I cried this morning. Yesterday, when the photograph of tiny asylum seeker Aylan Kurdi dead on the shorefront appeared across world media I raged with anger. But this morning, I looked some more, and I just wept.
What kind of humans are we?
What kind of humans lock down borders to fellow humans fleeing the horrors of war, torture, genocide and persecution?
What kind of humans imprison the innocent in dangerous and indefinite detention and let people die in the backs of trucks from suffocation?
Not my kind of humans. And I’m sure, not your kind either. This is a proper crisis. It’s a tragedy. And if you, like me, find yourself simultaneously galvanised and paralysed at its immensity, here’s a very short guide to being a decent human:
Do something beautiful. I don’t want to be too Pollyanna on you, but the silver lining of this perilously dark cloud is that asylum seekers and refugees are our future friends, colleagues, neighbours and family. Building connections, and being the proper welcoming Aussies we are, pushes back against government policy that is utterly un-Australian, and inhumane. There are some beautiful ways to do that: at Parliament on King in Newtown, Sydney you can dine your way to refugee justice, the Welcome Dinner Project is rolling out Australia-wide, in the first week of October LUSH cosmetics will donate all proceeds from their Helping Hands hand cream to refugee support, and the Four Tonne Project is pressing grapes for a super-special batch of wine that will support people seeking asylum.
Do something practical. The Asylum Seekers Centre in Sydney has supported 1,238 asylum seekers in the past year. Of these, 60% were homeless or about to become so, 98% required mental health support, 100% received no government support, 35% had no Medicare and 44% had no work rights. You can donate your money and your time. In Europe, there’s a crowdfunding campaign I’ve just given to which is sending supplies to asylum seeker children in Lesbos – books, toys, jumpers and socks. Medecins Sans Frontieres need more funds for their lifesaving work in refugee camps.
Do something political. Okay, sometimes this feels like a mountain too high to climb. But we gotta try, right? The Asylum Seekers Resource Centre has an active campaign against unconscionable legislation that would allow (even more) brutality against asylum seekers in detention. Also, the Refugee Council of Australia’s Write To Be Heard campaign teaches you how to effectively lobby your representative in federal Parliament as well as the relevant ministers. If you’re lost for words, this article from The Monthly is full of pertinent ones.
When I was a child, it took me ages to learn that drowning meant death. I always thought it was a word that described the struggle to survive underwater. I remember asking my aunt once, wide-eyed and hopeful, if a child who had drowned would survive in the end. I know, now, that there’s no survival from drowning. But I’m kind of hopeful that the tragic, unconscionable deaths at sea of beautiful little Aylan Kurdi, his brother Galip and his mother Rehan might compel more and more of us to take up the struggle. To do something. Beautiful, practical, political. Something.