End offshore detention #327

Dear Prime Minister,

Congratulations to Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee on Manus Island, and the team* behind The Messenger podcast, for winning the prestigious 2017 International Radio Program award and two gold medals in New York last week. He is another of the articulate, educated people we lock away indefinitely in offshore detention who has found a creative way to be

"a powerful advocate for those held in the arcane world of Australia’s offshore detention. He is a messenger, and his story is compelling."

Australia's crimes cannot be hidden, Prime Minister. Close the camps and bring them here.

* The Guardian, The Wheeler Centre, Behind the Wire

We have nothing to live for

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia's torture of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru takes many forms. Behrouz Boochani, other detainees, advocates and agencies continue to report on the torture applied by withholding healthcare. Apart from instances such as detainees having to remove their own teeth due to no dental care, there is the particular cruelty of using health issues to separate families and then keeping them separated to inflict more suffering.

Today's Guardian (20.6.2017) reports on a father and son stranded on Nauru while the mother and daughter have been in Brisbane for three years for medical treatment. All four have been formally recognised as refugees. The son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is under watch in case of harming himself or others. Psychiatrists who have seen him on Nauru recommend that he be transferred to Australia for treatment  and to be reunited with his mother. However the government's policy (that is, your government, Prime Minister) is that it will

"only approve medical transfers if refugees are likely to face permanent disability or death."

The details of the family's situation described in the article, compounded by their indefinite separation, are horrific. It is completely unacceptable that Mike Pezzullo did not respond to questioning about families being separated when he appeared before Senate estimates in May. As Ian Rintoul says, family separation is deliberately punitive and the family members left behind on Nauru are being used as hostages. The father of this separated family says

"All I want to do is join my family, I want them to be treated, I don't want anything else."

Prime Minister, bring them here.

End offshore detention #325

Dear Prime Minister,

Refugee Week starts today, with the violent assault of a sick refugee by guards at the Manus Island RPC. Behrouz Boochani reports that the man has been asking for medical care for more than one year after having an unsuccessful operation in Port Moresby.

'IHMS is the main tool in Manus for torturing people.' - Behrouz Boochani

Close the camps and bring them here.

You can't buy silence

Dear Prime Minister,

Dr Peter Young, former director of mental health services in the Manus island detention centre (2011-2014) states that the Australian government has settled the Manus island detainees' class action so that the refuges' testimonies would not be heard in open court.

The government is so intent on keeping these things quiet. It’s denying the public the opportunity to know whats going on, and be held accountable. ... It’s certainly not a fair amount ... It doesn’t represent the degree of suffering they were put through. ... it’s a drop in the ocean
— Dr Peter Young: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/06/16/manus-settlement-not-fair-amount-says-detention-psychiatrist_a_22255682/

As the Huffington Post points out the $70 million settlement is nothing compared to the estimated $14 billion Australia has spent on detention on recent years. It is paltry even compared to the $257 million refurbishment of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's office space.

End the coverups. End the suffering. Bring them here.

First Dog on the Moon: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/16/what-do-manus-island-detainees-and-tony-abbott-have-in-common

First Dog on the Moon: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/16/what-do-manus-island-detainees-and-tony-abbott-have-in-common

It's not justice

Dear Prime Minister,

The refugees on Manus Island continue to be heard:

The majority of the refugees have been seriously damaged physically and mentally and this money is not even enough to cover the medical expenses they will have to pay as a result
— Behrouz Boochani
We should wait until the next few weeks to make a decision. The system has humiliated us for a long time. It has threatened us and put us in a harsh place with no safety.
I myself have lost a lot of things in my life because of this system and my body has been damaged. Compensation can never bring justice for us. It’s not justice when the government has played with our bodies and souls for its own political aims. It’s not justice.
— Behrouz Boochani, http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/pacific/333186/manus-detainee-says-us-53-million-settlement-not-enough

End offshore detention #322

Dear Prime Minister,

Here are some of yesterday's payout headlines. Has your government's decision to settle succeeded in making this go away quietly?

