Refugee Children Were Allegedly Given Playing Cards With Anti-Illegal Immigration Messaging
The cards were allegedly distributed to children at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre by people who reportedly trespassed onto school grounds.
An Australian-registered refugee learning charity is urging authorities to investigate an incident after playing cards branded with the Australian Government’s controversial “Zero Chance” anti-asylum seeker messaging were allegedly handed out to young refugee children in Indonesia.
According to The Guardian, the cards were allegedly distributed to children at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre by people who reportedly trespassed onto school grounds.
“They asked children to open the door and when they opened [it] they were taking pictures of our students and trying to encourage them to take more cards,” Afghan refugee and Cisarua Learning co-founder Muzafar Ali told The Guardian of the alleged incident.
“One of the managers went to stop them, so they backed off and they left the scene.”
The playing cards were heavily branded with the same Zero Chance messaging that has been extensively ridiculed for months now, and featured a QR code that linked back to the controversial Australian website — which uses flash games and other child-focused gimmicks to deter asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat.
The children who received the cards reportedly did not understand the messaging behind them, and were distressed when they learned the anti-refugee sentiment behind the toy.
“They did not know what the cards were for and when I explained, they were really offended and wanted their photos deleted,” Cisarua Learning Centre assistant manager Eiraj Kohistani told Crikey of the incident, alleging that two men and a woman took photos of the students holding the cards and would not answer questions regarding their reason for being there.
Not Raised Prior To Election
The incident reportedly took place on May 12, a week before the election, but was not raised at the time in an attempt to prevent refugees from, once again, being used as a political football.
“We just didn’t want this to become a political issue or debate because we just want refugees away from any political issue,” Ali told The Guardian.
Although the incident allegedly took place under the Morrison government, it’s important to note that the current Labor Government largely supports the same human rights-violating refugee policies — Operation Sovereign Borders — that the Liberals implemented.
Cisarua Learning Centre is now calling on Australian authorities to investigate the incident.
“We just didn’t want this to become a political issue or debate because we just want refugees away from any political issue.”
“It’s not just distributing some cards… The government spent millions and billions of dollars on refugees, damaging them mentally, physically and psychologically,” Ali told Crikey. “So we want a proper, thorough investigation into the big picture of how the previous government spent taxpayers’ money to create fear and division in Australian societies and also for refugees, the most vulnerable group of people.”
The Zero Chance campaign, which primarily targets Sri Lankan asylum seekers, launched in June 2019 as “an Australian Government initiative that delivers a suite of advertising and community engagement activities aimed at informing and influencing target audiences offshore”.
It is not known how much the government has spent on this specific campaign, but figures from the Department of Home Affairs confirmed that $800,000 was spent on offshore anti-people smuggling campaigns in the 2019-20 financial year alone.
A majority of the refugees currently stranded in Indonesia are Afghan Hazaras, who fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. Australia’s role in the war in Afghanistan — in which our own troops allegedly committed war crimes that we are still yet to prosecute anyone for — cannot be forgotten in all of this.