Show leadership

Dear Prime Minister,

Emeritus Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill (UNSW) was interviewed on Radio NZ today. He reminds us that Australia was integral to solving the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis of the 1970s and 1980s by working closely with other countries in our region. But when Australia's current 'Stop the Boats' regime started there was no resettlement plan for the detainees. Neither Nauru nor Papua New Guinea have the social, political or cultural resources to take refugees detained there. They are not viable options for resettlement. This four-year-long deadlock is due to the mistake of making 'tough' policies which have removed all options. Australia has painted itself into a corner therefore no other country will negotiate with us because we have nothing to offer in return.

Professor Goodwin-Gill challenges Australia to take the opportunity for leadership, in the local region and globally, in the interests of refugees, migrants and countries. There will be no progress unless we co-operate with other countries and obey international law. We must stop playing tough and being arbitrary.

Prime Minister, last week you claimed to be a strong leader. The issue of Australia's refugee and migrant policy gives you an even bigger role for leadership than the Marriage postal survey. Please demonstrate your leadership and find a humane, immediate solution for the men, women and children trapped by Australia on Manus Island and Nauru.

Suffering on Nauru

Dear Prime Minister,

In the four letters of reply I have received from 'JC' of ABF Ministerial Correspondence Section Support Group he/she writes that 'all transferees receive clinically indicated health care broadly consistent with Australian public standards' . This is a lie.

Dr Paddy McLisky said in The Guardian today that

the Australian immigration department had deliberately created a cumbersome, complex, and bureaucratic process for medical transfers, that appeared as though it was designed to fail.

There are nearly 50 refugees and asylum seekers held on Nauru - including at least three women seeking to terminate their pregnancies - who are refused, or not considered for overseas medical treatment. This is in defiance of doctors' recommendations.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has designed a system to block all medical transfers while presenting a pretence of medical care. As Greg Lake, former Detention Centre Director, Nauru, said last year 'Our system depends on making detention worse than the place people are fleeing from. Worse than Syria under ISIS. It depends on taking away people's hope and dignity.'

As a matter of government policy and of Australia's reputation and standing, I ask you to immediately end the torture and indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru and bring them all to safety and freedom now.

Twentieth day of peaceful protest on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Today is the twentieth day of protest by the men trapped in the Manus RPC. Despite everything they have endured at the hands of Australia they are still peaceful.

Please honour Australia's obligations as a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention and as a democracy and bring all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to freedom and safety now.

Manus Crisis Alert

Dear Prime Minister,

Sr Jane Keogh is a Brigidine Sister from Canberra. She has worked with and for refugees in detention since 2002 and is coordinator of Manus Lives Matter. What is your response to this Crisis Alert from Sr Keogh?

MANUS CRISIS ALERT as I see it right now:
The situation on Manus for the refugees:
500+ men have kept calm for weeks now facing forced removal to life threatening situations.
Their calmness is striking given their fragile mental health in escalating stressful situations.
They now see more Australian Police joining and training PNG police “in case of a riot.”
The men believe their lives are in danger within the camp- from police coming to force removal.
They believe their lives are in danger outside the camp evidenced by almost daily attacks in town.
They are lucky the Australian police are there as they see PNG police as armed and dangerous.
They know once in town they will only have PNG police and thus no protection, only more danger.
They have proved and stated their commitment to peaceful protest and nonviolence.
The safest choice to an objective outsider would seem to be to resist being moved.
Many are worried about how to contain those among them who are most at risk of breaking.
They cannot guarantee their own safety.
The situation on Manus for Turnbull, Dutton and Border Force. Know you have a choice.
Option 1:
Leave the men there with facilities and with security and wait out the time when many will go to the US or be found alternative safe settlement. Call it a Transit Centre but provide for security and daily needs. Reopen the gym and medical services. No law says this cannot be done.
Option 2:
Force the removal. Create more stress and drive some men to breakdown and violence. Risk another death and severe injuries.
Traumatise all those who still are strong enough to remain peaceful.
Blame the men for the violence and get away with this temporarily.
Accept responsibility for the foreseeable outcome of the decision and rejection of available options.
Lose the dwindling support in Australia for offshore detention.
Face unending and hugely costly law suits into the future.

What is your decision? Safely resettle all the detainees on Manus Island? Or provoke violence and more deaths?