2000 Manus Island asylum seekers may receive compensation: Fran Kelly, ABC RN

Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton condemn payout to refugees detained on Manus Island: Ben Doherty,  The Guardian

Government agrees to $70m settlement for Manus detainees: Tom Lodewyke, Lawyers Weekly

Manus payout: Government has avoided having its dirty secrets exposed: Eva Orner, The Sydney Morning Herald (see Eva Orner's film, Chasing Asylum on iTunes here)

Government, corporations settle Manus class action at the last minute: Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre

Manus detainee payout: The Project

Safety more important than settlement - Manus detainee: Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge, RadioNZ

Andrew Wilkie, MP,  writes 'Australian Government guilty of human rights abuses' and pledges to 'to pursue policies in the Parliament that will see the end to mandatory detention, boat towbacks and other measures to punish people, most of whom are fleeing for their lives.'

Finally, Fr Rod Bower of the Anglican Church of Gosford writes on his church billboard: 'Dutton's $70 million coverup of crimes against humanity'

Thank you to the group Eyes On Offshore for the media roundup.

 

End offshore detention #321

Dear Prime Minister,

$70 million payout and $20 million costs is the biggest human rights settlement in Australian legal history. As Michael Gordon writes in The Age:

Dutton suggests the decision to settle was pragmatic, avoiding an action that would have run for six months, cost tens of millions in legal fees, and had “an unknown outcome”. This is hardly a statement of confidence in the Commonwealth’s ability to refute the claims of human rights violations on a huge scale.
— Michael Gordon: http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/despite-what-peter-dutton-says-the-manus-island-payout-is-momentous-20170614-gwr0se.html

Close the camps and bring them here.

Chauka, Please Tell us the Time

Dear Prime Minister,

The film 'Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time' was presented at the Sydney Film Festival on the weekend. The director of the film, Arash Kamali Sarvestani, was at the premier, but his collaborator, journalist Behrouz Boochani who filmed the footage on his mobile phone, was not at the premier because he was not granted a visa to travel from Papua New Guinea to Australia. His visa application was refused because he is in PNG without a visa because Australia forcibly removed him to PNG, against the law of PNG and against his own wishes and rights.

This article is an interview with Arash Kamali Sarvestani and Behrouz Boochani. In it they describe the process of film making behind the bars of detention. They discuss the creative process and their collaboration. They critique Australia's re-colonisation of PNG:

The politicians in Australia, they’re basically using the locals, they’re using the identity of the locals, to persecute refugees and asylum seekers. They’re treating the locals as colonial subjects. They’re using them. They look at them as worthless, as people who just do their dirty work. Just give them some money and they’ll do whatever they want to the people that Australia doesn’t want.
— Arash Kamali Sarvestani - https://fourthreefilm.com/2017/06/chauka-please-tell-us-the-time-an-interview/

And reveal the use of time as a means of torture:

At the same time the Chauka bird is an identity symbol, it tells the time. At the same time it’s a symbol of torture for the asylum seekers. Sure, if we investigate the history of torture and all elements used for torture throughout the history of civilization the most impactful, the most dreadful one, is the one that uses the element of time. Time has no meaning anymore. Time is being stretched out, extended to such an extent that it’s boundless. There’s no beginning and there’s no end.
— Arash Kamali Sarvestani - https://fourthreefilm.com/2017/06/chauka-please-tell-us-the-time-an-interview/

There is also a message for you, Mr Turnbull:

What you see is that those kids are on the other side of the fence and, inside the prison, Behrouz is singing a Kurdish folk song. They’re dancing. How more human can you get than that? Could Malcolm Turnbull watch this scene and sleep comfortably at night? Malcolm Turnbull is antagonising the children, he’s antagonising the detainees, but they’re dancing. I think every Australian needs to feel a shame at this point.
— https://fourthreefilm.com/2017/06/chauka-please-tell-us-the-time-an-interview/

Close the camps and bring them here.

