RISE: Refugees, Survivors and eX-detainees is the first not-for-profit Refugee and Asylum seeker organisation in Australia to be governed by eX-detainee Refugees. We were founded in 2010 by an eX-detainee who was held hostage in both offshore and onshore detention camps after arriving by boat to Australia to seek asylum.
We eX-detainee Refugees from RISE who were detained upon arrival by boat in so-called “Australia” are alarmed by the UK government’s proposed “stop the boats” bill. We cannot call it a mere coincidence that the current British ruling political party is touting these xenophobic policies while at the same time employing white supremacist Australian election campaign managers who have a long history of using anti-refugee wedge tactics to win elections in Australia at the cost of human life. Former Australian Prime Minister and current advisor to the UK government, Tony Abbott, has demonstrated an eagerness to spread this neo-fascist model in a past statement, saying that “Europe is facing a peaceful invasion of asylum seekers” while urging European leaders to “secure” their borders with Australian-style policies to avoid “losing control” as they risk “losing their character”. Australia is notorious for creating the modern blueprint of refugee detention torture and refugee boat turn back policies over decades to whip up xenophobic, white supremacist sentiments for votes. Many of us eX-detainee refugees are permanently disabled, and many of our community members have lost their lives on land and sea due to these murderous policies.
According to our experiences in Australia, the “stop the boats and boat turns back” policy has caused a permanent blockade of the right to seek asylum in Australia by boat. Persecuted refugees have no choice but to make perilous journeys, traversing both land and sea to seek refuge and safe haven. Australia undermines this wholeheartedly and turns refugee boats back into the arms of persecutors without any accountability. The Australian government implements this final solution against refugees by brazenly participating in joint military operations and espionage activities with military dictatorships and war criminals and funding corrupt government officials in the Asia Pacific to “stop people smuggling” and “save deaths at sea”. We, eX-detainees in Australia, call on UK-based rights supporters and politicians to stop more crimes against humanity by blocking and overturning this bill immediately.
Refugees have international rights to freedom beyond borders, and a significant number of refugees are fleeing from places destroyed by wars in which the UK itself, including members of the British royal family, has participated in. One cannot escape the fact that in addition to the legacy of genocide, war, and colonisation over centuries – post-World War II – the UK has continued to accumulate material wealth as one of the top 3 exporters of military weapons. Today, the UK falls in the world’s top ten list of not only exporters but also importers of military equipment in the world. In recent times, the UK has been involved in many military occupations and/or provided military-aid to wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and the list goes on and on. These wars have resulted in deaths and injuries of civilians and war crimes; it has also forcibly displaced and uprooted entire communities from their homelands and has a horrific impact that is likely to carry over to the descendants of those who survive this human-made catastrophe.
We also cannot escape the fact that, post-World War II, most of the regions affected by these wars are countries that have been colonised by the British and other European countries. Historically, the UK is one of the main countries in the world that has committed crimes against humanity across the globe. We all know where the legacy of contemporary border imperialism has come from, resulting in the formalisation and normalisation of colonial theft, white supremacy, and xenophobia. Add to that – continuously benefiting from occupation, colonialism, and inherent racism towards people of colour countries (including in so-called Australia itself), – it says a lot about the shameless racism and greed demonstrated by the UK government.
As we eX-detainees have been continuously saying, Australian anti-immigration policies are a resource library for the rest of the world. The model of detention policy is not far from the model of the United States’ use of Guantanamo Bay. Previously, it was reported that Denmark’s MP, Martin Henriksen of the Danish People’s Party, had described Australia’s offshore detention regime as “an interesting model” that could be replicated. Also, Austria’s foreign minister has suggested that the Australian model’s “principles can be applied in Europe.” Former US President Donald Trump has been widely criticised for his anti-refugee policies, yet even he says that Australia’s policies are worse than the USA’s.
For this reason, we eX-detainees have been calling for international human rights sanctions against Australia since 2017 for human rights crimes against refugees coming by boat. Yet the UNHCR and the international community have said little and avoided acting decisively to protect 1000s of Refugees who have undergone detention torture and refoulement by the Australian government.
Finally, in addition to blocking and overturning the UK government’s proposed “stop the boats” anti-refugee bill, we eX-detainees from RISE, call on the international community to take action and sanction Australia for creating this horrific neo-fascist, anti-refugee blue-print in the first place.
As eX-detainees, Asylum seekers and Refugees in Australia, we acknowledge that the land we seek protection on is the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples whose sovereignty was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.