Reunite the families

Dear Prime Minister,

The news in today's Guardian about the impossible position of Arash, an Iranian refugee on Nauru, is yet another reminder that Australia's harsh policy has immediate and terrible consequences which will impact on people for the rest of their lives.

Which ABF officials wrote the "release of custody" form to get Arash to give up his daughter to go to the USA? How can such personal cruelty contribute any benefit to Australia's security? Arash and his wife Mariam were forced to go to Nauru by Australia. Mariam had to be sent to Australia to give birth to their child because the healthcare on Nauru is 'rudimentary'. Arash was forced to stay behind on Nauru. He has never held his daughter. He says:

I feel like I am being held hostage, and for no reason, this is all just a nonsense. I see my baby on my phone, and I miss her every day. I need to hold my baby, I need to hug her. They have kept us apart for no reason, only to be cruel.

If I ring Minister Dutton's office about this issue I will be told that it is a a breach of privacy to discuss an individual's situation. This is how Australia hides its cruelty. But the consequences of this policy are felt, bitterly and tragically, as deeply personal by Arash and every other detainee on Manus Island and Nauru. The ABF employees who write forms to enact torture, the bureaucrats who devise harsher and harsher conditions to force the refugees to choose refoulement rather than die in detention, and Mike Pezullo who builds his career on magnifying the suffering of vulnerable people are the only beneficiaries of maintaining this privacy. This toxic system must be ended now.

Bring all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to safety and freedom.

Rohingyan refugees forced back to Myanmar

Dear Prime Minister,

Why won't you hold Minister Dutton to account? 

Yesterday, when he was asked on ABC 7:30 Report if Rohingyan refugees were being forced to go back to Myanmar he "appeared to tire of the questions". He then tried to attack the ABC for not mentioning the US resettlement news despite it having been announced on the news bulletin including a quote from you.

He lies. He evades. He misuses his power. Australia's refoulement of refugees is the most serious breach of the UN Refugee Convention. We are responsible for the well-being of every asylum seeker and refugee held offshore. Sack Dutton. Give amnesty to all women, men and children on Manus Island and Nauru.

Fifty of 2000 accepted to USA

Dear Prime Minister,

What support and assistance is Australia giving to the refugees who have been told that they have been accepted to the US? What about the many others who have not been offered asylum? Why have the offers from countries such as Denmark been blocked by Australia?

Australia has had more than 4 years to process the claims and resettle the asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru. We have had 18 months since PNG found the Manus RPC to be illegal. Every additional day compounds the suffering. Give amnesty now to all detainees on Manus and Nauru and bring them to safety and freedom.

Love death

Dear Prime Minister,

Today, Monday 18 September, 2017, is the 49th day of peaceful protest by the men detained at Manus RPC. One of their banners read:

"The aggressive methods of Australia make us hate life and love death."

Two of these methods were apparent today. The first is the withdrawal of cigarettes from the canteen with the statement that '"Refugees who move to ELRTC will receive a weekly allowance." That is, to access cigarettes the refugees must move to East Lorengau Transit Centre where there is no room, no security and no services.

The second of Australia's aggressive methods is the forced refoulement of Rohingya men from Manus to Myanmar despite the violence and atrocities there from where more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled for their lives in the last few weeks.


Sanction Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

I wholeheartedly support the work of the members of RISE: Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees who have called for the international community to punish Australia for our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. This is an excerpt of RISE's media statement yesterday:

Today RISE: Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees launches the Sanction Australia Campaign. Initiated and driven by a group of ex-detainees, Sanction Australia calls for international human rights bodies and the United Nations to sanction Australia for its inhumane mandatory detention policies and explicit refugee boat push back policies and to exclude Australia from participation in international humanitarian and human rights decision making processes until mandatory detention and refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees by Australia is abolished.
For the past 26 years, Australia has been progressively implementing punitive and cruel policies against people seeking asylum by boat. These policies have been maintained by successive Australian governments resulting in systemic torture and abuse of refugee/asylum seeker adults and children, and deaths in custody. Since RISE was launched in 2010, we are aware of at least 36 people who have died in Australian detention centres and many RISE ex-detainee members have witnessed deaths in detention well before this time period. “How long,” asks Abdul Baig, RISE director and ex-detainee, “do we have to continue to face such cruelty in front of Australia’s eyes? Where is the justice?”

