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The hypocrisy of the general Australian response to the separation of families at the U.S. border blows my mind. Yes, the policy of locking children in cages away from their parents is appalling, but the difference is that public outrage in the States became so overwhelming that even the Orange one ended up bowing to pressure and announcing the end of this horrendous strategy.

Why hasn’t that happened here?

Even if we put aside all the other atrocities and say that separating families is the line we can’t cross, refugees trying to reach Australia face treatment equally as inhumane or worse as those trying to reach the USA.

Even if we ignore the barbarity of a dying cancer patient being refused proper palliative care and the death rites of his religion, suicidal children being left to their fates, women in our care being subjected to sexual violence, if we ignore all of that, we are still deliberately separating families in an attempt to deter people from seeking asylum in our country.

Some pregnant women on Nauru have been brought to Australia to give birth while their husbands are still trapped on the island, up to five years later, wondering if they will ever have a chance to meet their children.

Others have been brought to Australia for medical treatment, after prolonged illnesses, sexual assault or the psychological scars of years of trauma. Their families have been left on the island as a cruel assurance that the patients will leave Australia after treatment and return to the torture of offshore detention.

Some families are split apart because they asked for refuge on either side of an arbitrary date, July 19, 2013, when our government brought in the heinous law that people arriving by boat could never be settled in Australia.

It seems particularly callous to take children from their parents, which has definitely happened here in too many cases over the past five years since the law has been brought into effect, but this doesn’t make the suffering of husbands separated from their wives any less, or sisters from brothers, or any of the loved ones torn apart because our government has lost its heart.

If the Americans could locate a faint pulse even in their cold-blooded administration, and end the practice of at least one example of blatant cruelty, we can do it too. While the abominations happening in Manus and Nauru are allowed to continue, all Australians are culpable. It’s time to make it stop.

Bring them here!

P.S. Right after publishing this I found out that the cancer patient has been brought to Australia! Maybe there is a little blood flowing in the vessels of Canberra after all. I hope so.

Australian writer, environmental activist, hang-gliding assistant & former sailor, journalist & clown. Debut poetry collection available now. www.emmabriggs.net

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