Chaos on Nauru

Dear Prime Minister,

On Friday the refugees detained on Nauru reported that staff including security and language teachers left the site. Further information revealed that more than 100 Australian employees of Canstruct had their visas withdrawn without warning and were flown back to Australia. It was suggest that Nauru's President Baron Waqa, owner of the hotel that they had been staying at, was unhappy that they had moved out to cheaper accommodation.

Given that there was already concern about Canstruct, an engineering firm, providing detention centre services on Nauru (after Transfield withdrew) how can DIBP claim that the departure of so many staff will 'not affect basic services for refugees and asylum seekers'? Is DIBP planning to abandon the refugees on Nauru while blocking their resettlement to a safe country in the same way as it has done on Manus? There was another traffic incident on Nauru today and the refugee involved has serious injuries. Another refugee died there in a similar incident last month.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Nauru and Manus. Bring them to safety and freedom now.

Human Rights

Dear Prime Minister,

Human Rights
Many people heard our story. 
Many people knew our lonely plight. 
Many lies were told about us,
That we were trespassers and dirty. 
All their words were fabrications: 
It’s just a dirty policy game.
They brought us to this island by force. 
We are the most oppressed asylum seekers in this land. 
We are the most oppressed asylum seekers in this land. 
They treated us like slaves. 
They propagandised about us for years.
When their propaganda had worked
They cut our power, water and food.
They left us alone in this hellish land
And were gone.
We were helpless and lifted our hands in prayer; 
They sky took pity on us and rained. 
We stored the water in rubbish bins
And dug a well in the ground so we could drink.
They returned and at first we were happy —
We thought, we’re not alone anymore!
But they kicked the rubbish bins over
And poured our rainwater out. 
Then they filled our well with dirt;
No enemy does such things.
They told all the shop owners
Not to sell us bread. 
Oh my God, how stone cold this world is! 
May God throw down your throne. 
Many mothers are watching by the fence, 
Their tears falling upon your houses -- 
You can't escape a mother’s sigh. 
Your house will collapse
Beneath the weight of our mother’s prayers.
Be assured, what you inseminated in the past
You will harvest in the future. 
You killed the buds here. 
You broke the backs of fathers’. 
You made mothers cry blood —
But it will catch your neck.
Then, when your actions return to you, 
Will you beg for forgiveness? 
Will that bring our dead men back to life? 
Will you confess your sins —
Tell us why you tortured and imprisoned us,
Tell us what the beatings and killing were for? 
Why you shot and stoned us? 
Why you destroyed our lives?
Is this the way a modern country treats people? 
Don't talk about human rights

Mohammad Ali Maleki, detained on Manus Island by Australia since 2013

The nightmare continues

Dear Prime Minister,

Every day we see the men on Manus Island get thinner, tireder, sicker.

Minister Dutton has taken it upon himself to direct Australia's Foreign Policy. Has he usurped Minister Bishop's role?

You claimed yesterday's 'Yes' same-sex marriage survey result as a sign of Australia's decency. Ask the 1000+ men that Australia has exiled to Papua New Guinea about our decency. Ask the citizens of Manus Island and Nauru about our decency. Rhetoric does not create decency. Australia is being judged by its criminal actions towards refugees. We have no decency.

Evacuate all refugees from Manus, Port Moresby and Nauru to freedom and safety now.

 

Australia says free refugees

Dear Prime Minister,

In case you are otherwise occupied (SSM, Adani, NBN, citizenship, Statement from the Heart, etc, etc) let me remind you of what a significant number of Australians are most concerned about right now:

Freedom for all refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

Amnesty for all refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. Bring them all to safety and freedom.

Accept NZ offer

Dear Prime Minister,

What, if any, policy considerations are behind the refusal to allow 150 refugees on Manus Island go to New Zealand? Prime Minister Ardern has repeated the offer, saying:

'We made the offer because we saw a great need ... No matter what label you put on it there is absolute need and there is harm being done. I see the human face of this issue. I see the need and the role New Zealand needs to play. I think it’s clear that we don’t think what’s happening there is acceptable, that’s why the offer is there.'

