Chasing Asylum is a documentary film by Academy Award-winner Eva Orner. It’s a film that shines a light on Australia’s treatment of Asylum Seekers — it’s a film the Australian Government doesn’t want you to see.
Synopsis on the Chasing Asylum website:
CHASING ASYLUM exposes the real impact of Australia’s offshore detention policies, and explores how ‘The Lucky Country’ became a country where leaders choose detention over compassion, and governments deprive the desperate of their basic human rights.
The film features never before seen footage from inside Australia’s offshore detention camps, revealing the personal impact of sending those in search of a safe home to languish in limbo.
CHASING ASYLUM explores the mental, physical, and fiscal consequences of Australia’s decision to lock away families in unsanitary conditions hidden from media scrutiny, destroying their lives under the pretext of saving them.
It had its world premiere at Hot Docs, and has now been released in theaters across Australia. The film played at the Melbourne Human Rights Arts and Film Festival to a sold-out crowd. Its release comes in good time just prior to the federal elections. Sadly, the same month the film premiered, reports came that a Somalian asylum seeker at Nauru detention center set herself on fire — this news came just days after the 23-year-old man, known as Omid, died of injuries sustained from a similar act.
The film consists of interviews with former and current social workers from Manus Island and Nauru camps. We learn these young people went to work in the camps with no training in how to counsel traumatized asylum seekers. The workers feel quite helpless as the first question the asylum seekers ask is when will they be leaving? The workers don’t have the answer or know if they will ever be allowed to leave.
All the workers can do is try to ask the people not to kill themselves.
Australia has a policy of indefinite detention — this means that asylum seekers in the Manus and Nauru camps have no sense of the progress of their claims.
The film shows clips from hidden cameras and footage from mobile phones that show the terrible deterioration in mental health. One asylum seeker claimed: “I have to forget my dreams here.” This is a reflection of the state of limbo they are in with no date or thought of future release. Several workers interviewed suggest that the offshore detention process is designed to break people’s spirits, and force them back to their countries of origin.
In 2015, the United Nations report found Australia to be systematically violating the international Convention Against Torture by detaining children in immigration detention, and holding asylum seekers in dangerous and violent conditions on Manus Island. But the prime minister at the time, Tony Abbott, reacted angrily to the scathing findings, saying Australians were “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.”
In 2015, an amendment to the Australian Border Force Act came out prohibiting “entrusted persons” from speaking about “protected information.”
Forty health workers and humanitarian staff challenged the government to prosecute them for disclosing abuses at detention centers — they wrote this open letter, which can be found in full here.
Here is a paragraph from the letter below:
“We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for the health of those for whom we have a duty of care, despite the threats of imprisonment, because standing by and watching sub-standard and harmful care, child abuse and gross violations of human rights is not ethically justifiable,” the letter stated.
The conditions and treatment of people in the Manus Island and Nauru detention facilities is akin to institutional abuse. Children and women have been sexually and physically assaulted. Families are living in moldy tents, water is scarce, the toilets rarely work, illness is rife, people are known by numbers, not names.
Nauru and Manus – the facts (5-06-16)
- 802 people, including 119 children locked up on Nauru
- 1023 men locked up on Manus Island
- Cost of running Nauru and Manus detention centres – $1.2 billion per year
- Average days spent in detention – 442
Eva Orner, Director and Producer of Chasing Asylum, is an Australian filmmaker who lives in the U.S.A. She produced the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side — a film that exposes the haunting details of the U.S.A’s torture and interrogation practices during the war in Afghanistan. Taxi to the Dark Side exposes a worldwide policy of detention and interrogation that condones torture and the abrogation of human rights. This film won an Academy Award, Emmy, and a Peabody Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Eva Orner said:
“I felt the same kind of documentary approach was needed here in Australia. The government and the country must be held to account in a high profile, public way. Their harmful policies do not reflect the way a civilized democracy such as Australia should operate.”
“As xenophobia in Australia increased, I saw elections being won over border protection issues as fear and panic replaced compassion and humanity.”
What can we do? If you would like to see the closure of the institutions of abuse on Nauru and Manus, click through to TAKE ACTION on the Chasing Asylum website, and see ways you can help raise awareness and take action.