The Inner Fortress
The foundation of our plan is now in place. We are confident we can move people out of detention and on into the Inner Fortress. The last few days has been a real education for me to the see the systems in place of another Inner Fortress country. The systems and support in so many ways different but with the same intention. The non-governmental organisations are dependent on the funds of the government and their benevolence to stay afloat. The services they provide are there to allow people to survive and the tangle of disparate service providers ensures that a coherent approach to supporting the undocumented is impossible.
The organisations also set limits on what they can provide scared what little they can provide with government funding will be ripped away. The way emergency accommodation, food, any income support at all is provided so as not to provide an incentive to others (who know nothing of the system anyway) to land in the Fortress. Provision of the basics is also carefully calibrated with an eye on neighbouring countries. No city or country in the Fortress wants to be seen as sucker than can be played by the undocumented.
One of the main fallacies that the government peddles is that people want to be dependent. That a horde of economic migrants have travelled to just to sit down on a survival income the dole that they will magically transform into remittances of untold riches sent home to build the economies of another country. Or that the migrant will suck the quality of services out of the health and education systems.
What people don’t realise is that already there are not just a few but millions in the fortress, quietly working and paying their way. In no way can they ask or receive the services provided to a citizen unless they pay. They are a group who waste much of their income on inefficient work arounds to save or borrow money to invest, to rent a place or drive a car.
Each simple step forward in life for the citizen becomes a challenge for the undocumented, requiring careful advice and a plan to realise the desired outcome. The net is tightening and the political discourse cruder and more inflammatory. No one speaks of a path to citizenship for the undocumented in the Fortress. The discussion plays out on the fringes of the debate on what is or what is not a legitimate asylum seeker. We no longer use the work REFUGEE. We contest now in the language the rights of a person to seek asylum, a hardening of language that denies the benefit of the doubt. That is where the debate centres now on who is genuinely in the queue. The queue denotes an acceptable order to the people of the fortress it means there is an acceptable time for a life caught in limbo, that there is an acceptable time in limbo, which deprives part or all of a childhood.
So here is the system in the Inner Fortress that we can help the people we manage to free from detention. If you are on the street you can get access to a homeless shelter where you can stay the night and get a meal. During the day in winter you will have to loiter around libraries, shops and parks. If you are lucky you can get lunch at some of the shelters in the city but you have to be quick as the numbers are growing and often the food runs out. To get around it is best to walk, there are enough inspectors on public transport to easily catch you for fare evading and once they see you have no identification they will call the cops and then you can be put in detention again. If you are walking, be careful where you are walking. Make sure you can blend into the crowd or the cops on the beat may ask you for your idea. If you meet a friend don’t stand around for more than a few minutes you will become easily a target for a stop and search especially if hanging around a train or bus station. Walking takes a long time especially if you sometimes take the wrong turn. If you want to check out organisations that can give you a start you will spend you day walking just walking back and forth. If you want a job you need contacts and to get contacts you will have to walk and ask and ask again to find someone who knows someone who someone else that may just have a job for a person without papers. If that happens you are on your way out of a minimalist system designed to keep you down and disheartened in the hope you might just fade away.
So that is all we offer now to people we can get out of the immigration detention system on the edge of the Fortress. It is not much and close to nothing but it is a chance and for most people that is all they want. They want control over their own destiny to have the chance to succeed or fail to be happy or safe or in love. It is a basic human necessity to be able to choose your own path forward and something that a citizen of a western democracy takes for granted. That citizen also understands how lucky they are most are can accept that many are not because there is queue it has an order and there is of course a reasonable time that one must stand in the queue, otherwise the alternative is chaos. To believe this you have to take a dose of the fetid electronic air of media and government propaganda. If you look around you will see that this “chaos” already exists, around the queue are ten times more people quietly getting on with life.