Prevention of Torture

Dear Prime Minister,

Now that Australia is about to ratify the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture), are you and Minister Dutton prepared to have Australia's places of detention monitored? The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has said that where a country detains people outside of its borders (as Australia does in PNG and Nauru) then it must arrange for the detention centres to be inspected. Australian workplace laws for health and safety must apply in its offshore detention centres and these must be monitored. What has been put in place to make sure that the detention centres on Manus and Nauru comply with health and safety laws and satisfy the SPT standards to prevent abuses of human rights? Who documents and verifies Australia's compliance? 

Thank you Daniel Webb and the Human Rights Law Centre

Dear Prime Minister,

Thank you to Daniel Webb and the Human Rights Law Centre, and congratulations to them on their award.

This is what Daniel Webb said about his work on behalf of refugees:

'Fundamentally, it is about people.' - Daniel Webb.

How would you describe your motivation, Prime Minister, for the current offshore detention regime?

End the persecution of people who ask us for asylum.

Bring all men on Manus Island, and all men, women and children on Nauru to safety and freedom now.

Negative refugee status

Dear Prime Minister,

What does negative refugee status mean? Does it mean that a person is not a refugee? Listen to Behrouz Boochani:

Today about 25 refugees left Manus Island for America forever and probably more people will fly out in coming weeks. It’s a great feeling when you see the faces of people who were under torture for years who have now gotten freedom. On the other hand it’s very sad when you see the faces of people who are still under torture and don’t know anything about their future. In Manus about 150 people received negative refugee status and are not a part of the deal with America. It’s important to know they were processed unfairly. The process was completely wrong and unfair because it was designed to torture people and they used it as a tool to put pressure on people to force them to go back to their countries. The process was too long and they processed people for years and years while people felt under torture and many were unwell and unable to participate fully in the process. The process was supposed to be for settlement in PNG and because of that a lot of people were afraid to give their cases. Now they have been given negative refugee status even though their cases have never been heard. It’s punishment for people who refused to give their cases to PNG. When the US deal came through the refugees asked immigration to hear their cases but immigration refused. It’s a big punishment by a system that is designed to torture people. At this moment we don’t know what will happen for these 150 people who got negative refugee status under this unfair process. Also about 150 people who received positive refugee status have not yet had any interview for America and we don’t know what will happen to them. The human rights organisations and advocates who are following the situation in Manus should put pressure on the government to make a decision for these people and send them to a safe place or add them to the process with America. It’s very important that while there are a lot of people who are living in an uncertain situation we continue to fight. The government cannot hide behind the deal with America while so many people are still unsafe.

What are you doing to make sure that ALL asylum seekers have their refugee claims assessed fairly and humanely with full legal assistance from Australia?

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?

Full responsibility

Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to the statement made by United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, which is a direct and unequivocal criticism of Australia's refugee policies? Do not forward this letter to Minister Dutton or DIBP. Australia has been criticised at the highest level and we need your response.

There is a fundamental contradiction in saving people at sea, only to mistreat and neglect them on land. ... I urge Australia to bring an immediate end to the harmful practice of offshore processing, offer solutions to its victims, for whom it retains full responsibility, and work with us on future alternatives that save lives at sea and provide protection to people in need.
— Filippo Grandi, high commissioner UNHCR
Somali refugee Sabah holds up photos of her three children at a detention centre in Nauru, in 2014. Sabah, 28, had not seen her children since they became separated fleeing extremist violence in Somalia three years earlier.   © Panos/ Vlad Sokhin

Somali refugee Sabah holds up photos of her three children at a detention centre in Nauru, in 2014. Sabah, 28, had not seen her children since they became separated fleeing extremist violence in Somalia three years earlier.   © Panos/ Vlad Sokhin

End offshore detention immediately and bring all men, women and children on Manus Island and Nauru here now.

End offshore detention. Bring all refugees here. #349

Dear Prime Minister,

The seven Australians who are on trial for their protest at Parliament House last year against offshore detention have entered a plea of not guilty. This is their statement:

Today seven WACA members stood trial charged with “Destroy, Damage Commonwealth Property”. We have entered a plea of not guilty, and have exercised our right to be heard by a jury. We maintain our innocence in this matter.
On the 30th of November last year, we travelled to Parliament to speak directly to our representatives. Refugees and asylum seekers have been detained in our name for too long and the Australian Government’s policies are killing innocent people.
We needed to tell our representatives directly that they are complicit in the rape, torture and child abuse of innocent people who have been imprisoned indefinitely for the simple act of asking for help. We did this because we have the privilege to speak when others cannot. Every day on Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island is another day in hell; every single person in offshore detention must be evacuated to safety immediately.
The Australian Government’s recent out-of-court settlement with the men of Manus Island highlights the Government’s stark understanding of their complicity in this abuse; abuse that they do not want on the public record. This Government must explain to the Australian people what their intention is for the men of Manus. These men came to us fleeing persecution and seeking our protection. The Australian government is obligated under International Law to provide asylum, however it denies the basic rights of these people and further traumatises them.
Every person has the right to seek asylum, and to live in freedom and safety; when will the Australian Government extend this right to every man, woman and child held in offshore detention?
Neither the Government nor the Opposition can be trusted whilst Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island Immigration prisons remain open. Both sides of politics continue to violate human rights, through indefinite detention, support of boat turn-backs, and by refusing to take responsibility for the resulting deaths at sea.
It is clear that the Government’s offshore detention policy has failed. Australia has become a world leader in cruelty. The policy is in direct violation of the UN Convention on Refugees. The Government’s “US Deal” is nothing but a desperate attempt to disguise the establishment of a permanent island prison on Nauru.
For years we have attempted to make ourselves heard through more conventional means. We have written letters and signed petitions, we have attended rallies and speak outs, we have held sit-ins and we have blockaded in attempts to stop deportations to danger. We have reached a critical moment in Australia’s history, a moment when these methods are no longer enough. We have been unable to reach those in power, our so-called representatives. We are now in a state of emergency. We are in the midst of an humanitarian crisis. We took direct action inside our Parliament House in an attempt to be heard. We called out to our elected representatives to demand that they end their inhumane policies.
We cannot remain silent whilst innocent people are imprisoned and tortured in our name. We call on the Australian people to rise with us in solidarity with those who rise every day on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru, and demand we take the higher road, a road to freedom, humanity and respect for all peoples on this earth.

