End offshore detention now #334

Dear Prime Minister,

On 27 June 2017 Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) reported the following:

Last night approximately a dozen men were removed from Foxtrot compound on #Manus and relocated to the old medical centre accommodation despite no power (no fans or airconditioners) and no beds.
The men slept on the floor, there being nothing better available.
— Refugee Action Collective (Victoria)

Prime Minister, your government wants to spend $70 000 000 to stop the testimony of 1905 men who have been tortured and illegally detained on Manus Island. Why do you still continue to inflict torture and illegal detention on refugees? Bring them here now.

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

Religious persecution by Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

The disturbance and destruction at the Manus detention centre in the last few days has created further misery and fear among the men who are trapped there. Which Australian value is it that causes us to destroy a religious building at the start of a period of religious observance? Lynne Murphy writes:

[On Sunday] the Australian Border Force removed detainees from the Manus N Block comprising almost half of Fox compound.
Adding to the trauma of the forced eviction, access was denied to the only place of worship available to the Muslims who needed that space for observance of Ramadan prayers five times a day in this holy month. After much pressure ... some space was made available for prayer in the deserted P Block, Fox Compound.
It can easily be speculated that the timing of evictions and the deprivation of a prayer venue at the beginning of Ramadan is continues the deliberate and planned cruelty by the Australian Immigration Department in order to provoke, hurt and coerce detainees.
It is astonishing that the Australian Border Force is takes such actions at this time. Representatives of The Australian Government are asserting under oath in the Victorian Supreme Court that Australia is not in effective control of the Manus Island detention centre and therefore owes no duty of care to protect the people being held there from foreseeable harm.

Bring all the people in offshore detention to Australia.

Bring all in offshore detention to Australia #302

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you on behalf of the 302nd asylum seeker held by Australia on Manus Island. The situation at the Reprocessing Centre (concentration camp) has dramatically worsened this week. Some men have been forced to move out of their accommodation and into one of the other already overcrowded buildings. Demolition of the buildings has started. Is it a coincidence that it is the start of Ramadan? After the well-documented year-long program by ABF, Transfield and Broadspectrum to make conditions for the men more and more draconian this violent disruption to the camp amounts to torture. As Imran Mohammad reported, the detainees have not been properly informed of what is happening, the rules keep changing so even those who try to make decisions are thwarted, and all this after four years of incarceration have damaged their bodies and their minds.

The majority of Australians (72%) support bringing the refugees here. Many of us are in direct contact either with the detainees, or with advocates who are. So we know that the statements made by Minister Dutton and his department are lies. For example, in the letter I received from DIBP yesterday, the first paragraph of page two reads:

People transferred and accommodated at the Manus Regional Processing Centre (RPC) are treated with respect and dignity and in accord with human rights standards. The Australian Government has contracted appropriately trained and experienced service providers to ensure that residents’ needs are adequately met, including the provision of health and welfare services.

It is astounding how many lies have been crammed into those two sentences. All meaning of the words 'respect', 'dignity', human rights', trained', 'experienced', 'adequately met', 'health', 'welfare', 'services' has been completely degraded.

This is why I write to you, Prime Minister. There is no honesty, morality, or legality in the dealings, writings or announcements of Minister Dutton and DIBP. After 302 letters to you, I expect you to reply. And to act to bring the asylum seekers here now.

Close the camps Bring them here. #294

Dear Prime Minister,

The St Vincent de Paul Society has demanded that Australia brings the more than 800 asylum seekers on Manus Island to Australia now. The Society lists a number of reasons why there is no other option, including that Australia is about to end funding to medical support on Manus Island yet many of the men who will be forced to stay there have major health issues caused by their four years in detention. It is not an option for them to return to their countries of origin where they will face persecution or harm. The Society also points out that the promised deal with US is moving very slowly and it is unclear how many, if any, men will be accepted by the US.

Bringing them here would be a popular decision, Mr Turnbull. An Australia Institute poll shows that 72% of respondents support having asylum seekers in offshore detention brought here.

Close the camps, bring them here.

Senator McKim reports directly from Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Why is Minister Dutton still in office? Senator Nick McKim's trip to Manus Island provides further evidence that Minister Dutton has lied about the Good Friday shooting on Manus Island. How can you have any confidence in Minister Dutton?

Close the camps and bring them here.

Invitation to a reading.

Dear Prime Minister,

Every year on the June long weekend in WA, Denmark Arts hosts the Denmark Festival of Voice. It is a long weekend of music and poetry where international, national, local and community performers, music makers, and enthusiastic audience members enjoy a weekend immersed in music and poetry, in the beautiful coastal town of Denmark on the edge of the karri forest.