Dear Prime Minister,

'Brother', a poem by Mohammad Ali Maleki
Brother, how quietly you abandoned us alone. 
You left us alone, flew from our side. 
You made us mourn from your death. 
You broke our hearts and left us alone. 
We all saw you hanging from your neck in the tree. 
How cruelly that tree resisted. 
Whenever I see that tree,
I want to cut it down at the roots.
You're gone and the sun has turned pale. 
The moon and stars have turned pale too. 
The sun, clouds and sky were above your head. 
All of them were witness to your death. 
The sky, sympathising with us, 
Turned the clouds into pieces and it rained on us. 
It's so hard to die in estrangement. 
We all died with your death in estrangement. 
Brother, we have died from estrangement in captivity. 
We were condemned to die five years ago in captivity. 
Brother, you were witness to the death of your friends in captivity. 
You died but our turn is on the way. 
You saw your dreams were burning. 
Death made a flame and burnt everything. 
Brother, while dying in that moment. 
Many came before your eyes in a moment. 
You were dying in that moment. 
You wanted your parents to be beside you at that moment. 
I wish I died for your dried lips. 
There was no one to give you water that moment. 
What were you thinking about at the last moment? 
Did you see your childhood in that moment? 
Tell me: do you still feel pain in your body? 
Do you still have pain in your neck? 
You were hanging from the neck that day. 
We saw in the photo your neck was broken that day. 
Did you see the death dance with your eyes?
Did you hear the dance of your voiceless shouts? 
Youth’s freshness has faded from your face. 
The freshness faded from your face. 
The freshness of youth faded from your face. 
How cruelly death was whipping you. 
Your shouts were in the air but we could not hear you. 
You suffered so much in your life. 
Death was the end of all your pain and suffering. 
Now the strong arms of the soil,
The soil is hugging your body.

It is many years since I last attended church, but Mohammad Ali Maleki's lines 'There was no one to give you water at that moment. What were you thinking about at the last moment.' remind me of the Gospel verses about Jesus on the cross:

'... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34

yet there was not even a soldier with Hamed Shamshiripour to offer him a cloth soaked in vinegar to ease his dry mouth. Prime Minister, you claim to be a Christian. How often do you read the Bible? Did you know that the description of the mob before Pilate ('Crucify! Crucify!') describes Australia's attitude to the refugees? That PNG and Nauru perform the role of Simon the Cyrenian who is forced to carry the cross? And even in Mark 15:40: 'There were also women looking on afar off ...' as do the activists in Australia who struggle every day for justice for the refugees on Manus and Nauru.

What sick compulsion in Australian culture has driven us to play out this travesty of the crucifixion story? Are you Pilate?


Dear Prime Minister,

'Enough' -- Russell Broadbent, MP.

'This country's migration policy for refugees and asylum seekers has become an international disgrace.' -- Senator Lisa Singh.

'Of course its important to follow the rules – but to lose our heart, to lose our care? … While the law is important, the heart is more important.' -- Cathy McGowan, MP.

End offshore detention and bring all asylum seekers and refugees to freedom and safety.

End offshore detention.

Dear Prime Minister,

Every day, evidence rolls in about Australia's pointless, cruel, barbaric offshore detention system. The refugees stuck in its limbo have written, spoken, made art and films about the atrocities on Manus Island and Nauru. That should have been more than enough evidence for a humane and civilised country to immediately abandon the regime and compensate its victims. But Australia has ignored the evidence and deliberately refined the system of torture there to inflict physical and mental illness, to remove all services including electricity and water and to refuse refugees' attempts to resettle safely.

Human rights agencies, the United Nations, legal and medical organisation, religious groups, government agencies, the audit office and activists have produced reams of documentary evidence that supports the refugees' evidence against offshore detention. They also go further, and reveal the planned brutality, the disregard for humanity, for morality and for accountability.

Former Manus Island social worker, Alice Krupa, has published a thorough, appalling account of the planned systematic breaking down of the asylum seekers, of the strategic restriction to medical care and the repeated and intentional disregard for basic human rights and international law. Ms Krupa describes the dreadful decline and mistreatment of Hamed Shamshiripour leading to his preventable death. And still Hamed's fellow detainees are enduring the terrible conditions which killed him. We have no option but to act now. It is unconscionable to witness this and for it still to continue. Bring all refugees and asylum seekers to safety and freedom now.

End offshore detention.