Of all the groups of people calling for Australia to change its policy towards asylum seekers, the voices of the former refugees who have directly experienced Australia's detention regime and who still endure ongoing persecution are the most compelling.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, and full support and compensation for all offshore and onshore detainees, past and present.

No health care

Dear Prime Minister,

Why did Dr John Brayley, former chief medical officer of the Australian Border Force (ABF), resign last week? Who is overseeing the medical services for Australia's prisoners on Manus island and Nauru since Dr Brayley's resignation? Why has Minister Dutton not responded to Shadow Minister Neumann's concerns about medical treatment for asylum seekers on Nauru being blocked?

Why haven't you sacked Minister Dutton? Incompetence, repeated lying, $9.6 billion wasted, eight people dead are each reason enough.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. 

Rest in Peace

Dear Prime Minister,

What are you doing? Why is Dutton still in office? Today, Hamed Shamshiripour's body was met at Iran's airport by his grieving family. And yet you will oversee the building of another centre for torture and detention on Manus Island for the refugees from Iran and other countries which won't allow refugees to be forced to return. You want to continue the suffering?

Eight people have been killed by Australia already. Isn't that enough for you? Do you want more blood on your hands?

On behalf of the 413th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Mr Mansour Shoushtari, 43 years old, is an Iranian refugee. He is a mechanic and a devoted animal lover. He practises compassion and care for any animal or bird that he sees in need. Even after 4 years of detention on Manus Island. As Behrouz Boochani writes:

He is someone whose presence in Manus prison is a paradox; that is, his very being conflicts with the prison in fundamental ways. Shoushtari’s personality projects beauty, he projects tenderness, he projects kindness; his existence is in opposition to the violence of Manus prison, in opposition to the power of the prison, in opposition to the barbarity of the prison.
— Behrouz Boochani

Every man, woman and child we have detained and tortured in the pretense of keeping our already inviolable  borders "safe" is forced to pay an agonising price for our racism, xenophobia and political expediency. What kind of people are we who demand physical and mental suffering and death from vulnerable strangers to placate our own insecurities?

We are ready to die

Dear Prime Minister,

This is Nauru. Australia illegally imprisons refugees here and tortures them. Listen to the voice of one of the young women who is surviving there. She says:

We are ready to die
— 'Maryam', a 19 year-old detainee on Nauru
What is the point of surviving at sea if you are dying slowly and painfully every day. I wish I was dead in the sea.
— 'Maryam', a 19 year-old detainee on Nauru

This is our responsibility. What are we doing about it?

Existing laundry services will cease

Dear Prime Minister,

Yesterday during the 42nd day of peaceful protest by the refugees detained at Manus Island RPC their placards included:

"Mr Dutton: killing innocent people is not a victory"
"No more hostages"
"Australia. Responsible for us"

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

On the same day the refugees were issued with yet another announcement of removal of services, despite the centre officially running until 31 October. 

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

End the torture. Bring all asylum seekers and refugees to safety and freedom now.

Where are the Human Rights?

Dear Prime Minister,

How can Australia produce a 'final departure bridging visa' when we are attempting to be elected to the UN's Human Rights Council? The 'bridging visa' has already put 63 people at risk of homelessness and destitution unless they can find support from charities or State Governments. A further 400 people, all in Australia for medical treatment due to injuries or illnesses sustained in detention on Manus Island and Nauru and including 100 children, are terrified that they will also be issued with the new visa.

'Excoriating' reports are currently being made to three UN special rapporteurs: on the right to adequate housing, on extreme poverty and human rights, and on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. How can Australia make any claim to upholding human rights?

Where is the justice?

Dear Prime Minister,

Today was the 41st day of peaceful protest by the refugees at Manus Island detention centre. These men are surviving in a half-demolished camp, with no power, no medicine, no clean drinking water and little food. One of their protest signs reads:

Turnbull has sworn on Bible to follow the law, but where is the justice?

What is your response, Prime Minister?

Day 41 of peaceful protest on Manus Island by refugees illegally detained by Australia since 2013.

Day 41 of peaceful protest on Manus Island by refugees illegally detained by Australia since 2013.