I have been invited to prepare a spoken work to be performed over the weekend. Volunteers will take turns to read out loud every one of the letters I have written to you since July 2016. Approximately 300 letters, taking about 10 hours, many containing the words of the refugees and asylum seekers themselves. You are warmly invited to attend. I suggest you book your accommodation early, as the festival attracts visitors from far and wide. I look forward to seeing you in Denmark, 2-5 June, 2017.

End offshore detention. Bring them here. #266

Dear Prime Minister,

Yet another damning report has been written about Australia's offshore detention of refugees. Today's report of the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs finds that Australia has a clear duty of care to the asylum seekers it imprisons on Manus Island and Nauru, and that DIBP's policy of secrecy "exacerbates the vulnerability of refugees and asylum seekers and prevents proper scrutiny."

I support the Senate committee's recommendations of increasing Australia's refugee intake, increasing funding to UNHCR and implementing a regional processing framework. These policies would give an alternative to the asylum seekers whose current choice is between prison in Indonesia or getting on a boat. I also support the Green's additional calls for immediately closing the refugee prisons on Manus Island and Nauru, giving formal apology and reparations to the people who have been imprisoned and a royal commission into Australia's offshore detention regime. Not only must the offshore detention be closed but we must make amends for the terrible suffering we have inflicted. Close the camps. Bring them here.

Reunite Nayser with his family

Dear Prime Minister

The case of Nayser, detained on Manus Island, is one of the worst reasons why indefinite offshore detention is unjust. Nayser's family arrived in Australia four years ago but because he was on a boat that arrived a few days later he was sent to Manus Island. Nayser's daughter, known as Zaharah, has bravely gone to Canberra and met with politicians to ask that her dad be reunited with his family. Work by groups such as GetUp shows increasingly overwhelming public support for reuniting Nayser with his family.

End offshore detention and let Nayser and the other detainees who are split from their families be finally reunited.

Message from Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Mr Walid Zazai is detained in Manus Offshore Refugee Processing Centre. This is his message to Australia. It was read at today's Palm Sunday rallies and distributed in pamphlets.

My Name is Walid Zazai and I have been held against my will at Manus Island Detention Centre since January 2014.
I was 20 when I had to flee Afghanistan and I was 20 when I was incarcerated.
There has been much written about how horrible the detention centre is.
In short, the food is terrible, the hygiene poor, there are putrid smells, sticky and oppressive heat, the rooms are tiny for many men, there is a lack of privacy, and daily we are treated like criminals.
On top of this are all the things we have lost …. and things we have gained, by being here.
We have LOST……. the ability to see our families - both the family we left, or for many of us also, the family we were trying to reach.
For some that has meant not seeing their parents or siblings, but for others it is has meant not seeing their wife or their children.
I haven’t had a punch in the arm by my brother, a hug by uncles, a kiss from my mum for nearly 4 years.
the unbelievable burden of our family mourning for us.
maturity and an understanding of the world well beyond our years.
Many of us sought the safety of Australia when we were just boys….and now we are men.
But men with heavy hearts and knowledge of the worst of humanity.
WE HAVE LOST the ability to work. We cannot use our skills and our abilities. We cannot earn money.
And this fact robs us of so many other things.
We cannot support our families – and many of us on Manus should be the primary care giver of our families.
All of us cannot even help our families put food on their tables.
For four years, we have wanted to help our families - yet cannot.
But it is not just our families we want to help, this world is hurting, so many people need help.
We want to work to help widows, and orphans, and homeless people. We want to help. And financially, and physically, we are not able to.
— at Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.
a HORRIBLE and frustrating and heart breaking REST.
For nearly four years we have not been able to do ANYTHING.
The same nothing everyday for nearly four years. A rest that has nearly driven us insane.
We have LOST all, and any, form of privacy.
We have GAINED…. nightmares of the horrors we have seen and experienced.
We cry ourselves to sleep and we pretend we don’t notice when our friends do the same.
For nearly four years we have LOST the opportunity to study - to learn employment skills, or upskill so that we can find work when we are finally free.
After nearly four years many of us have GAINED a dependence on medication to sleep.
A dependence on medication to attempt to ease the anxiety that continually knocks on our souls and screams ‘how much longer can they hold you here?’
And medication to attempt to ease the depression that screams ‘this is worse than before, you can’t handle much more of this’.
Here on Manus we have lost the ability to have physical love.
For nearly four years some men have not been able to see their wives, or their fiancés.
For the rest of we have lost the opportunity to meet women who one day might become our wives.
We all long for special smiles and tender hands and soft lips.
We all long for love…...and that opportunity has been stolen from us.
After four years, we have GAINED the ability to see right through the lies, deceit, and indifference of the people in charge of making the policies that have held us here.
The Australian government says they are stopping the boats and they are saving lives at sea.
These are lies that cover the whole of the truth.
People are still dying at sea.
It is simply that Australia is pushing the boats out of its waters.
But what they are really doing is slowly killing us day by day.
Are our lives not worth saving?
We have LOST friends here.
We lost Reza Berati when he was murdered.
We lost Hamid Kehazei to a simple infection from a cut on his foot.
We lost Kamil Hussain who sadly drowned whilst swimming.
And most recently, during the celebration of Christmas, we lost Faysal Ishak Ahmed because his medical condition was given no care.
But…. We have also lost friends we made with those who have worked at the detention facility.
Some kind workers have been ripped from their jobs because they treated us kindly.
And in 2017 we have lost friends who have either been forced, or made to sign deals to be sent back to their homelands.
Sent back to danger - back to the same situation they needed to flee.
All of these friends we have lost because of a system that refuses to look at the people behind the problem.
we have gained a small but precious army of people who care.
Thank you to our advocates and friends.
Thank you to the people who act …. who are writing to their MP’s and talking to their friends to share the injustice of this place.
Thank you to the religious who take the love for your neighbour seriously.
Thank you to the people who know the equality in humanity and act upon it.
You have empowered us and given us a small voice.
Please let me finish by asking you to keep speaking for us, to yell for us, to scream for us.
Please keep putting peaceful, but loud, democratic pressure on the people who hold our freedom in their hard hands.
To the Australian Government …… please consider our lives as important and end the pain detention inflicts upon us.
Please bring us to Australia, we will make it our home, we will give you our hearts and we with every action we will show our thanks.
Thanks a lot to all of you for listening. Sending love from Manus.
— Walid Zazai