Comments by you and your government about New Zealand being a 'back door' entry to Australia are ridiculous. As has been made clear by both the refugees on Manus, and by previous victims of Australia's racism and persecution of refugees from the infamous Tampa incident, Australia is the last place in the world they want to go to.

I ask you the same question the refugees have asked:

'why is Australia refusing to allow New Zealand to deal directly with PNG in resettling the men if, as Australia claims, the issue of the men’s resettlement, is a “matter for the government of PNG?”'

And since Australia pays for the PNG detention centre and there is a 'significant Australian Border Force presence on Manus Island, and Australian officials have the ultimate authority on critical issues such as medical transfers' it seems that you are lying about who has responsibility and control.

Free Manus. Free Nauru. Now

 

Political gain

Dear Prime Minister,

On Friday 10th November I was invited to speak, separately,  to two journalists about Australia's offshore detention regime and the current crisis on Manus Island. During the interviews I spoke about how difficult it has been to have the issue reported on and scrutinised by the press. I asked the journalists what could be done when an official or politician tells an outright lie which contradicts all the evidence yet is unchallenged. They admitted that it made their job extremely difficult. Prime Minister, you have the power to discipline your Ministers if they betray their positions by acting illegally and lying. If you don't, you are complicit.

The men on Manus, who remain peaceful and self-disciplined despite witnessing PNG Immigration employees under the direction of Australian Border Force destroy their water storage and shade, understand the consequences of political lies. They experience the lies directly, in imprisonment, hunger, thirst, illness, injury and slander. Behrouz Boochani writes:

What people in Australia are seeing in the recent photos by GetUp is the reality of Manus prison camp. These photos prove how Australia is violating human rights in Manus under the Australian people’s name. People all around the world will judge Australia by seeing these conditions in Manus. As a person who has been in this prison camp and witnessed so many abuses, so much humiliation, and the killing of innocent people, I would like to say that this is now a part of Australia and its reputation. It’s what Peter Dutton and others have done in Manus and I want to say that Dutton has been feeding the Australian people propaganda and using them for his political benefit. This man used his political position not for the people but for his own political aims. He spent about $10 billion to create these harsh conditions under Australia’s name. He is a liar and I am asking people to think about this policy not just because of the refugees but also because of the immoral political situation in Australia where governments are so willing to mislead their people for their own benefit. Also I want to add that no photos can ever show the full reality of Manus prison camp. The reality is the invisible impact on those people who have been forced into this torture and separated from their families in such cruel conditions for nearly five years.
— Behrouz Boochani Manus prison camp

Evacuate all detainees on Manus Island, Port Moresby and Nauru and bring them to safety now.

Breaking the law

Dear Prime Minister,

Yesterday Behrouz Boochani said:

What do you believe is Australia's obligation to comply with International law? When I rang Minister Dutton's office last year his staff member told me that we don't have to obey International law unless we are forced to. Is this only Minister Dutton's approach to the law or is it true of the whole Government? If so, under what circumstances can we choose which laws to ignore? For example, can a politician use the power of his/her office to break international law if he/she decides that doing that will help them win an election? How can domestic law and order be upheld when International law is broken?

Ultimatum on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

These are Behrouz Boochani's messages from Manus today. An ultimatum which threatens removal by force. Australians overseeing the removal of the fences. Prison conditions in Lorengau. How far will you go?

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Evacuate Manus refugees now

Dear Prime Minister,

This is the letter I have sent to each Western Australian MP and Senator.

'Please read the following document, prepared by Australian doctors. They have asked, better than I can, for IMMEDIATE, URGENT resolution of the dire situation on Manus Island. The reasons why offshore detention was re-instated and the various policies of both ALP and LNP governments have accumulated to have immediate and direct effect on the bodies, minds and souls of the men on Manus Island. This is not a political issue. It is a humanitarian crisis. What will be remembered is who came to the aid of the starving, thirsty, ill men on Manus. Please may you be one of those good people.
In despair,
Ruth Halbert'

This is the letter from Doctors For Refugees:

