While promoting her immigration TV show, Stateless, which she co-created with Tony Ayres and Elise McCredie, Cate Blanchett told BBC Cinematic’s Sam Asi that “A lot of countries have inhuman immigration policies that have been imported from Australia, unfortunately.”
Stateless follows a group of refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, as they board a boat in Pakistan and sail to Australia. Upon their arrival, they are sent to a detention center, where they are locked in for years, sometimes indefinitely, while their asylum applications are being processed.
“Since the war in Syria, there has been calcification and othering of refugees,” The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador says. ” From a welcoming embrace and multiculturalism, suddenly there is a fear-based language, quite xenophobic and frankly very racist.”
Since the early 2000s, the Australian government took harsh measures to discourage immigrants from coming to its shores. Initially, arrivals were detained in onshore detention centers and later were moved offshore in nearby islands.
“When you otherize and demonize and criminalize some of the world’s most vulnerable people and treat them like criminals and then move them from onshore to offshore detention centers where the inhuman treatment can’t even be monitored and take off the national conversation and politicize it; I think there is inherent racism in that,” The Oscar-winning actress says.
Stateless is inspired by the true story of a German-Australian flight attendant, who was unlawfully detained at Baxter detention center for a period of ten months in 2004 and 2005. Through her experience and from the perspective of other white Australians, we witness the suffering of the detained refugees.
“Trying to make that bridge and make you think what if this happened to me?” Blanchett explains. “And as soon as you do, I think any veneer of racism has to drop away once you make that point of connection.”
Since she was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2016, Blanchett has been actively campaigning business people and politicians to support and stand by refugees at international forums such as the UN Security Council and Davos.