asylum

All refugees in detention are political prisoners

Dear Prime Minister,

Today, Melbourne's port was blockaded by protestors. Their banners included 'SOS Manus' and 'All refugees in detention are political prisoners.' How much did today's port blockade cost Australia's economy? On financial cost alone, how can you continue to allow the offshore detention of refugees?

Do not reply with the platitude 'We need to stop drownings at sea.' It is immoral to imprison and torture  the 2000 people on Manus and Nauru on the pretext of preventing other people's suffering. The boats have continued but the Australian navy now intercepts them (at vast expense) at sea and illegally and secretly turns them back. Last week, a boat with 29 Sri Lankan adults and children reached Australia's shore, which disproves your claim that no vessel has arrived for 3.5 years. Did the Sri Lankans claim asylum? If so, why were they flown straight back to Sri Lanka? How much did that 'special' flight from Exmouth cost?

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.

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, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australia-s-long-history-offshore-detention

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.

For the 218th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Why are the asylum seekers, who have been detained in Darwin since arriving on Thursday, barred from accessing legal assistance? Australia is legally obliged to provide all asylum seekers with the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Letters to Tyranny #77

Dear Prime Minister,

Please act immediately to remove all the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia so that they can get appropriate treatment for their physical and psychological health. You must also put in place swift and well-resourced processing for their refugee claims. The 30 000 refugees on mainland Australia who are still waiting to be permanently settled need immediate attention also. Change the name of DIBP to Department of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement and free Australia from this terrible period of punitive inhumanity towards people asking for our help.

Yours faithfully,

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #59

Dear Prime Minister,

Perhaps the 59th asylum seeker on Manus Island is the man that Behrouz Boochani wrote about on September 24th. He needed hospital treatment in Port Moresby but his ticket to travel there was cancelled arbitrarily and when he protested he was put in jail for two days. In the letter I received from 'JC', Director ABF Ministerial Correspondence Section Support Group - Australian Border Force, 17 August 2016, he wrote 'All transferees at the Manus RPC receive clinically indicated health care, broadly consistent with Australian public health standards." This is a lie. No Australian has their access to medical treatment denied and then gets put in jail when they protest.

Your statement at the United Nations has had a direct, damaging impact on the detainees in offshore detention. Your actions are causing harm to vulnerable people who have asked for help.

Bring them here.

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #16

Dear Prime Minister,

Today I am writing to you about the sixteenth asylum seeker on Manus Island. Mr XXX XXX is a young man from XXX. Perhaps he is the man who was reported in The Guardian today as having to run for his life and hide while his two friends were beaten up by seven local Papua New Guinean men. There are so many dreadful things about the situation on Manus Island, Mr Turnbull. 

Bring them home.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #15

Dear Prime Minister,

This letter is written on behalf of the fifteenth asylum seeker on Manus Island, Mr XXX XXX. The situation of Mr XXX and all the other detainees on Manus Island and Naura "has become increasingly dire and untenable, exacerbated by the indefinite nature of their time [there]." This urgent language is not mine, but that of a spokesperson for the UN high Commissioner for human rights, Ravina Shamdasani.

How quickly can you address the UN's concerns by settling the asylum seekers in Australia? Or is Australia to continue on its way to becoming a pariah state?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #14

Dear Prime Minister,

Mr XXX XXX, aged XX, left XXX XX years ago and eventually was the fourteenth incarcerated on Manus Island. He has spent a significant part of his life struggling towards a goal that is so common as to be unremarkable. To be able to live.

Mr Turnbull, as the highest elected official in Australia you have achieved a prodigious series of goals. What is it in you that cannot allow Mr XXX the simplest of goals: a life?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #13

Dear Prime Minister,

"Australia's policy of deterrence is premised on making people in offshore locations suffer. This policy is inhumane and irresponsible, and it means refugees and asylum seekers remain vulnerable to further abuse and mistreatment": Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, quoted in The Guardian yesterday.

Mr Turnbull, your response, reported in today's article in The Guardian, that incident reports would be "carefully examined to see if there are any complaints or issues ... that were not properly addressed" is vacuous.