Dear MP,
Immediate action required to prevent humanitarian catastrophe on Manus Island
As you know, a major humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding on Manus Island. Six hundred male refugees and asylum seekers are occupying the former Regional Processing Centre (RPC). Outside sits the PNG Defence Force, which is preventing food supplies, purchased by well-wishers, from entering the facility. The men have been told to move to three locations in or near the regional capital, East Lorengau. Two of these are not ready for habitation. All three are insecure and these men have legitimate fears for their own safety. PNG locals have demonstrated their opposition to the move to the town in the last week with a vocal protest outside the centre and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, stated in a media release in late October 2017 that the safety of refugees is ‘not to be taken for granted given the tensions that are being expressed by the locals on Manus Island’.[1][2] Paradoxically, the former RPC, with no access to food, clean water, sanitation, electricity or adequate medical care is currently the ‘safest’ place for these men to be.
However, the former RPC is not safe. These men have now been without access to the fundamentals necessary for life for over six days. In PNG’s tropical climate we must expect that serious consequences will start to occur this week. We can expect severe skin and respiratory infections, dysentery, malaria and other illnesses to start to take hold. If no action is taken immediately to alleviate this situation, we can expect deaths to start occurring very soon.
On the evening of 4th November 2017 a man with a suspected heart attack in the former RPC sought assistance in Lorengau Hospital. This man was discharged from the facility without having an ECG or blood tests and returned to the former RPC. Thirty six hours later these essential investigations still had not been performed. With this level of medical support, it seems there is little hope for any refugee who becomes seriously unwell on Manus Island, whether they are in the former RPC or relocated to East Lorengau.
If the situation deteriorates further and the PNG Defence Force decides to clear the centre then there is a risk of many deaths through violent action. This is a military force which has demonstrated tremendous antipathy to the refugees, which fired indiscriminately into the RPC causing multiple injuries earlier this year and which has no training in crowd control.[3]
This situation is a direct consequence of the Australian government’s arbitrary, indefinite incarceration of hundreds of innocent men in a hostile environment on a remote island in a poor country, unequipped in all respects to look after them. It must finally take adequate responsibility for the welfare of these men. The duplicity of the Australian government in this matter is eye-watering. On the one hand, the representations of Doctors for Refugees and others about the welfare of these men are referred on by the Australian government as ‘a matter for the PNG government’. On the other hand, we hear that Prime Minister Turnbull has once again turned down the New Zealand government’s offer to shelter some of these men.[4] If the Australian government can dictate what happens to them then it is evidently responsible for their welfare and in fact PNG Immigration Minister, Petrus Thomas, explicitly stated last week that Australia will remain responsible for the welfare of these men when the Australian-funded centre closes.[5] All pretence to the contrary must now stop.
Amnesty International and the UNHCR have been condemning the detention and conditions of these men for years and this was first termed a situation amounting to torture over two years ago.[6] Today, things are exponentially worse and we reiterate: we are heading for many deaths in the coming days and weeks unless urgent action is taken by Australia. Action to alleviate these men’s situation needs to be taken today to prevent deaths. As a start, they need food and water today.
You, as an Australian parliamentarian, must realise that at stake are these men’s lives and Australia’s international reputation as a Western democratic nation and that only you hold the power to influence the situation. Whether by your action or inaction to date it is you who is directly responsible for what is happening. If you do not act now, by speaking, lobbying and voting appropriately then whatever happens to these men will be on your conscience.
For the sake of humanity and compassion we urge you to act immediately. The world is watching you.
Yours sincerely,
Dr David Berger, Executive Committee Member
Dr Barri Phatarfod, President
Dr Paddy McLisky, Secretary
Dr Igal Augarten, Treasurer
Doctors for Refugees
References
[1] HLRC 27th August 2017
[2] PNG Constabulary Media Release October 2017
[3] ABC 17th April 2017
[4] ABC 5th November 2017
[5] Reuters 30th October 2017
[6] Guardian 9th March 2015
— Doctors For Refugees

Why haven't you acted?

Dear Prime Minister,

Your claim that the refugees on Manus Island are under the control of Senator McKim and Australian advocates is as insulting to the refugees as it is ludicrous. It also means that you believe Senator McKim has more control over the situation than you and Minister Dutton do.

