Christmas Island, off the coast of Australia: here 50 million crabs make their slow and ancient migration from the jungle to the ocean’s edge, while thousands of people seeking asylum are indefinitely held in a high security detention facility. Poh Lin, a trauma counsellor living on the island, bears witness to the dramatic stories and decline of those being detained.
Poh Lin works with asylum seekers in the detention centre, using narrative therapy and sand play to explore people’s stories of trauma and survival. Poh Lin struggles with seeing her clients getting worse due to the time spent in indefinite detention, and the uncertainty of living in limbo. In real therapy sessions with Poh Lin we encounter asylum seekers being detained and hear their stories from inside.
Some speak of the families they’ve left behind and the journey they took to get to the island, others of waiting indefinitely and being exposed to the gradual mental collapse of their friends and family around them. Rarely leaving the detention centre, and with little idea of the natural beauty of Christmas Island, their sessions with Poh Lin are rare moments of human connection.
The island’s crabs come to serve as a metaphor for the ancient and timeless natural movements of migration. Their spectacle sits in stark contrast to the chaotic human movements and entrapment that become senseless and absurd – not just on this island – but around the world.
Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation
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