Birds of a Feather

A child's misery

A child’s garden of misery


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

The other day I was looking for a criminal defense lawyer in Nauru who might contribute to the newsletter associated with this blog, “Drunk & Disorderly.” I didn’t find any.

Turns out it’s hard to find a criminal defense lawyer of any sort on this South Pacific island-state. There really aren’t any. Which makes it tough when about one of every nine of the third-smallest-country-in-the-world’s residents is locked up in a detention center. Tough to ever get out of there.

The prison holds about a thousand refugees caught trying to sneak into a much larger island nation — Australia. Australia pays the Nauru government for warehousing the men, women, and children who Australia would otherwise have to imprison on its own shores, two thousand six hundred miles to the southwest, while processing their asylum applications. Always a good idea to keep people, as mistreated as these people allege they are, as far offshore as possible. Child rape, suicide, and beatings play poorly to the onshore press.

Australian legislators this month are scrambling to pass laws that say the foreign detention centers in Nauru and elsewhere are legal, Human rights meddlers brought these conditions to light, and now are suing the government for locking people up in a foreign country in the first place.

The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a national inquiry into children in immigration detention, and released its results late last year. They called it, “The Forgotten Children.”

“No other country,” they said, “mandates the closed and indefinite detention of children when they arrive on our shores.” They continued, “Unlike all other common law countries, Australia has no constitutional or legislative Bill of Rights to enable our courts to protect children.”

Some of their findings:

  • Children at Nauru have significantly higher rates of mental illness.
  • Their right to education is denied, on average, for more than a year.
  • The government has failed to act in the children’s best interests.
  • Children are subjected to physical and sexual assault so frequently that some, like the sixteen-year-old girl who threw herself off a balcony, resort to self-harm.
  • Dozens of children with physical and mental disabilities are detained for years without hope of release.
  • The levels of physical, emotional, psychological, and developmental distress are extreme.
  • The government generally has violated their human rights.

The government responded by doing what government does second-best — first-best is its ability to convince voters that campaign contributions and bribes are different things — and demonized the messenger. It “lost confidence” in the Human Rights Commission, fired its president, and now is shoring up the legality of what it is doing.

Among the commission exhibits was this, from a 17-year-old who should have been graduating from high school somewhere:

Dear Bird Send My Message

Send my humble greetings and love to people
who are struggling days and night,
who are in every street protesting,
who are moving earth and heaven just to help us.

Dear bird send my message.
Send an image of my eyes- to Abbott*-
where tears are rolling like a river,
send my heart full of sorrow,
send my mind full of thoughts,
send him images of why I came.

Dear bird send my message.
Send my emotions to Morrison**
who is enjoying my pain,
who does not think that I am a human being like him,
who thinks that i am just a number the waste of population.

Dear bird send my message.
Send my appreciation and gratitude to lawyers
who fight for my freedom,
who give me hope that someday I will be able to sleep.

* John “Tony” Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia
** Scott Morrison, then Australia’s Immigration Minister

Message sent.

May it ever be received.


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One Response to Birds of a Feather

  1. Cynthia 6 July 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    The npr piece on Nauru was eye opening. The U.S. convinced the govt to stop acting as an off shore tax haven. When it did, it lost its imain income source apart from the nearly empty quarries. This is how they replaced that lost income.

    And Australia is extremely fearful of aggression from overpopulated Asian nations looking for territory.
    It’s a perfect storm for this type of humanitarian disaster.

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