Freedom of movement is a human right

Dear Prime Minister,

Letter from Behrouz Boochani – co-director of Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time – to the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Australia

Her Excellency Menna Rawlings
High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Australia
3 September 2017

Your Excellency,

My name is Behrouz Boochani, I’m writing this letter from Manus prison camp which is run by the Australian Government in Papua New Guinea. I’m writing in regards to the 61st London International Film Festival. I am a film director, and my movie Chauka Please Tell Us The Time (made with co-odirector Arash Kamali Sarvestani) has been accepted for the festival. It will screen on 8th and 9th October. This is a great honour for any director and I would like to attend the festival screenings. My movie was also selected to be shown in the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year, where it had its world premiere, but the Australian Government did not allow me to attend. I am asking you to give me a visa to attend the London Film Festival. I have been here in this prison camp for more than four years, even though I have committed no crime, and I am kept here by the Australian Government who exiled me by force.

Yours faithfully,

Behrouz Boochani

CC: Mayor of London, The Right Honourable Sadiq Khan
PEN International
BFI London Film Festival
Amnesty International
Geoffrey Robertson QC
— BFI London Film Festival
BFI London Film Festival response to letter sent from Behrouz Boochani – co-director of Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time – to the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Australia

The BFI London Film Festival welcomes any filmmaker wishing to support their film in the Festival and fully supports human rights and freedom of speech. If Behrouz Boochani was free to travel, he would be welcome as a guest at the Festival, joining his co-director Arash Kamali Sarvestani who is attending to introduce the International Premiere of Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time and participate in a post-screening Q&A. CHAUKA is an exceptional documentary filmed inside the Manus Island detention centre first-hand by Boochani who is detained there. It reveals much about his own experience as well as that of other detainees. It also questions the impact of the detention centre on Manus Island itself, through testimony from members of the local community. It is brave, thoughtful and urgent filmmaking and has earned its selection in our Documentary Competition in a very strong year for documentaries.

Immigration and the plight of refugees are significant topics addressed by a number of films – both fiction and documentary – throughout the BFI London Film Festival programme this year. This is one of the most pressing issues of our time and the Festival programme interrogates and reflects that reality.

Clare Stewart
Festival Director
BFI London Film Festival
— Clare Stewart, Festival Director, BFI London Film Festival

Amnesty now for all asylums seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, for a peaceful and supported settlement in Australia, and for Behrouz Boochani to travel to the London Film Festival.

End offshore detention #407

Dear Prime Minister,

Claire Higgins' article for the Lowy Institute reminds Australia that we used to have a humane and responsive policy towards asylum seekers. During Malcolm Fraser's Liberal government of the 1970s detention was considered abhorrent by Australians. Fraser's then Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Lou Engledow, concluded that detaining asylum seekers would "not stop boat arrivals nor produce a final answer." He described both detention and the idea of turning boats back as a "challenge to our humanity."

When Vietnamese asylum seekers were sailing into Darwin harbour in the late 1970s, newspaper editorials advised against holding people “behind wire fences patrolled by guards.”
Australia once ... [had] compassionate and humane reception procedures. ... UNHCR observers in the late 1970s [noted] how Australian authorities brought refugee boats into the harbour, sharing food and other supplies with the new arrivals. At the local quarantine station, asylum seekers could cook their own meals and assist in running the facility, which the UNHCR said was “a psychological benefit” ... The UN refugee agency noted high quality medical treatment was available ... and that staff showed “a high degree of compassion, interest and preparedness to help which are clearly of benefit to those arriving in a new environment.”
— Claire Higgins,

Prime Minister, the majority of Australians urge you to return to the previous Liberal party policy of humane treatment of asylum seekers. End detention now and allow asylum seekers to settle in peace and freedom in Australia.

End offshore detention #406

Dear Prime Minister,

I support Amnesty International's campaign to protect vulnerable refugees detained on Manus Island. Amnesty asks that Australia does the following:

  • Immediately bring all asylum seekers and refugees to Australia;
  • Ensure that all those granted refugee status have the right to settle in Australia or another country;
  • Stop any actions or policies that put refugees on Manus Island at risk of further harm;
  • Ensure adequate medical care for all refugees and asylum seekers suffering injuries and trauma;
  • Urge the Papua New Guinean authorities to open an independent, impartial investigation into the death of Hamed Shamshiripour and other refugees on Manus Island, and into the reported attacks.

What steps are you taking to meet Amnesty's call to protect the asylum seekers in offshore detention?

