In one powerful moment, a social worker talks about a delivery of toys sent to Nauru by Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young. She describes seeing a young girl unwrap a soft pink teddy bear and squeal with joy as she rubs the bear over her face. The social worker and her colleagues are joyous before reflecting on how deprived a child needs to be before she will react that way. ‘We felt like, “what the hell?!”’, she says.
Orner doesn’t shy away from difficult issues, including the claim that stopping the boats has saved people from drowning. Orner interviews the wife of an Iranian man feared lost at sea and then addresses the ‘drownings argument’ by quoting David Marr, who states that it is ‘profoundly hypocritical’ to claim a humanitarian purpose while treating people so abominably, and David Manne, who says that the policy merely sweeps people away to die elsewhere.
Orner also interviews the family of Reza Barati, who died after riots on Manus Island where locals and police officers broke into the compound, and Hamid Kehazaei, who died after his foot became infected. Hamid’s mother had asked that his organs be donated after his death in a Brisbane hospital. That a man could die at the hands of our cruel immigration system while offering to save a number of Australians’ lives at the same time is an image too distressing for words.
Chasing Asylum is a film that everyone should see. These things are happening in our name, and they are shameful.
MARIUS SMITH is Manager of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University.