Australia is responsible for Manus Island and Nauru detention centres

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia has “clear and undeniable” responsibility for the physical and psychological damage its illegal offshore detention regime has caused to asylum seekers and refugees, a senior UN official has said.
— Ben Doherty - https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jun/12/un-official-says-australia-responsible-for-inhuman-treatment-of-asylum-seekers
The punitive approach adopted by Australia towards migrants who arrived by boat has served to erode their human rights”, Mr. Crépeau said at the end of his first official visit* to Australia. “It is a fundamental principle of human rights law that one person cannot be punished only for the reason of deterring another.
— François Crépeau - http://un.org.au/2016/11/18/australias-human-rights-record-blemished-by-punitive-approach-to-migrants-un-rights-expert/

Read the full report here: http://un.org.au/files/2016/11/16.11-SRM-Australia-End-of-mission-Statement.pdf

Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #317

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani spoke at a conference in Geneva on 9 June.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a conference about human rights and Australia’s harsh policy in Manus and Nauru in Geneva. I explained something about life in Manus prison, the history of the policy and the refugees who have died under the policy. I explained something about the deal between Australia and America and how they are planning to use the deal to keep this policy in place in PNG cities. I talked about how we have been living under a situation where we are not safe, and the recent shooting. At the end of my speech I asked the global society to help us make a challenge against Australia in the international courts, because the Australian and PNG courts have so far not been able to produce justice for the refugees. We have been without access to any justice and law. The session I spoke in was also presented by representatives from the UN, Amnesty and the Refugee Council of Australia. Representatives from other countries also spoke at the conference.
— https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=753689821469794&set=a.502885429883569.1073741826.100004863490300&type=3&theater

Close the camps and bring them here.

The pressure on Manus Island continues

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani writes:

Unfortunately I did not have much access to the internet during the past two weeks because someone stole my phone. What has happened on Manus in these past two weeks? Immigration twice came to us and threatened that they want to close this prison on 31st October, and said the refugees must leave the prison and go to East Lorengau camp which is close to Lorengau town. Immigration is pushing people to accept this option by calling the refugees and talking with them, saying you don’t have any choice. If they send people to East Lorengau it means that they will continue the policy of denying our rights and denying our freedom and it will not solve the problem. Also they destroyed a part of Foxtrot camp last week, and about 25 refugees from there are currently living in Oscar compound or Charlie, which is a small tent close to Oscar. Immigration’s plan is to first destroy the whole of Foxtrot by the end of June and then start sending people to East Lorengau camp from other compounds. Until now nobody has accepted to leave the centre and go to East Lorengau camp under these conditions and the people in Foxtrot are resisting going to other compounds. Also Immigration will stop all of the activities in the centre, including exercise, English classes and excursions. This means that they are very serious about closing the centre. They will close the small shopping facility in the centre by each week cutting one item from sale, for example one week they will stop selling drinks, then the next week they will stop selling chocolate and the next week they will stop selling phone cards, and on and on until the shop is closed. At this moment the problem is that the other compounds don’t have the capacity to accept the refugees from Foxtrot because there are not enough rooms and tents for them. We don’t know how Immigration want to move people from Foxtrot. Their plan is to make the tents and rooms so crowded that people have to leave the centre and go to East Lorengau camp. Also there is so much pressure on people with negative refugee status, and every day Immigration threatens them, saying you must leave PNG and go back to your country. There will be some hard days in the next weeks because the system wants to settle us in PNG under pressure and by force.
— https://www.facebook.com/behrouz.boochani.7/posts/753596254812484?pnref=story

Refuge for Hazara and Rohingya peoples

Dear Prime Minister

As activist Marilyn Beech says, 

EVERY HAZARA IS A REFUGEE. Hazara women, men and children have been murdered in their thousands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Baluchistan. THIS is why thousands of Hazara people wait in Indonesia for Australia to honour its role in regional resettlement of refugees, and why there are hundreds of Hazara people in Australian immigration detention.
— https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.beech2/posts/10155350736247716?pnref=story

Australia's forced returns of Hazara refugees to Afghanistan is illegal and violates a primary principle of human rights law, non-refoulement, which even countries who are not signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees observe.

Prime Minister, the work you must do now starts with bringing all refugees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia, and then must continue with resuming our refugee intake from the camps in Indonesia and Malaysia, where many Hazara, and Rohingya, are trapped, waiting for refuge.

