Letters from a Detention Centre

Celebrated Perth-based science fiction writer, Greg Egan, writes of his communications, first by letter and then face-to-face, with Peter Qasim who is currently being held in the Baxter detention centre in South Australia. Qasim was born in Indian Kashmir and fled the country in 1997 as he feared persecution due to his association with separatist politics. He landed in Australia, was arrested as an illegal immigrant and has been detained ever since. He has now spent over six and a half years in custody, with no end in sight. By any stretch of the imagination this is patently ridiculous.

It beggars belief that the Australian Government can't work out what to do with this man after this amount of time. No, actually, they probably have detemined his fate. They want him out. But the Indian Government won't take him back as he has no identity papers and they refuse to acknowledge him. So Qasim has become a man without a country and by any set of morality the Australian Government has the obligation to care for him. And their response is to put him in prison.

Egan's piece is very elegant. He must be seething at the way his new friend has been treated, yet he writes in a compassionate yet unemotional manner about his relationship with Qasim. There is no way I would have been able to maintain my temper if I was to write something like this. I'm glad this piece has received publication in a national daily newspaper. I hope it might make a difference, but I fear it may just be in vain.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 17, 2005 3:07 PM.

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