Dear Prime Minister,

Today was the 15th day of peaceful protest by refugees on Manus Island. Imran Mohammad has published a new article on the refugees' plight. He reminds us that:

The cave that we have been stuck in for over four years is beyond an ordinary person’s comprehension because their minds have never come across of the type of sufferings that we face on a daily basis on Manus Island.
— Imran Mohammad, Manus Island

We cause this suffering. Yet there is no end in sight. Why, Prime Minister? Why do we force these people to suffer? As Imran says:

An asylum seeker and a refugee is a real person, with a real body, a real heart and a real consciousness. We are as human as you are. Regardless of how we have been introduced to you all, we are just asking for safety. Please raise your voice in hopes that a long term solution can be found for our lives soon instead of abandoning us here with no hope, help and future.
— Imran Mohammad

Bring all the asylum seekers and refugees from Manus Island and Nauru to safety and freedom.

Australia's responsibility #380

Dear Prime Minister

Alison Battisson, Human Rights Lawyer, has said:

Saeed’s case is another example of an asylum seeker getting lost in an unfamiliar legal system. Australias’s system for hearing and reviewing protection claims is so complex that many find it impossible to navigate. All we ask is that the Minister hear Saeed’s full story
— Alison Battisson

Saeed's brother and other refugees from the same Iraqi minority group were granted asylum in Australia but , on a technicality, Saeed was not. Ms Battisson was working with Saeed to appeal his case directly to the Minister, as is Saeed's right. However, today she found out too late that 15 officers forcibly removed Saeed from Villawood detention centre and put him on a plane back to Iraq despite his extremely frail health.

This is the same racist system which keeps refugees tortured and imprisoned on remote islands, keeps tens of thousands of recognised refugees without work, welfare, health care or education in limbo in Australia, forces employees to betray their professional duty of care and costs inconceivably large amounts of money. Is Saeed's death the price of your Prime Ministership?

Our only crime is not dying at sea

Dear Prime Minister,

On 11 August 2017, the men in Manus Island Refugee Processing Centre gathered for peaceful protests for the eleventh day. Some men have been in Manus Island detention centre for more that 1500 days.
Since Hamed’s death, the protests have been silent - a sign of their respect and great sadness over losing their friend and brother in suffering.
The Manus men’s messages to the world included:
~ Why don’t you feel our pain?
~ What will you lose if we live with people who love us?
~ 1380 days in detention.
~ Wake up UN 4 your duty
~ Our only crime is not dying in the sea.
~ Killing our hope is Australia’s goal.
~ Our goal is not to get killed in PNG
— Lynne Murphy:
The 11th day of peaceful protest in Manus RPC.

The 11th day of peaceful protest in Manus RPC.

What is your answer, Prime Minister, to their questions? What will you lose if the refugees live with the people who love them? End offshore detention now and bring all asylum seekers to freedom.

Australia is responsible.

Dear Prime Minister,

UNHCR renews its call for Australia to urgently find viable, humane solutions outside of Papua New Guinea and Nauru for those remaining under offshore processing arrangements.
George Newhouse says the family want an urgent independent autopsy to determine the cause of death for which PNG police have ruled out foul play.
Meanwhile protests at the detention centre on Manus Island continue with inmates calling for an investigation into the latest death.
”There is a paper trail in this case that leads all the way up the line in Border Force, IHMS [International Health and Medical Services] and in the government, and the family want to know how they could allow their son to remain without proper medical care and in such awful conditions when they knew his vulnerability.” - George Newhouse

End offshore detention and bring all refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia now.

A deal is a deal

Dear Prime Minister,

Last week we were not surprised to learn that the refugee resettlement deal with the US has no substance and is purely for appearances.

Turnbull: ‘... there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.’
Trump: [rage] ‘... Suppose I do not take any?’
Turnbull: ‘That is the point I have been trying to make.’
— Analysing Trump-Turnbull Phone X-change:

You used the façade of a deal to buy time to do nothing. All the while, the October 31 deadline in PNG for closing Manus RPC came closer and you could find no other solution. Now we have the men trapped on Manus Island in fear for their lives, without power and water, while Wilson security refuse to do their job because even they are too scared, and yet another predicted and preventable death has happened.

RIP Hamed Shamshiripour. Killed by Australia's violent anti-refugee policy.

On Nauru, the refugees are also trapped in a hostile place with no resources and when they peacefully protest they are beaten and arrested

You have tried to distract us with the Marriage Survey but we will hold you to account. A deal is a deal. Australia co-wrote and signed the Refugee Convention. Keep to the deal and bring all refugees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia now.

End offshore detention now. Manus and Nauru crisis.

