THE SAD WRITING’S ON THE WALL
Wendy Harmer writes: You may be astonished to learn that 90 refugee children in detention in this country were denied colouring pencils and crayons as presents for Christmas. Sophie Peer from ChilOut isn’t.
She confronts the inhumanity of our immigration laws every, single day.
And, in the face of immense human suffering and injustice, she gets up, speaks up and does it all over again.
She does not rest. She will not. Not until every child refugee in this country has found freedom.
Thank you, Sophie for writing the following piece for The Hoopla.
“Children can’t have textas and crayons. They may draw on the walls.”
I am not kidding, this is the response that was given to Darwin families on Christmas Day who turned up to a Darwin detention centre with individually wrapped craft packs for kids who would spend the summer holidays locked in detention.
Children Out of Immigration Detention ChilOut, a very small not-for-profit organisation, raised enough money in December to ensure that every child in detention who was without a parent would receive a gift.
Our terrific supporters made this happen and books, craft items and MP3 players have been delivered to the nearly 200 unaccompanied children in detention.
With a late rush of support we were then able to send even more gifts to children detained with their families.
To get the presents in to each centre and ensure the gifts were things that kids could actually use, we worked with terrific volunteer groups based near each of the centres.
Craft items are a common and seemingly perfectly reasonable request from all centres. Especially given the six weeks of school break ahead, hot weather and lack of much else stimulating.
SERCO, the company managing the Darwin detention facilities (and all of Australia’s immigration detention facilities), eventually relented.
The gifts were allowed in to the children. Twelve days late, mind you, and having turned away the local kids and their parents who had taken the time out of their own Christmas Day celebrations to deliver the gifts.
A SERCO guard who, until being stood down, worked at the Darwin Airport Lodge ranted on his Facebook page about how these “non-Christian children didn’t deserve Christmas presents”. I won’t even go into the other diatribe he carried on with.
The reasons behind ChilOut’s appeal, the generosity of our supporters and the dedication of volunteers should need no explanation.
Just for the record, many of these children attend local schools, encounter Australian culture in many ways and history shows us that the vast majority will be accepted to Australia as refugees and settled in to our towns, suburbs and communities.
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