This week, we were lucky enough to catch up with Ash who interned at Amnesty International in 2012. Amnesty is an NGO with a focus on human rights. Amnesty’s mission statement speaks of a “vision of a world in which every person enjoys all of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards”. One of Australia’s most significant human rights abuses relates to our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and as such Amnesty work tirelessly to achieve justice for these individuals. Having interned as a refugee caseworker, Ash has first hand insight into the treatment of refugees in Australia and the work Amnesty does to improve the lives of refugees who reach our shores.
I moved to Australia in 2012 to begin a postgraduate degree – Master of Human Rights Law and Policy. Born in India, I had previously studied in Malaysia, and then completed my undergraduate International Relations degree in the UK. As a requirement for my postgraduate degree, I had to undertake a human rights internship. I was fascinated by the treatment of refugees in Australia at the time, and was extremely lucky to be granted a six month internship with Amnesty International as a refugee caseworker. My time there taught me more than university ever did. Already passionate about human rights, this internship only solidified my desire to make a career out of achieving justice for those who have had their human rights ignored.
I had a diverse range of clients from countries. Some, on paper, had very little in common. Many were young women, some with children to care for. I also worked with many older men who had arrived in Australia alone, hoping to earn some money before being able to bring their family out also. However, they all had things in common. All had fled their war-torn countries scared for their lives. All felt they had no other option. None country-shopped and came to Australia looking forward to a relaxing beach getaway. None aimed to take jobs or resources from Australian people. They simply wished to live.
In my time at Amnesty, I met the most desperate people I have ever encountered. I visited a detention centre and tried to aid clients who had already been waiting for years, with no end in sight. The longer they had been there, the more hopeless they seemed to become. I remember one client in particular. He came to Australia with his wife in 2010, via boat. His wife died en route. After waiting for two years, he told me he had a plan to kill himself if he was not released by the end the year. He felt he had nothing to live for – living in conditions perhaps worse than those he had fled. He had lived in fear of persecution before fleeing his country, at least then, though, he had the freedom to flee.
The way Australia treats asylum seekers is simply wrong. These individuals are not criminals aiming to take over our country. They are human beings, just like you and me, who only want to be safe and give their children a brighter future. The way the Australian government and media treats refugees is hostile, xenophobic, and completely inhumane. I urge the Australian people, particularly the next generation, to not reflect these views. Stand up for human rights.
A big thanks to Ash for sharing her experience as an Amnesty International Intern. To learn more about Amnesty’s work, visit http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/