Robust young Tamil tries to kiss my feet,
Atone for getting drunk, I think. ‘No, stop!’
I say, confused. Iraqi man has pain
All over, tests find nothing: angry and
Depressed I’m sure. Another family from
Iran has two young daughters; both can speak
In halting English – rare enough – they flee
The wars and terrors, persecuted all.
So many tortured, some have seen friends killed
And other dreadful things. They voyage south
To Oz in leaky boats so dangerous.
Have crossed by land from Asia Minor, reached
The archipelago, and found the queues
To immigrate to Oz so long and slow.
Fair game for people smugglers, many drown;
The boats are overloaded – smugglers call
These poor folk ‘goats’. The lucky ones survive
And reach detention, locked away for months
Or years, their fate uncertain, even kids.
And when at last released from gaol, they may
Not work, and live on handouts, poor as poor
Can be – some living rough and eating eggs
And noodles, don’t speak English, culture here
So different, though they’re ‘safe’. They wait again
For many months to see if they have won
Protection visas, then can try to find
A job. It’s way too hard for folk who just
Came here for safety, fleeing terror, war
And persecution. Surely here in Oz
The lucky country we can offer more
And let them work, process them quickly. They do
Not deserve a further punishment,
And we don’t want to set them up to fail.