The facts are there.
That to seek asylum is a human right, written into international law in the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1951.
That the nation-state of Australia is a signatory to this law, bound by the Convention to provide asylum those who need it.
That the vast majority of people who arrive by boat and seek asylum at the Australian border meet the criteria for that right to be permanently granted: that is, being in fear for your life.
That those who are most likely to be in the country illegally are people who arrived by plane and have overstayed their visas.
That, while there is war and while there are borders, ‘people smugglers’ are “essential to escaping persecution”.
That a queue for Australia’s protection does not exist, and so cannot be parsed.
That immigration detention; particularly indefinite detention, makes you sick, so sick you want to die, sometimes to the point where you will take your own life.
That it’s worse in ‘off-shore’ detention.
That holding people in immigration detention, particularly in another country, is expensive.
That the regime is poorly administered by the government department responsible for it, constituted as it is by a patchwork of contracts with dubious private providers.
The facts have been before us all along. Numerous myth-busting leaflets and other such resources have been produced. Numerous exposés of the conditions in detention, the conditions asylum seekers are coming from, the lies that get told to keep the regime going. Numerous reports from human rights experts and independent investigators. Rally after rally after rally. Q&A panel after Q&A panel after goddamn Q&A panel.
So the facts pertaining to those who seek asylum in Australia and how they should be treated are not the problem here. It’s about what people believe about other people, and what they believe about the nation-state of Australia and their own place in it. It’s the belief that a person seeking asylum by boat is immediately suspect. That they are not really a person, in many cases – that they are “boatperson”, “terrorist”, “queue-jumper”, “scum”, and worse. It’s the belief that Australia’s borders are so precious and simultaneously so permeable that they require pre-emptive protection with the threat of death and with actual death. It’s the belief that, on balance, some people do not deserve to live.
The facts don’t seem to matter a jot when it comes to the Australian border, which is probably why they also don’t matter in the exceptionality drawn around its north. Nor does an appeal to compassion, to the heart, to kindness or to inter-human humanness; something that seems only to result in the repeated performance of trauma and a justification that never quite arrives.
I do think something needs to change in people’s (which people’s?) minds, in the set of their bodies. Something about how that set comes to matter for others. But it feels like the time for facts has passed.