How versatile these refugees are: they are over-entitled country shoppers yet they are poor souls, they act of their own accord yet they are manipulated by greenies, they will dole bludge and steal jobs, they are illiterate and they win international journalism awards, they are violent criminals yet they have protested peacefully for 98 days.

You try to dehumanise the refugees for your own political ends. The situation on Manus is a humanitarian crisis. What is the point that is too far for you? How many will you let die?

Bring them to safety and freedom now.

Let them go now

Dear Prime Minister,

Uncontrolled pain from kidney stones. Repeated seizures due to lack of epilepsy medication. Suspected heart attack. Is that enough for you yet?

Who in Australia is blocking the media from entering Manus Island?

The refugees speak for themselves:

98th day of peaceful protest at Manus Island detention centre

98th day of peaceful protest at Manus Island detention centre

This is unendurable. Give them safety and freedom now.

Let them go

Dear Prime Minister,

Last night one of the men on Manus collapsed with heart pain and the other refugees had a terrible night, in the dark, trying to help him. He was eventually taken to Lorengau hospital but sent back, untreated. His condition has been known by heart specialists in Port Moresby since February 2017 when they recommended he be transferred to Australia for specialist treatment.

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern says , correctly, that the situation on Manus is urgent and says that New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from offshore detention can be taken up at the same time as the US offer. She is right. The argument that New Zealand would be a 'back door' route to Australia was always pathetic. After 4.5 years of torture at the hands of Australia, no refugee on Manus wants to come here. Let them go, to safety and freedom.

End Offshore Detention #464

Dear Prime Minister,

On Saturday 4/11, I marched in the Parade for More Parades. It was a festive, colourful event for the locals and visitors to Denmark, WA, to celebrate the pleasure of being together and having fun where all are welcome. Among the costumes, musicians and kids my husband and I walked and carried our banners. You may remember seeing our 'Refugees are Welcome. End Offshore Detention' banner outside the ANZAC Centre at Albany when you visited there. We handed out fliers with information about Australia's human rights' abuses, illegal actions and gross waste of money in offshore detention. We were applauded and thanked.

At the same time, 5000km away on Manus Island some of the men have succeeded in digging wells (using a metal pole) to access water. They have not eaten since Tuesday. 

https://www.facebook.com/ruth.halbert.5/posts/10210652238844635?notif_id=1509978551426199&notif_t=like

https://www.facebook.com/ruth.halbert.5/posts/10210652238844635?notif_id=1509978551426199&notif_t=like

Australia's hypocrisy

Dear Prime Minister,

PNG's grand chief, founding Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, calls us astounding hypocrites, we who are descendants of people who arrived by boat yet now oppose refugees for also coming by boat. Australia no longer shows even a pretence at acting according to the UN Refugee Convention. Australia's international standing and credibility are destroyed by our actions on Manus and Nauru.

'To exploit the vulnerabilities of neighbours like PNG and Nauru is disgraceful

Australia acts with racism and colonialism towards our neighbours, for our own ends and regardless of the damage it does to PNG and Nauru. Surely many other nations can no longer trust us nor want to engage with us in business or international affairs. We are a bully.

Prime Minister, your government will be held to account for the illegal imprisonment, the damage to health and the deaths inflicted on the refugees on Manus and Nauru. Act now to immediately resolve the situation humanely, before more damage is done.

Starvation Thirst Terror

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani is a journalist and an Iranian refugee held on Manus Island since August 2014. The Guardian invited Boochani to keep a diary of the countdown to the closure of the Australian-run detention camp that closed on Tuesday. On Wednesday Boochani won in the print, online and multimedia category at the Amnesty International Australia media awards.

Thursday 2 November
Yesterday was an unbearably torturous day characterised by “the survival of the fittest”. The day ends, nightfall begins. Under the cover of night the bond between the refugees becomes even closer. This sense of brotherhood is stronger than any other time. This is a strange feature peculiar to human beings. Groups of a few dozen are divided throughout the prison, across Delta, Oscar, Mike and Fox camps, throughout the corridors and prison yards. I am with the Kurdish refugees in corridor M. But because of my work, I have to visit all the other camps.


