Madeline Gleeson reviews 'They Cannot Take The Sky: Stories from detention' edited by Michael Green et al.

Madeline Gleeson reviews 'They Cannot Take The Sky: Stories from detention' edited by Michael Green et al.

They Cannot Take The Sky: Stories from detention

edited by Michael Green et al.

Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 336 pp, 9781760292805

‘Only in literary language can people understand our life and our condition.’

Refugee law and policies are subject to vociferous debate the world over as governments and societies grapple with the challenges of almost unprecedented global displacement. Yet the most relevant voices – those of refugees and asylum seekers themselves – are usually missing from these debates. We speak about refugees, perhaps even for refugees. Rarely are they afforded the opportunity to speak for themselves. Locked away in isolated detention facilities, or on remote Pacific islands, lives and experiences are reduced to a string of pernicious acronyms. People become IMAs (illegal maritime arrivals) and UMAs (unauthorised maritime arrivals). Children separated from their families are UAMs (unaccompanied minors). Adult men travelling alone are SAMs (single adult males), regardless of whether they have wives and children waiting for them elsewhere.

In They Cannot Take the Sky, thirty-five courageous authors reclaim their voices, reveal their lived experiences of Australia’s detention policies, and invite readers to recognise their humanity. In this powerful anthology, refugees and asylum seekers tell their stories, refusing to be silenced in the face of enormous physical and political pressures.

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Published in May 2017, no. 391
Madeline Gleeson

Madeline Gleeson

Madeline Gleeson is a lawyer and Senior Research Associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. She specialises in international human rights and refugee law, and has extensive experience working with forcibly displaced people around the world, including in Cambodia, Geneva and South Africa. Her most recent book is Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru (2016)

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