You don’t incarcerate ‘clients’
I’m not going to fill up more of the internet explaining how disgraceful Australia’s refugee policy is. Many, and much more eloquent people have done this already. I just want to draw attention to the sickening abuse of the word ‘client’ that the private security firm Serco use to refer to the people they guard. This is a classic PR trick. Take a term with harsh connotations and water it down by using a more generic or (as I argue here) a completely different word instead. For example, calling a “Garbage man” a “Sanitization Professional”. The technique can also be very effectively used in reverse, such as renaming “Female circumcision” to “Female genital mutilation”. In this case it takes a practice that is protected by religious traditions, and calls it out for what it is.
We need to be very careful of the words we use to name things, in particular when naming relationships. Our language plays a pivotal role in defining how we think, and consequently how we act as a society. Personally I don’t want to be part of a society that mandatorily locks asylum seekers up. Everyone should have the right to seek protection from persecution, without incurring further persecution. To call the people who have been mandatorily detained ‘clients’ is misleading and attempts to hide what we are really doing to these people. Call them “prisoners”, “inmates”, or any other synonym thereof, but the only client that Serco has is the Australian Government.
If we call these refugees ‘prisoners’, then we are forced to conclude, at the end of the processing; when roughly 80+% of them are found to be genuine refugees fleeing from persecution, that we ‘imprisoned’ a vulnerable person who did nothing wrong. If we continue to call them ‘clients’, then it may just be possible to convince ourselves that they are merely purchasing a service from us, a transaction entered into willingly on their part, and the conclusion is a successful ’transaction’. Everybody is happy, and the responsibility has been very subtly shifted. The Australian public can go on burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the grief and trauma we are causing through our Governments policies. Denying someone’s freedom should never be seen as a business transaction.