Australia's responsibility

PNG refugee resettlement failed

Dear Prime Minister,

On February 20 Papua New Guinean police raided the houses of 13 refugees who were supposedly being resettled in Port Moresby. They were arrested and forced back to Manus Island. PNG Immigration Minister, Petrus Thomas, told ABC News that 'refugee resettlement had failed.'

Yet Minister Dutton's department of Home Affairs maintains that refugees on Manus Island still have the option of settling in PNG. How is the Minister going to make that happen when PNG says no?

Cambodia not safe

Dear Prime Minister,

Both the PNG and Australian courts have found that Australia is responsible for the reugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru.

Australia, along with 44 other nations in the United Nations, has condemned Cambodia for "the recent serious decline of [its] civil and political rights."

Yet Foreign Minister Bishop confirms that your Government expects the refugees detained offshore to settle safely in Cambodia, and has paid Hun Sen's corrupt government $55 million to accept them.

How do you justify sending people who have fled oppression and danger to a country which violently oppresses its own citizens?

Resettlement in PNG was never a viable option

Dear Prime Minister,

Watna Mori, PNG lawyer, says that resettlement of Manus Island refugees in Papua New Guinea (one of Minister Dutton's 3 options) was never viable. She cites the example of seven West Papuan refugees who Australia handed over to Papua New Guinea for resettlement support but were abandoned to their own resources. She says:

As is commonly the case in PNG, once the funding and heat behind the issue disappeared, so too did the ability to care. Australia, meanwhile, distanced itself from the men once they became PNG’s problem.
— Watna Mori

Bad enough for these 7 men, but they are Melanesian and have some connection to PNG culture and society. For the refugees on Manus Island, from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, they have no such connections. The so-called PNG resettlement program has been going for more than three years and is still a failure. Barriers to resettlement are insurmountable. The current contractor, JDA Wokman, is a job recruitment agency with no experience in refugee resettlement.

The New Zealand offer of resettling 150 refugees is still available. Many Australians are willing to offer community sponsored resettlement. Will your government look at these options so that all refugees on Manus Island can be freed from limbo and allowed to restart their lives?

Violence on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Manus Island has never been safe for the refugees. Yesterday, 16th February, there have been three separate violent incidents towards refugees. 

The first happened at the market in Lorengau as a refugee was walking in the rain:

Pakistani refugee Mumtaz Ali said a man ran up behind him.
”I thought that he wanted to share my umbrella with me,” he said.
”When I turned my face to him, he directly punched me on my face, on my right eye, right-side eye, then I fall on the ground and he started kicking me.”
Black eye after attack in Lorengau.

Black eye after attack in Lorengau.

In the second attack, refugees walking to hospital were accosted. Three locals tried to steal their mobiles. Refugees pushed them away twice. The locals tried again to attack them, a car arrived and the men were able to escape.

The third attack appears to have been organised by Australia. There is video evidence of the attack:

Ten PNG soldiers from Lombrum Naval Base attacked three refugees today. Two are seriously injured, one had his face bashed by the soldiers.
Local witnesses say that the naval personnel, who were not in uniform, were very drunk and were drinking from boxes of beer.
When local people stepped in to stop the attacks, the PNG soldiers told them that Australia had sent them to control the refugees in Lorengau Town.

Which Australian ordered the PNG navy personnel to attack the refugees?

Why hasn't anyone been charged?

Why haven't the refugees' written complaints been addressed?

End offshore detention #442

Dear Prime Minister,

After stopping access to cigarettes, coffee, tea and sugar Australian immigration has ordered IHMS on Manus to give the refugees one month's supply of their medications.

What risk is there to a person suffering from mental illness who is given a month's worth of pills?

cruel, inhuman and degrading

Dear Prime Minister,

How is Dutton still Minister for Immigration after the poisonous drivel he unleashed on the 52 refugees who escaped his 'cruel, inhuman and degrading' regime?

'Economic refugee' is an oxymoron.

The vast waste of tax payers' money, including more than $1 billion unaccounted for, has brought nothing but disruption to the democracies and cultures of PNG and Nauru, ill-health, injury, mental illness and death to the detainees and anguish to their families, friends and advocates.

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

Just as dead

Dear Prime Minister,

Stopping refugee boats arriving is not a self-evident good. It might stop people drowning inconveniently in view of Australians at Christmas Island. But if they do not get on a boat and are, instead, killed by the Taliban they are just as dead as if they drowned. The real difference is that our conscience is not troubled by their un-noted death somewhere else.
— Julian Burnside

Australia's policy towards boat arrivals is a sham, is illegal, is immoral, is exorbitant and is lethal. Bring all detainees on Manus and Nauru to safety and freedom now.

25 are free. 903 remain

Dear Prime Minister,

Twenty five of the 928 men on Manus Island flew to USA today. PNG's deadline for closing Manus RPC is 31 October. It is urgent that Australia provides safety, freedom and rehabilitation for the detainees after 4 years in 'Manus hell.'

How will you guarantee that, Prime Minister?

PNG is extremely unsafe

Dear Prime Minister,

On the 24th September a message came from Manus Island:

Refugees in transit in Port Moresby, heading for US, were told not to leave the hotel as it is extremely unsafe.
It is interesting that Australian authorities are still coercing refugees who are remaining in Manus Island Detention Centre to get resettled in PNG.
— Manus Alert

Prime Minister, there is no safe resettlement for the refugees in PNG. End the torture and bring all men, women and children on Manus Island and 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?

Enough is enough

Dear Prime Minister,

It’s going to take a very strong leader to turn and say enough is enough
— Russell Broadbent, Liberal MP

Can you be that leader, Prime Minister? Can you rise to the challenge laid down by Mr Russell Broadbent, Liberal MP, when he spoke at a book launch last week?

What is happening on Manus and Nauru can’t go on ...
If you believe this country is what I believe this country is, this situation is unacceptable. The situation on Manus is unacceptable – because I believe this country paints a picture of who it is.

And what picture do we paint? As Mr Broadbent laments, it is a 'sad tale of our response to people often fleeing terrible, terrible hardship,' which was 'something that we as a nation have no sympathy for or understanding of.' This is why you must show strong leadership, Prime Minister. Mr Broadbent acknowledged that the public, especially women, cannot abide indefinite detention of refugees. He encouraged his audience to send letters to Malcolm Turnbull. And so I am. While the 50 refugees prepare to leave for USA I write on behalf of the many others who remain tortured in limbo on Manus Island and Nauru. And, in my 422nd letter to you, once again I ask that you bring all the men, women and children detained there to safety and freedom.

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.

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?

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.