Opinion: World Refugee Day, 20 June 2018

There are many reasons to oppose the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus and Nauru.

Some say it is in breach of our international obligations – which it is. Some say it is an extraordinary amount of money to spend when bringing refugees and asylum seekers to Australia would be far less expensive – which it is. Some say there is no evidence it prevents people drowning at sea and getting on boats because they are merely escorted from Australian waters, out of sight and out of mind – which is true. Some say it is a failure to take a fair share of the international burden of displaced persons by a wealthy, democratic, multicultural country – which it is.

But these arguments shy away from the fundamental issue: that these policies and practices are inhumane. We have no right to harm another person. We have no right to dehumanise, isolate, abuse, deprive and deny the dignity of another person. We have no right to cage them against their will or disperse them into locations where their safety is at risk. We have no right to pay someone to do this for us and then to deny responsibility or knowledge. We have no right to be silent in the face of it. We have no right to value a life at sea over a life on land. We have no right to value our own wealth and comfort over the suffering of men, women and children seeking safety. We have no right to deny that these are the true motivations of this policy.

This is not an argument to be had over economics; if it were cheaper, it would still be wrong. If it were legal, it would still be wrong. If it were proportionate, it would still be wrong. We are not more than anyone else because of the accident of our birth. They are us. We are them. Everyone time we harm someone or we allow those in power to do it in our name, our collective humanity is diminished. We are diminished.