Australia is accountable

Dear Prime Minister,

How many times must you be told that Australia is accountable for the 1500+ asylum seekers held in offshore detention before you will act to free them? This time it is the United Nations committee examining whether we comply with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that has told us so. The committee expressed alarm at

the harsh conditions prevailing in Australia’s offshore detention centres, including acute isolation, overcrowding, allegations of sexual abuse by service providers, as well as reports of repeated incidence of suicide and self-harm among asylum seekers.

In the preamble to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights it says in part

Considering that, ... recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,

Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights,

Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms,

Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant,

Your government is required to abide by these ideals. And you as an individual are also obliged, as are we all. Offshore detention breaks everyone of these human rights. It must end now.

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:

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:

First Dog on the Moon:

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,

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:

Close the camps and bring them here.

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.

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

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?

The Commonwealth of Australia is taken to court

Dear Prime Minister,

Was it coincidence that the detainees on Manus Island have had all access to computers removed at the very time when the court case in which they are plaintiffs is about to be live-streamed?

A class action seeking damages for people detained at the Manus Island immigration detention centre will begin this week.

Fifty current and former Manus Island detainees, including 41 people who remain in Papua New Guinea, will give evidence as part of Australia’s largest trial concerning immigration detention.

The six-month trial was scheduled to start in the Victorian Supreme Court on Monday, but a judge granted a request by all parties to delay it until Wednesday.

The 1905 class action group members are seeking compensation for alleged physical and psychological injuries they argue they suffered as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island.

The current and former detainees want additional damages for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.

The Australian government and the companies that have managed the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services), deny the claims.

The judge-only trial will hear from 41 current or former Manus Island detainees who remain in Papua New Guinea, as well as 11 former Manus detainees who are currently being held in some form of detention in Australia.

This court case is expected to take six months. Any person not directly involved in the case will be able to watch it, live. Do you admire the bravery of the refugees who are prepared to be witnesses, to endure hostile questions, while they struggle to survive in detention?

For the 286th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

The five judges of the PNG Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus island was both illegal and unconstitutional. PNG's Prime Minister O'Neill has said that Australia must make 'alternative arrangements.' Ferrovial/Transfield, who run the camp under contract to the Australian government has said they will no longer run detention centres. In fact, they can break their contract at any time, since an illegal contract is unenforceable. Further, the Ferrovial employees are risking imprisonment of up to three years by continuing to work on Manus and Nauru. Professor Blackshield said that Australian government members could be charged with criminal conduct as the contracting principals of the detention centres.

The onus of changing the policy and making alternative arrangements belongs entirely to the Australian government. Why has this not been done?

Australia's illegality

Article 14. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
— Universal declaration of Human RIghts

End offshore detention #241

Dear Prime Minister,

Have you been following the case of the (ongoing) attempted deportation of Saeed?

I guess the actions of DIBP in denying him legal process and sneaking him to Sydney in the middle of the night give an answer to my question from yesterday. The 'nowhere' state that the detainees in Manus Island find themselves seems to now extend to people like Saeed on the Australian mainland.

Is this the best you can do for Australia, Prime Minister, to show our fear and our weakness by punishing people who mistakenly put their trust in Australia's imagined qualities of fairness and opportunity?

End offshore detention #240

Dear Prime Minister,

On Thursday afternoon, after writing my letter to you about Omid Masoumali's widow, Pari, I rang Peter Dutton's parliamentary office. I had four brief points to be passed on to Minister Dutton. However the woman who answered the phone, instead of simply taking my message, argued with me over each point. I have briefly summarised the phone call here. My point today is in response to the final things she said to me before she hung up: that since Australia has not been found guilty in a court of law then we are free to continue doing what we like to the detainees on Manus and Nauru.

Prime Minister, is this the basis of Australia's legal system, that we do what we like until we are prosecuted and found guilty? This is not a letter about DIBP. It is a letter about Australia. Can we do anything we like? Can the Australian government take any action it wants to against any person or group?

See you in court, Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to the document titled "The Situation in Nauru and Manus Island: Liability for crimes against humanity in the detention of refugees and asylum seekers" which has been submitted to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court?