Today I had the opportunity to witness another side of the immigration process by supporting a friend who is seeking asylum in Australia at his Refugee Review Tribunal. For confidentiality reasons I won't comment on what happened in private, but I want to make a brief comment on what happened in public.
After checking in at reception my friend was given a "number" and invited to take a seat and wait for a Hearing Officer to take us to the Hearing Room. We almost missed our call, as both the solicitor representing my friend and I heard the Hearing Officer call out the name "Emma Fyfe". After ignoring the first call, we heard the name "Emma Fyfe" called again, but there was nobody else in the waiting room except us. It was then that I looked across at my friends "number" and saw "MR5" (eM-aR-Five). We heard a "name" but what was actually spoken was a "number"!
In that moment I was struck by the paradox within a process that is supposed to verify the identity and story of ordinary human beings experiencing extraordinary circumstances, but instead violates their identity by assigning a "number" in place of a "name".
My friend and every other person, regardless of their race, religion or means of arrival, are more than numbers! They have a name and a story and an identity that cannot be diminished or erased by a system that puts politics before people.
Despite the awkward moment in the waiting area today, I am glad I heard a name and not a number!