End offshore detention. Close the camps #314

Dear Prime Minister,

The rolling demolition at the Manus RPC continues as Foxtrot compound is destroyed. Men are forced to sleep wherever they can. 850 men have no where to go. Lorengau Transit centre has no space to accommodate more people. Despite being called a Transit Centre, the men already there are not in transit to anywhere. They, like the men in the camp, are stuck in limbo. As Senator McKim says 'for pity's sake, bring them here.'

Senator Nick McKim

Will Australia settle or be sued?

Dear Prime Minister,

The huge class action of 1905 current and former detainees on Manus Island who are suing the Australian Government starts today. The lead plaintiff is Mr Majid Kamasaei. This is why he is suing Australia:

an Iranian man, Majid Kamasaei, who was held in the Manus Island offshore ‘processing centre’ for 11 months before he was transferred to Melbourne. When a teenager in Iran, he suffered severe burns to his face, rescuing his brother from a fire. When he arrived at Manus Island his prescribed medications (necessary to keep the scar tissues on his face and neck from cracking and contracting) were confiscated, his condition deteriorated and he alleges that he was denied medical treatment. He claims the lack of treatment was used as a tactic to pressurise him, with staff telling him that he could either return to Iran and resume his medical treatments there – or wait on Manus Island for his asylum application to be processed, with no treatment in the meantime.
— http://thejusticegap.com/2017/06/manus-island-class-action-australias-shame-world-stage/

The claim of the class action is that

the detainees suffered physical and psychological injuries due to negligence by the defendants in the provision of (a) food and water; (b) accommodation; (c) healthcare services; and (d) security
— http://thejusticegap.com/2017/06/manus-island-class-action-australias-shame-world-stage/

A further purpose of the action is to publicly reveal the extent of Australia's shameful mistreatment and torture of the men detained on Manus Island.

What will the Australian government do, Prime Minister, settle or be sued? At what cost?

Sack Minister Dutton

Dear Prime Minister,

Once again the legal process in Australia is disrupted by Minister Dutton. The president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the authority which independently reviews decisions by the Australian Government, has not been replaced since the previous term expired. Worse, most of the tribunal members who oversee refugee and migration decisions and whose contracts are due for renewal have been told that they will not be renewed. Minister Dutton has told 2GB radio 'When you look at some of the judgements that are made ... it’s always interesting to go back to have a look at the appointment of the Labor government of the day'.

Since you still do nothing to control this Minister the President of the Law Council of Australia, Fiona McLeod, once again must defend the independence of the judiciary:

Any suggestion by government that Australian jurists­ are not acting with independence is dangerous and erosive to our justice­ system. It undermines the public perception of the legitimate role of the judiciary and weakens the rule of law.
— Fiona McLeod, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jun/02/contracts-wont-be-renewed-for-refugee-review-tribunal-members

The Minister's powers are far too great. It was bad enough that Philip Ruddock gained power to overturn AAT decisions back in 1999 and that Scott Morrison gave himself even greater powers to overrule decisions on character grounds. But Minister Dutton now wields unchallengeable authority. I am afraid, not only for migrants and refugees directly within his reach, but for any other group of Australians that Minister Dutton wants to attack. Sack Minister Dutton and remove the special powers of the Immigration Minister.

End offshore detention #310

Dear Prime Minister

On behalf of the 310th man on Manus Island, the activism by Australians and refugees to end offshore detention continues. On April 26 I invited you to attend the public reading of my letters to you, titled 'Dear Prime Minister',  which took place at the Denmark Festival of Voice on June 3 and 4. I and a group of volunteers took six hours to read the 308 letters which I have been writing to you daily since 30 July 2016. The event was filmed and recorded. People drove down from Perth (450km away) to participate and to listen. The listeners heard voices of women and men, young and old, reading and often weeping. We heard the words of refugees read aloud. The letters form a narrative, as the horrors of Manus Island and Nauru are revealed, and as the conditions there worsen. We start to know some of the refugees as their words reappear. We are shocked by how young most of them are, and by how much they continue to endure.

Prime Minister, I am able to give you another chance to listen to my letters to you. The 'Dear Prime Minister' readings will be performed in Perth later this month. I hope to see you there. We will continue to protest and bear witness, until you close the camps and bring them here.