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There are bed sheets hanging right throughout the corridors and hallways of the prison. Those who are more worn-out than the rest are lying down on them. And many people are sitting along the fences and hanging their feet up on them, just like they have been doing for the last fifty-one months. They rest their feet on the fences and engage in conversation.

Those who have local tobacco share it with the rest. And a few find pieces of wood to start a fire. They have gathered a few litres of rainwater during the half-hour period when it rained earlier today and have brought it to boil. They mix the water with sugar and offer a portion of it to everyone. These actions reinforce our community spirit and inject badly needed energy into our bodies.

I must admit that this was vital for me; my bony body desperately needed something sweet. There are others who have been able to cut down a few coconuts. It is always the case during times like these that someone takes charge and manages these kinds of tasks.

The corridor where I am staying has now developed into a kind of family environment and a feeling of brotherhood has taken over.

Starvation.

Thirst.

Terror.

Starvation-thirst-terror.

Starvation, thirst and terror slowly but surely dominate the prison. Gradually these factors impose their power over the incarcerated refugees. Bodies are weak, muscles are fatigued, spirits are weary. It has been nearly five years full of anguish – anguish that has ground everyone down. During this last week in particular, no one has slept properly. Everyone is weary out here, but the one mantra continues to reverberate:

We will never retreat and leave this hell of a prison. We will never move to another prison. We will never settle for anything less than freedom. Only freedom.
This is the scene here in Manus prison. These words are the soul of Manus prison. To you people who are looking on from outside the prison and think you understand exactly what is happening here, this landscape, which is replete with affliction, is totally incomprehensible. But I can only write about the environment here in prison. The words I write are starving, the words are thirsty … just like me. The pain of dozens of human beings all around me, with their clothes stripped off in this oppressive tropical heat, human beings with their bodies crushed, ravaged by mosquitoes – there is no end to the barbarity of the merciless mosquitoes … all this affliction is channelled through me in these words. Only those who have had to endure tropical condition will have some idea. The heat is a relentless attack, the mosquitoes conduct relentless attacks, the terror is amplified by the agonising heat and the tortuous mosquitoes. The trauma of Manus prison. Never forget that this place is Manus prison.
It is night here. I have moved around from Fox to Oscar, and then to Delta camp. In these locations there are also dozens of people lying down under the illumination of moonlight. I must say, I am lucky in this respect. That is, I am lucky that the moon is out. At least with the guidance of moonlight I can determine the way in front of me and identify the bodies lying down and left broken before me.

I can hear some commotion in Oscar. A group has gathered over there in that compound. A few individuals are digging up the ground. They are shovelling away using two metal poles. It is hard work but they persist with quick and vigorous movements. The presence of others around the men is empowering for them. When one finishes making his contribution, another one fills his place immediately. They just continue to dig.

People always speak loudly in these moments. The sound of the crowd is muddled together; the sounds have fused into one.

The human being is a strange creature. When one has to fight to survive one’s strength is multiplied. The will to survive is running through the biceps of those young men, one can sense the desire to stay alive. The ground is being dug up, the dirt thrown aside. One person digs, another one empties. Those young men are determined to keep digging until they reach water.

They keep digging until the middle of the night. I swear, digging up the earth using a pole is extremely gruelling labour.
The time is now after three. We are tired. I have to return to Fox. I know the way back quite well. It has been more than four years that I have been living alongside these fences and travelling this route. Even if the moon was not in the sky I could certainly find my way back. The prison is quiet now, the prison is silent.

I arrive in Fox and right there in the middle of the camp lay the exhausted bodiesof dozens of weary men, starving men, scattered all over.

I look up at the moon. The moon remains kind. The sound of the sea floats in. The prison is terrified. The prison is silent. The prison has an extraordinary power. I am sure those young men will reach water by the time morning comes.

Translated by Omid Tofighian from the American University in Cairo/University of Sydney
— Behrouz Boochani

Handout

While standing vigil as part of #IAmWatching I am giving passersby this handout with contact details for Refugee information and support. The second page has contact details of key Federal politicians. 

Refugees and Australia handout

Outside the office of Rick Wilson, MP, Albany. Noon - 1pm Tuesday 31 October 2017.

Outside the office of Rick Wilson, MP, Albany. Noon - 1pm Tuesday 31 October 2017.