Aziz Al-Sa'afin: Manus Island is all of our shame to bear

Aziz Al-Sa'afin: Manus Island is all of our shame to bear
Photo credit: Newshub

OPINION: It's taken me a while to coin my thoughts. I suppose it was because of the realisation of how much people really didn't care about the refugees on Manus Island. 

It broke my heart.

Humanity is a fickle thing. See, the thing is humans are selfish by nature. We look after our own; we're self-focused, and we are constantly striving for the best in our selves. Generally speaking, there's no problem with that. 

However, when we are in a position to save lives and make a difference, do we still hold on to that selfishness? 

Australia has turned its back on Manus Island and its people. The power has been switched off and resources have been cut short. In essence, they have condemned the refugees to death. 

Just fewer than 500 people are refusing to move from the Lombrum detention centre, over fears of an attack from locals and the military. 

With fears of violence now at an all-time high there's simply nowhere adequate for them to go. The reality is their end game is exactly the same. If they stay they die. If they leave they die. It's a cruel injustice and an act of inadequate leadership by the Australian government.

That news prompted us to ask the question: Should Jacinda Ardern bypass Australia and do a deal directly with Papua New Guinea to take 150 refugees from Manus Island?

Now don't get me wrong, I understand a question such as this requires a complex answer. It's not as easy as just answering a simple "yes". Ms Ardern would have to undermine Australia in her first month as Prime Minister and that is certainly not going to happen. 

But that was not the issue. It was the realisation that people did not care one bit. 

"No, we need to deal with our own problems first."

"We don't need fanatics getting into NZ." 

"They would be a liability, not an asset."

It went on and my world came crashing down. 

For the first time in a very long time, in a place I called home, I felt awkward and like I didn't belong. 

Here's the thing. I recognise that New Zealand has problems. Our poverty level is too high. Our suicide rates are through the roof, and that isn't acceptable. But what is even more unacceptable is sitting back and watching fellow humans serve out an unwarranted and horrific death sentence, when we are in a position to help.

I was lucky enough to have escaped my war-torn country. I was lucky enough I had people in my life that cared. They made decisions, extremely heart-breaking ones, just to ensure I am here today doing what I do. We left and we came and we still had nothing. My mother never saw her own parents alive again. And yet despite all that, we were the lucky ones.

These refugees need our help and they need to not feel abandoned by the world. 

At what point is it okay to decide some human beings are worth more than others? At what point does rating intrinsic value of people here over people there appropriate?  Is that a conversation we as a country should be proud of having? 

If we sit back and do nothing, the onus isn't just on Australia, it's on us too. 

We have turned the water off.

We have turned the power off. 

We have said "you are on your own" to these refugees. 

I get the notion of having to look after ourselves. That's important.

But these are human beings too, and they have had their lives robbed away from them.

So I ask you this, what will you say to your children when they ask what you did or said when you saw that happen?

Aziz Al-Sa'afin is the social media commentator on the AM Show.