Dear Prime Minister program image DFoV.jpg

End offshore detention #309

Dear Prime Minister,

While the men on Manus Island are subjected to disruption and torture that is deliberately worsened every day the men, women and children detained on Nauru also continue to suffer. Documents and internal emails obtained from DIBP under freedom of information laws show that Australia Border Force lied to parliament to hide that major incidents of violence, sexual assault and self harm were ignored and misclassified as 'information'.

The DIBP insists that it "rejects any assertion that it attempted to mislead or hide pertinent information from the Senate inquiry" (which was in response to the leaked Nauru files last year). Prime Minister, here is yet more evidence of DIBP acting illegally and lying. Sack Minister Dutton, close the camps and bring them here.

Destruction on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

I have written to you several times about the poet and gardener Mohammad Ali Maleki who we have imprisoned on Manus Island for 4 years. This week's hasty destruction of living quarters and the prayer room in Foxtrot section of Manus RPC have, unbelievably, included the destruction of Mohammad Ali's garden. This is what he writes:

THE ISLAND GARDEN
Goodbye the little garden.
In this dry island.
I have an empty room.
With all its warmth.
I got asthma.
At the back of my room.
I have planted a good garden.
I worked on it everyday
Giving it water and fertilizer.
It was my faithful friend..
better than many.
It was my closest co-mate
And used to listen to me carefully.
My words were all sad.
I was used to saying my sadness.
It smiled and said,
”Don’t get upset my sweetheart.
You will get free someday.”
One day I went to the garden.
I found it damped .
It had lost it’s feature.
I asked it “what happened darling?
Why are you sad?
You’re surrounded by fences.
Are you saddened by the fences?
It said “I have heard yesterday.
You wanna leave here.
You yourself brought me.
You put me between fences.
You took me away from nature.
Took me away from jungle.
I broke up with those.
Just because of you.
To be here beside you.
By passing a few years.
You wanna leave here.
And leave me alone here. ?”
Garden was telling the truth.
I brought it here.
Tears fell down from my eyes.
What should I do God?
What a mistake I made!
I have imprisoned you here.
I have betrayed you.
I said “listen sweetheart.
It’s not my own decision to stay.
It’s not my choice to leave too.
These evil people.
Have made a decision for me.
To annoy us again.”
I sat down and thought.
How can I tell this to the garden
To make it calm down.
I lied to the garden.
”I will never leave you.
I will be with you.
I will be with you forever.
Please smile again.
I like to see your smile .
To make it certain.
I have planned my hands into a garden.
By passing a few days
grass grew on my hands.
On the palms of my hands.
Nightingale sat on my hand .
She laid eggs on my hands
To hatch someday .
And fly into the garden.
They brought bad news.
Your camp should be demolished.
Our camp is Foxtrot too.
The oldest camp of all.
Move from here.
It should be demolished completely.
These bad evil people.
Have no pity in their hearts.
They brought spade and pickaxe.
To destroy the garden.
Because of fear of these men.
I took my hands off the garden.
Green gross and stems.
Feel and broke.
When Nightingale saw it.
She cursed and flew.
These evil bad hearted people.
Took it away and stopped.
The sun ☀ and Moon lights shine onto the garden.
They ordered the sky
To not rain on the garden.
My garden got dry a little .
Flowers and bushes got dry.
My garden ground
got as dry as the first day.
They pickaxed the garden.
And cut the flowers .
My poor little garden.
Was crying and sighing.
It was begging them to not do it.
My body feels pain.
My garden sound,
It’s sighs filled my ears.
They were cutting the flowers
These bad evil men.
Were smiling to flowers .
They killed my hope .
They set my soul on fire.
My garden was my soul.
It was my everything.
I cried towards the garden
And poured its soil on my head.
And cleaned my face.
With the blood of flowers .
For the last time.
I said good-bye to the garden.
And I died under my garden.
The Island Garden.
— Mohammad Ali Maleki, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155322167277716&set=a.47736032715.56485.547502715&type=3&theater
https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/10/01/featured-writer-mohammad-ali-maleki-biographical-note-curated-by-zalehah-turner/

https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/10/01/featured-writer-mohammad-ali-maleki-biographical-note-curated-by-zalehah-turner/

No more, I beg you. No more.