Jumping The Queue – a tragedy of one act

Act 1

Scene: A Border Protection court.

In the dock, the Smith family (not their real name): Mr. Smith (624791), Mrs. Smith (624792), and 7 year-old Jane Smith (624793) (not their real numbers)

Presiding, The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

Minister: You stand accused of four serious crimes. The first count is:

That you knowingly and deliberately fled your own country, leaving behind home, friends, jobs, school, possessions, culture, simply because you were afraid for your own lives from war/civil war/ethnic cleansing/religious persecution/strike out whichever does not apply.

How do you plead?

Mr. Smith: Guilty, Minister. We ran for our lives.

Minister: The second count is:

That you knowingly and deliberately sought asylum in a country that is signatory to the United Nations conventions, instead of any old country where you had no protections and legal rights.

How do you plead?

Mr. Smith: Guilty, Minister. We hoped someone civilised would take pity on us.

Minister: The third count is:

That you knowingly and deliberately applied for refugee status, and then waited patiently for over a year while your status was “considered”.

How do you plead?

Mr. Smith: Guilty, Minister. We applied, and we waited.

Minister: The fourth count is:

That after a year of waiting, you knowingly and deliberately spent nearly all your remaining funds in an attempt to reach a country signatory to the UN conventions.

That is (shouts) YOU TRIED TO JUMP THE QUEUE!!

Jane Smith startles, and begins to cry.

Minister: (still shouting) HOW DO YOU PLEAD?

Mr. Smith: But Minister, there is no queue!!

Minister: Irrelevant. How do you plead?

Mr. Smith: (hangs his head, and mumbles) Guilty, Minister.

Minister: GUILTY…

Guilty on all counts.

Thanks to the mandatory sentencing guidelines, I am unfortunately not able to impose any penalty whatsoever on the first three counts; that is, fleeing for your lives, seeking refuge, and applying for refugee status. Apparently they’re all perfectly legal.

However, the last count of JUMPING THE QUEUE is a crime. It is an appalling act, one that revolts all civilised Australians, and makes you UNFIT EVER TO JOIN OUR SOCIETY.

It’s worse than murder.

I hereby sentence you:

Firstly, to be taken to an offshore prison, er, detention centre, and kept there INDEFINITELY. In case your English is poor, that means for as long as we like, without any limit.

Do you understand?

The entire family starts to cry

Minister: Good.

Secondly, that your refugee application will not be processed by Australia, although we run the prison, er, detention centre, because you JUMPED THE QUEUE.

Thirdly, that you will never, ever, ever, be allowed asylum in Australia because YOU JUMPED THE QUEUE.

Fourthly, that we regard JUMPING THE QUEUE to be such a serious crime, that it justifies us ignoring Article 37B of the convention on the Rights of the Child, even though we signed it.

That convention says “The detention of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.

However, 624793, your parents have committed the appalling act of JUMPING THE QUEUE, and you’re guilty of being their child. For being their child, the first and last resort is detention.  Further, we hereby consider that INDEFINITELY will be an appropriate “shortest period” of time.

624791 and 624792, I hope you now understand what a terrible, awful, appalling act you have committed in JUMPING THE QUEUE.

Statistics show that your daughter now has a much higher chance of contracting malaria or dengue fever. In addition to losing her home, friends, belongings, culture and language, she will probably lose at least another year of school, causing her additional hardship that could have been avoided if you hadn’t JUMPED THE QUEUE.

There is also a reasonable probability that she will self-harm while in prison, er, detention. I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done, and never JUMP THE QUEUE again.

Do you have anything to say?

Mrs. Smith (still sobbing): Minister, there is no queue, and we were desperate!

Minister: Irrelevant.

Desperation is no excuse for the heinous crime of JUMPING THE QUEUE. You’re pathetic.

Mr. Smith (quietly): Minister, if I had killed someone instead of jumping the queue, what would my penalty be?

Minister: Oh, probably ten years in prison in Australia, and 624792 and 624793 would have been looked after. You should have thought of that before you JUMPED THE QUEUE.

(Jane Smith is still sobbing)

Minister: Now, now, 624793, don’t cry!

I have some good news for you. There are over a thousand other children in indefinite detention, so you will have playmates.

Some of them don’t even have Mummies and Daddies, so legally I am their Mum and Dad, although unfortunately I never visit them.

But if your Mum and Dad get killed while in detention, don’t worry!

I will be your Mum and Dad, and you will be like my own children.


Now take them away.


One thought on “Jumping The Queue – a tragedy of one act

  1. Well said, the notion of jail for jumping a queue in a country where we won’t wait for 10 seconds for anything is absurd.

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