Shannen Potter is NSW Young Labor Vice President
Thanks to the bipartisan policies of boat turn backs, offshore processing, and functionally indefinite detention of asylum seekers, thousands of refugees are currently suffering in inhumane conditions on Manus Island and Nauru. 600 refugees are facing life-threatening conditions without food or water after being abandoned on Manus Island. The policies of successive Labor and Liberal governments to deal with asylum seekers are causing people to die, and causing many more to suffer in conditions which no person ever should experience.
Many of these refugees are women, and are subject to the realities of living as a woman in such a brutal environment. Sexual assault, abuse and violence are common - often at the hands of guards. There have been many documented cases of women on Manus Island and Nauru being denied access to reproductive health services, healthcare for pregnancy and birth, and terminations. In some of these cases, women have been sexually assaulted in the camps and then forced to carry the resulting foetus to term. Women are being forced to trade sexual favours for 'privileges' such as increased shower time.
Over half of documented reports of sexual abuse in these camps involve acts perpetrated on children. On top of the grinding daily mistreatment, malnutrition and over-crowding, children must live in constant fear of sexual violence.
These are not conditions which we would ever accept in Australia, being inflicted on Australians. I often wonder how different our response would be to the refugee crisis if the people seeking asylum were white. The majority of asylum seekers hoping to come to Australia are people of colour, and the mainstream media and the major parties dehumanise them completely.
I cannot imagine that white women or children would be allowed to suffer this way in our society. The policy of offshore detention is fundamentally sexist and racist. It condemns people to live in inhumane, unjust and unacceptable conditions in which they are subject to gendered and racialised violence.
This is not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to the Labor Party. The ALP has a unique platform to oppose the damaging, fear-mongering narratives being perpetuated about asylum seekers. The ALP has a responsibility to take a stand and oppose offshore processing.
I know that many of my comrades in the Left agree with this. It's time for us to speak out against the conservatives and against the Right of our party, and demand an end to offshore processing and the torture of refugees.
Close the camps, bring them here and let them stay.