Casualties of “Border Protection”

3 Dec


Operation Soverereign BordersIt ought not to surprise anyone that naval personnel are vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of implementing the ALP and LNP governments’ asylum seeker policies.

This investigative report by the ABC describes in detail what sailors are required to do in so-called “border protection” actions.

Over a decade ago I interviewed staff at the Woomera and Baxter Detention Centres. Many of them described the same symptoms of PTSD as do the naval personnel interviewed by the ABC. Those staff were, like the navy, caught up in a culture of deliberate dehumanisation of asylum seekers that first requires a dehumanisation of the self, in order to be implemented to the satisfaction of political masters in Canberra.

Both major parties have long known that the best way to calm an outcry about waterborne asylum seekers  is to hide them away from the public gaze, criminalise their perfectly legal right to come to this country by boat, and if possible never allow them to be seen as human. One sailor explained that the only way he could continue his work was to think of the asylum seekers as numbers, evidence that these dehumanising tactics work. Their consequences, however, manifest in both victim and perpetrator as post traumatic stress that can cripple a life and destroy a spirit.

Political masters are protected from the front-line traumas that are a direct consequence of their self-serving decisions, but in reality the blood both real and metaphorical of asylum seekers and the men and women who are directly involved with them, is on politicians’ hands and they cannot clean it off. The sight of MPs visiting workplaces is a common one, perhaps PM Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison might spend a day or two attempting to haul bodies from the sea and experiencing the horror of finding their hands full of drowned human flesh that has separated from drowned human bones.

One of the sailors interviewed expressed the opinion that current secrecy surrounding “Operation Sovereign Borders” exacerbates the difficulties and traumas experienced by those charged with its front-line implementation. The potential danger of secrecy is well-known to anyone who’s worked in mental health. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the combination of the work they are called upon to do combined with the strict secrecy surrounding it, is likely to result in traumatic stress.

It’s outrageous that any government should demand its employees endure such extreme working conditions outside of war (despite what Morrison has claimed we are not at war with people smugglers, though many of us are at war with budgie smugglers) and purely to win that government votes. I can’t forget that the trauma endured by asylum seekers remains largely unacknowledged, is exacerbated by the continuation of dehumanisation after they’ve been despatched to off-shore detention centres, and ongoing uncertainty about their futures.

While a culture of dehumanisation adversely effects everyone involved, at least naval personnel and other staff have some hope of escape from their situations, and treatment.

Obviously the answer is for politicians to cease their barbaric practices and treat both their employees and the asylum seekers with at least a modicum of concern. Politicians are destroying people, literally, in their pursuit of power. Is it any wonder so many of us despise them?

8 Responses to “Casualties of “Border Protection””

  1. doug quixote December 3, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    No matter what policy is followed, people will still seek to come to Australia. We are in some ways victims of our own propaganda (aka tourist promotions) and this very desirable residence is one people from war-torn and impoverished countries would like to inhabit, by hook or by crook.

    It seems miserable and cruel but one has to admit that this otherwise shithouse government has apparently stopped the boats.

    Our naval personnel should not have to deal with the mess, and I would have thought that a government so good at outsourcing would have a dedicated clean-up team recruited from some other source. Some people do not seem too badly affected by dealing with rotting corpses, recruit them into a special unit. But dehumanisation is probably the best, most realistic way for a normal human being to deal with a corpse, if they have to do so.

    And let our navy do what it should be doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      I hadn’t considered the outsourcing option. A highly paid civilian outfit that accompanies the navy on its “stop the boats missions” and deals with the mess. Maybe some mercenaries might be looking for employment.


      • paul walter December 3, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

        Come on. Then more of a chance that someone will identify and even “split” on abuses.


    • Marilyn December 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      And what on earth was ever the point of stopping the boats you waste of space fucking moron, it’s a free and legal right for anyone to sail wherever they fucking want to without being kidnapped, tortured or murdered by some scabby fucking public servants and navy scumbags.


  2. Nick December 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    “It’s outrageous that any government should demand its employees endure such extreme working conditions outside of war (despite what Morrison has claimed we are not at war with people smugglers, though many of us are at war with budgie smugglers) and purely to win that government votes.”

    Not to mention, divert billions of dollars worth of public funds into lucrative private prison contracts. And billions more into military and surveillance operations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gruffbutt December 8, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    Regardless of whatever anyone thinks of the armed forces and its role in carrying out government policy, as vile as it often is, this is an opportunity to change the public’s perception of asylum seekers. If the public doesn’t have the imagination to jump in an asylum seeker’s shoes, they can be influenced by the until now hidden views of the traumatised enforcers on the ground (or water) who should be encouraged as whistleblowers rather than be vilified as the instruments of evil they once were (and were pretty much forced to be).

    Seek them out, publicise their stories further, turn the perception around. The public are conditioned to respect the views of their armed forces, as opposed to the invisible asylum seekers, and even if the former navy personnel are inevitably vilified (‘traitors’, even though the word might not be blatantly used) the more they speak up, it will be harder for the MSM and the government to do so. (It’s no surprise that the ABC broke this – the commercial networks won’t look kindly on whistleblowers of any sort.)

    This could be a vital crack in the wall of apathy.

    Or it will be snuffed out in the usual manner.



  1. Casualties of “Border Protection” | Random Assortment of Stuff - December 3, 2014

    […] Casualties of “Border Protection”. […]


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