Holding onto hope

JESSICA WEST

migrants_walking_to_safety

Source: Amnesty International Australia

As the worlds refugee situation goes from bad to worse the only thing preventing some of these refugees from ending this never ending nightmare is the idea of hope and the people on the outside fighting for their cause.

A startling 1.19million men, women and children need to be resettled into safe countries yet only 30 countries offer just over 100,00 annual resettlement places.

With more people currently seeking asylum than at any point since World War II, now more then ever they need hope to hold on while stuck in a state of limbo.

The government is constantly hoping the public doesn’t find out about the suffering and abuse these refugees are subjected to, but on the other hand hope needs to reach the mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters in the hope that they hold on.

Hope was a major conversation topic at the Integrity 20 summit recently with Peter Greste’s imprisonment being an example of this.

“Hope is a powerful motive isn’t it and I think you said at one stage you were trapped in a struggle between hope and despair, a tug of war between a fundamental yet contradictory human urges,” Madonna King said to Peter Greste.

Anna Neistat currently leads Amnesty International’s global research team  and previously was the associate director for Programs at Human Rights Watch where she conducted over 60 investigations in conflict areas around the world.

“We at amnesty created a way to make this individual actions and commitment and form a movement all over the world, that is known as a symbol of hope for thousands of people who would otherwise have no help whatsoever,” she said at her key note speech at the recent Integrity 20 summit.

In an interview with Dateline Pacific, Amnesty New Zealand’s executive director Grant Bayldon spoke of the shocking levels of physical abuse, sexual abuse and lack of medical attention discovered by Ms Neistat on her visit to Nauru.

“…it’s really the despair, the mental health issues that are what come through the most strongly and that’s what happens when you take away hope for people when they have no idea how long they’ll be there or if indeed there’ll be any end to what’s effectively detention there and that’s led to really an epidemic of self harm and of suicide including of children there,” he said.

“Well one particular story really struck home for me and that was the story of an Afghani man whose wife had died, he’d fled the Taliban and he’d fled with two of his boys, his two sons. And they really fled incredibly difficult and dangerous situation and they made an almost unbelievably dangerous journey across the world for him to try to get his two boys to safety so that they could re-start their lives. But it was really the Australian government, their treatment of them as a family that broke him. Our researcher interviewed them; he was terrified to let his two boys out of his sight even because they’d repeatedly tried to self-harm and even kill themselves. And for young teenage boys to be in that position I think any parent would find that particularly devastating to think of how hopeless that situation must be for them,” Mr Bayldon said.

At the 2016 Integrity 20 summit Anna Neistat told the story of a Nigerian man and just how big of a difference hope and support can make.

However not everyone is a supporter of the difference hope can make to refugees with Peter Dutton earlier this year sending a clear message to advocates of the refugees in Nauru.

“Advocates should reflect on their messages of false hope and misleading portrayal of the situation in Nauru. While some may be encouraged by messages of false hope and some may resort to extreme action, this Government will not be dissuaded from its stated border protection policies,”he said.

Nina Evason the project manager of the Cultural Atlas, specialises in multicultural affairs promoting cohesion and inclusion in diversity.

“Right now there are still refugees left on Manus and Nauru detention centre that are enduring the worst conditions, they have been proven to do detrimental damage to peoples psychological, physical, emotional and developmental well being and I think right now the self harm rate is one person self harming every two days,” she said.

Ms Evason emphasises the importance of the public making as much as a positive impact as the government does negative.

Hope is the thing that can help these refugees, if one person cares more then likely there is someone else does and it sets of a chain reaction that will lead to change.

“When I speak to various audiences people often ask what exactly they can do, just begin with giving a shit,” Anna Neistat said.

 

 

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