The thirteenth asylum seeker on Manus Island is Mr XXX XXX from XXXX. His situation along with that of his fellow asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru needs immediate resolution by closing the offshore camps and moving all people from there to Australia.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #12

Dear Prime Minister

Today is my daughter's birthday. Given the number of people on Manus Island and that many of the asylum seekers are young adults I imagine that there are several men on Manus Island who were born on the same day as my daughter.

Happy Birthday, Mr XXX XXX, twelfth asylum seeker on Manus Island. Mr Turnbull will you make sure Mr XXX can celebrate his next birthday in Australia?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #11

Dear Prime Minister

Mr XXX XXX is the eleventh asylum seeker on Manus Island. He was born in XXXX in XXXX. His situation was so dire that he risked his life on a hope of mercy in Australia. Can you turn your attention to Mr XXX's courage and initiative and find a place for him and his fellow refugees here?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

 

Letters to Tyranny #10

Dear Prime Minister

The tenth asylum seeker, Mr XXX XXX, is one of the nearly 900 asylum seekers on Manus Island in limbo. According to the Papua New Guinea member of parliament for Manus Island, Mr Ronnie Knight, those who have been granted refugee status have no prospect of finding work nor making a life for themselves in impoverished PNG. As Mr Knight says "We cannot leave people in limbo like this." Australia put them there so they must take some responsibility.

How soon can Australia act on behalf of these vulnerable people?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #9

Dear Prime Minister

The ninth asylum seeker trapped on Manus Island is Mr XXX XXX from XXX. I do not know if Mr XXX knows the man I wrote to you about yesterday, but I am sure that he is aware that he too, like all the asylum seekers, is vulnerable to untreated life-threatening conditions because the medical care for them is 'medieval'. It is so bad that more than one hundred cases are currently being investigated by Doctors for Refugees.

To know about this and do nothing to fix it is unconscionable. What are you doing about it, Mr Turnbull?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

 

Letters to Tyranny #8

Dear Prime Minister

This letter is an urgent plea to you to make sure that the eighth asylum seeker, Mr XXX, currently imprisoned on Manus Island and suffering from a life-threatening infection, receives immediate and full medical treatment in Brisbane. Images of Mr XXX's infected wounds are devastating evidence of the inhumane conditions and inadequate medical care on Manus Island.

Yours in despair

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #7

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you about the seventh asylum seeker on Manus Island.

Mr XXX XXX, aged XX, needs our protection from persecution in XXXX. "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" is Article 9 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

How quickly can Australia set up and staff an efficient and rapid processing of the refugee claims of those in off-shore detention, including Mr XXX?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #6

Dear Prime Minister,

Although I do not know the country of origin of the sixth asylum seeker detained on Manus Island it is possible that Mr XXX XXX is from Afghanistan. On the Religion and Ethics Report (ABC RN) this week, Professor William Maley spoke about the continuing danger to Hazara people in Afghanistan. He also pointed out the necessity of Australia using the most up-to-date and reliable information from informed sources. If the Australian government is currently advising Australian citizens to stay away from Afghanistan because it is unsafe how can it also argue that it is safe for asylum seekers (surely more vulnerable even than travellers) to be returned there?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #5

Dear Prime Minister

The fifth asylum seeker on Manus Island, Mr XXX XXX, XX years old, has fled for safety from XXX.

Mr XXX's detention is now called 'resident in an area' but he is neither free to leave nor free to pursue his rights.  Despite not having Mr XXX's personal details it is not difficult to imagine that he is suffering a great deal due to these circumstances imposed on him by Australia.

What part is Australia taking in the legal processes in PNG to carry out our obligations to Mr XXX?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #4

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you today on behalf of the fourth asylum seeker on Manus Island. His name is XXX XXX, born on XXXX in XXX. He has been on Manus Island for X years.

In April the Supreme Court of PNG ruled that there was no legal nor constitutional agreement between PNG and Australia to establish the detention centre on Manus Island. What steps have the government taken to abide by PNG law and to remove the asylum seekers from Manus Island to Australia?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #3

Dear Prime Minister,

The third detained asylum seeker on Manus Island, XXX XXX, is seeking refuge from XXXX. He is only XX years old. As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 26 2014, Mr XXX and his fellow detainees are suffering from serious damage to their mental health caused by the conditions on Manus Island and by their indefinite incarceration.

As Prime Minister I expect you to show leadership on this matter. I look forward to seeing evidence of that.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert