Sunday, June 25, 2017

They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention, edited by Michael Green, Andre Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope

Harrowing personal stories from those who have experienced Australia's detention centres.

Staff review by Chris Saliba


They Cannot Take the Sky is part of an oral history project that captures the stories of asylum seekers who have experienced Australia's harsh detention centre regime. Thirty-five current and former detainees, from nine different countries, tell their stories in a series of interviews. Some stories were pulled at the last minute for fear of retaliation.

There are common themes and experiences that appear in the detainees' stories. Detention centre staff are often cruel and harsh, repeatedly telling asylum seekers that they will never be admitted to Australia; serious complaints are never responded to; day-to-day living is made as humiliating as possible (people are not called by names, but rather immigration identity numbers); and generally people detained feel they are being tortured psychologically.

Most people seeking asylum who have experienced detention are depressed, fearful and often losing their minds. They are bewildered that they have fled danger in their own county, coming to what they thought was a country that defended human rights, only to end up in a Kafkaesque nightmare.

These stories are harrowing for their hopelessness and extreme distress, yet they also contain great dignity. They Cannot Take the Sky is a vital document of Australia's mandatory detention policy.

They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention, edited by Michael Green, Andre Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope. Published by Allen & Unwin. ISBN: 9781760292805 RRP: $29.99

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