the fact that we are signatories to UN conventions that explicitly state that seeking asylum is a basic human right.

We have forgotten that we too were once immigrants and refugees in search of a better life, that except for indigenous people, we are, give or take a few generations, are a nation of boat people.