Fifth reply from DIBP

Dear Ms Halbert

Thank you for your correspondence of 31 July 2017 to the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, concerning the closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre (RPC); and the Australian Government's regional processing and settlement arrangements. Your correspondence has been referred to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection as the matters raised fall within his portfolio responsibilities. The Minister appreciates the time you have taken to bring these matters to his attention and has asked that I reply on his behalf.

Papua New Guinea (PNG), with Australia's support, will close the Manus RPC by 31 October 2017. After this date, Australia will not have an ongoing role in regional processing arrangements in PNG.

RPC residents are aware that the RPC will close by 31 October 2017 and the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority (ICSA) is providing them with information about their options.

ICSA has been clear with refugee residents that they have other accommodation options available, such as:

  • temporarily relocating to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre or to accommodation in the PNG community;
  • settling permanently in PNG;
  • returning home voluntarily with reintegration assistance; or
  • moving to a third country they have the right to reside in.

Non-refugee residents should return home voluntarily with reintegration assistance or they will be involuntarily removed from PNG by the Government of PNG, without any reintegration assistance.

Closure of the Manus RPC is a significant step towards resolving the regional processing caseload. However, closure of the Manus RPC is not the end of regional processing arrangements. In cooperation with the Government of Nauru, Australia will retain an enduring regional processing capacity in Nauru. Australia will continue to intercept and turn back any people smuggling boats that attempt to reach Australia. Closure of the Manus RPC does not weaken Australia's borders and the Australian Government's border protection policies are here to stay.

The Government remains committed to regional processing and resettlement and stopping the scourge of people smugglers and deaths at sea.

Thank you for bringing your views to the Government's attention.

Yours sincerely

&& (incomprehensible signature)

Director ABF Ministerial Correspondence Section Support Group - Australian Border Force
29 August 2017

Endless injustice

Dear Prime Minister,

In the news today that Victorian supreme court justice Cameron Macaulay has approved the $70 million settlement to be paid to current and former Manus Island asylum seekers and refugees it has been revealed that Australian Border Force has ordered PNG immigration to prevent the beneficiaries on Manus Island from opening a bank account to receive their money.

On whose authority? For whose benefit? According to which Australian values?

Remember Hamid Kehazaei

Dear Prime Minister,

I draw your attention to the words of Michelle Bui, written on behalf of Walid Zazai

Today marks 3 years since 24 year old Hamid Kehazaei had his life support turned off after being evacuated from Manus Island after a treatable infection paired with systemic medical negligence left him on the brink of death. His Mother described him as a “very sensitive, harmless, lovable” son, she stated “Of all my three boys, he was the most gentle and loving...When all his friends found out what had happened they were devastated. No one can believe this happened to such a gentle soul.”

The moment that Hamid entered Australia’s territorial waters, his body was marked, weaponised and subjected to repeated acts of state sanctioned violence in the name of Australia’s so-called policy of ‘deterrence’. He was interned in the Australian run immigration prison on Manus Island in unsanitary and unsafe conditions where political concerns were ultimately prioritised over his life.

In the days prior to his death, medical staff warned of a ‘life-threatening systemic infection’ and stated that available treatments on the island had been exhausted. The Immigration Department didn’t approve Hamid’s medical transfer to Port Moresby until a week later and subsequently failed to approve a medical transfer to Australia until almost 24 hours after the request was made. These fatal delays killed Hamid Kehazaei. His agonizing screams were ignored and he was denied treatment that could have saved his life.

The systemic violence that Hamid was subjected to has been reproduced in the cases of Faysal Ishak Ahmed and Hamid Shamshiripour who were both denied life-saving care.

Our thoughts are with Hamid’s friends and family who continue to mourn his loss. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to seek justice for Hamid and all those ruthlessly killed by Australia’s immigration system.
— Walid Zazai, with Michelle Bui

How do you respond to the statement: "The moment that Hamid entered Australia's territorial waters, his body was marked, weaponised and subjected to repeated acts of state sanctioned violence in the name of Australia's so-called policy of 'deterrence.'"?

Every man, woman and child on Manus Island and Nauru are in danger of death like Hamid's. We know it. We see it. We see that you endorse this torture and violent use of life for your own political ends. We demand that you end the agony of Manus and Nauru immediately and bring all asylum seekers to safety and freedom now.