Dear Prime Minister,

The Lorengau bus service has been cancelled because Wilson Security refused to go on the bus to town with us. They scared they will be attacked if they come with us. The canteen services also stopped since this morning as well. We don’t know what’s going on here. Please help us. Pray for us this situation is deteriorating.
— Voice from Manus
Resettlement in PNG is not a humane option. The US now looks out of reach. If the government forces us out of the camp and into more danger we will continue to protest peacefully, but no-one should be surprised if these weeks are punctuated by violence against refugees.
— Behrouz Boochani,

Australia's responsibility

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia is responsible for what happens to the refugees on Manus Island. Why was Hamed Shamshiripour beaten up by guards at Manus RPC when he needed support for his severe mental health problems? Why was he left to die even after his friends gave warnings about his mental condition and made formal complaints to Broadsprectrum at Manus RPC about his beating? Who in DIBP failed to act? Why is the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection not taking responsibility for what happens on Manus Island?

Bring all refugees in offshore detention to Australia now. End Australia's shame.

Another refugee dead on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

This letter is on behalf of the 374th man on Manus Island, Hamed Shamshiripour aged 31, a refugee who fled persecution in Iran and asked Australia to help him find safety and freedom. He was locked up by Australia on Manus Island for four years. He has been found hanged, dead.

Refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are our responsibility. Are you waiting for them to die, one by one?

Bring all men, women and children to safety and freedom now.

Vomiting blood

Dear Prime Minister,

After days of peaceful protest at Manus RPC while Australian Federal Police and PNG police cut off power and water to the main compound there is now a medical crisis. Some of the men who collapsed and were moved to the medical facility are vomiting blood.

We see it. We see the photos of the Australian uniformed officers acting illegally. We see the Manus detainees protesting peacefully. We see the crate of water bottles locked outside the main gate in the full sun, beyond the reach of the detainees. We see the knife wounds, the skin sores, the missing teeth, the mounds of uncollected rubbish

And we see hundreds of mostly young men, 4 years imprisoned and tortured, yet still peaceful, non-violent, trying to use reason and words to change their dire situation. Why haven't you brought the refugees to Australia yet? Where is Minister Dutton? Why is this still going on?

Punished for their patience and good will

Dear Prime Minister,

I can hardly bear to address these letters, you have so demeaned and corrupted the office of Prime Minister. However, I started these letters with the aim of writing one for every person held in offshore detention or until all detainees are free and safe and so I will continue, while the graphic violence and torture on Manus Island and Nauru get worse day after day.

The refugees on Nauru have written a statement which includes this question:

ABF [Australian Border Force], you say Nauru is responsible for us, but you make all of the decisions. For Nauru, we are a commodity in a ruined economy. Why do you want to punish us and hold us prisoners in a place where we are simply a means for people to earn an income, because their land was destroyed by your greed?

Why do you punish desperate people who asked us for help, Prime Minister? 

Standoff on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

The standoff on Manus Island over the closure of Foxtrot Compound has come to a head this morning.
Police have shut the gates of Foxtrot to prevent any leaving or entering.
Around 10.15am this morning, police tried to enter Foxtrot.
But asylum seekers and refugees have peacefully blockaded the Foxtrot gate from the inside, so far preventing the police from entering.
“We are urgently calling on Malcolm Turnbull to end the standoff and withdraw the police. The police are being guided and supported by the Australian Border Force officers and the AFP,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The leaked transcript of Turnbull’s conversation with Trump has definitively exposed Turnbull’s duplicity. There never was a deal that guaranteed refugees from Manus would be resettled in the US. And there is no resettlement deal with PNG. Turnbull’s deal was all about domestic political posturing. He lied about them being economic refugees.
“The fate of those unlawfully imprisoned on Manus is in Australia’s hands. Nothing can justify the attempt to forcibly close Foxtrot compound and to force refugees to move to East Lorengau. It’s time to end the farce on Manus and bring everyone to Australia.”
— Eyes on Offshore:

Australia's actions on Manus are monstrous. Bring all refugees in offshore detention to Australia now.

Protests continue on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Today's news:

Just now a Fork Lift truck came inside the Manus detention centre to close the gate that separates Oscar and Delta compounds from Foxtrot. There were police with the truck. The refugees did not allow them to close the gate, and the truck and police left the detention centre. Their plan was to separate the compounds to limit our ability to peacefully protest. We, the refugees in Manus, are protesting peacefully and do not want to make any violence. Immigration is provoking the refugees to try to get us to react with violence. At the same time, Australian Federal Police have arrived in Manus but I don’t know how many officers are here.
— Behrouz Boochani

How many AFP officers are on Manus island? Why are they there?

End offshore detention and bring all men, women and children to Australia now.