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Issue #1615      October 23, 2013

Refugees are human beings

One of the highlights of the CPA 12th National Congress is the opportunity to meet Comrades from around Australia and to learn about their activities and experiences as political activists. In this issue and next week’s Guardian we are publishing several contributions outlining the work and issues that Party members tackle in the community. Geoff Turner is a proud member of the Auburn Branch of the CPA. Geoff spoke about his work with refugees:

Each and every member of the Party can inspire each other, young people and be inspirational in the community by our actions reflecting the “value system” of the CPA.

Geoff Turner. (photo: Anna Pha)

Auburn has the highest percentage of refugees, per head of population in Australia.

Successive governments have treated refugees in an appalling manner that contravenes Human Rights, United Nations Conventions and the decency of any democratic society.

I visit the Department of Immigration Detention Centre at Villawood at least once a week and on significant days like Christmas, New Year and Australia Day.

Mostly I visit asylum seekers who have been rejected for Protection Visas by ASIO although every one of these individuals has been given refugee status.

To date all of my friends have been held in detention for four years and have not made any court appearance nor have they been informed as to what charges have been made against them.

My visits are made as a member of the Communist Party. It is important that detainees realise that it is the Party that advocates and supports them and not Geoff Turner.

The detainees have waited so long for some news of their case that they begin to question past political affiliations, ethnic social groups and for some, their religion.

Make no mistake, Australia is a country fuelled by bigots, racists and sexist mindlessness.

The multinational company SERCO runs the detention centres for the Immigration Department. The SERCO workers are low paid, poorly trained and fear being sacked or moved interstate.

These workers are not to be demonised as the poor training and desperate management techniques are not a product they have brought upon themselves.

I have been so worried about the SERCO workers that I rang around the unions to ask them to go into Villawood and recruit membership and explain the benefit of unions.

As a party, we must continue to speak out about such outrages as the contempt for basic laws. What happened to Habeas Corpus? Where is the body?

Everyone has the right to appear in Court and hear and answer the charges against them. If any government can ignore its own laws for asylum seekers then next week it’s my family and the following week your family.

Over the years in detention many detainees have developed signs of mental illness.

Detainees who would make significant contributions to Australian society have now become unlikely to work for a considerable time once released.

It is tragic to hear young men mourn the notion that they have been robbed of their young lives. The time they might find a partner and build a family has receded to the point of a lost horizon.

CPA members should be encouraged to go into the detention centres as an act of politicisation.

Over the last few years I try to take significant people in the community who have spoken about refugees or asylum seekers to actually meet them in the flesh.

For example, Senator Doug Cameron and Professor John Macdonald are able to reach a professional and social arena that is beyond me. Both men deserve praise for the continued efforts they have made to support detainees and bring about awareness to the political and academic worlds.

Every member of the Party needs to be involved in community struggles.

All work is noble, from folding pamphlets, painting placards, making tea, clearing up, listening to stories in the community. I would not like to feel that any Party member would feel that some basic functions are beyond their intellectual status.

I am inspired by Comrades in the Auburn Branch, by the political framework as created by Marx and Lenin and by the personal worth found in the community.

On my contact card I take the opportunity to inspire the people I meet by providing a quotation: “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine” – Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

I believe that this statement is far more important than my mobile number or email address. If you have any doubts that Communists can make a long-standing impression to detainees consider the following quotation on Communism.

“For many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us; live with us and work with us.” – Nelson Mandela, spoken from the dock at his treason trial 1964.

Next article – NDIS

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