Close the camps. Bring them here.

Imran Mohammad is illegally detained on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Honi Soit, the weekly newspaper of The University of Sydney will publish a series of articles by Imran Mohammad, a Rohingya refugee, currently detained by Australia in Manus Regional Processing Centre. In the first article, Imran introduces himself. This is what he writes about being forcibly and indefinitely detained on Manus Island:

I was upset that I was moved here against my will, but what has really broken my heart is the knowledge that the detention centre was intentionally built to make refugees and asylum seekers suffer. It would take me decades to explain how we have been soaked in the rain and heated in the burning sun at Australia’s hands. Despite being a country that holds its head high with great pride in preserving human lives, I was almost killed at their hands during the riot in our camp in 2014.

I have committed no crime, however myself and hundreds of men have been imprisoned for almost four years and still have no clear view of our future. I would rather be in a prison cell than in this inhumane setting, as at least I would know the date of my release.
— Imran Mohammad,

Imran turns 23 in 3 days time. He fled Burma when he was 16. What were you doing in the seven glorious years between 16 and 23, Prime Minister? Did you know, even then, that you would have people tortured and killed to achieve your goals? What we are doing to the people on Manus and Nauru is personal. You have the power to change the policy. Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #243

Dear Prime Minister,

It now appears that DIBP has suppressed the company name of a detention centre contractor because it is concerned that the contractor's company will be boycotted or protested against. In laid-back, easy-going Australia it is most unusual for businesses to be targeted with boycotts or protests. That DIBP needs to protect its private contractors shows the power of the increasing numbers of Australians who are strongly opposed to the mistreatment of refugees and especially to offshore detention.

You are not listening. Labor is not listening. DIBP is not listening. So we take our action directly to the companies involved and they no longer want the financial or legal risks of being associated with the abusive system of immigration detention. What other solution is there but to close the camps and bring the detainees here?

What do you answer to this, Prime Minister? Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #232

Dear Prime Minister,

While the interminable nightmare of Australia's offshore detention regime torments the men, women and children trapped on Manus Island and Nauru and while it poisons Australia legally, politically and spiritually there are artists and activists striving to create new ways of celebrating the arrival of refugees and sharing their voices.

This is what we need, Prime Minster. Refugees and Australians are in this together and we need an end to the nightmare. We need the people like the Harmony Art Collective and their project of creating large-scale murals with newly arrived migrants and refugees to restore hope and community.

Close the camps and bring them here.

End offshore detention #226

Dear Prime Minister,

Even if the United States takes 1250 refugees from Australia's offshore detention centres there will be approximately 400 people left behind. The Papua New Guinea government plans to close the detention centre by October. Minister Dutton was recently in PNG but has refused to discuss any changes to Australia's untenable position of leaving the asylum seekers in PNG: the refugees can't settle there and the local people can't support them. We have done untold damage to the detainees and wasted billions of dollars on this inhumane stalemate. Time is running out, Prime Minister. What are you going to do?

End offshore detention #223

Dear Prime Minister,

Voices from inside Australian detention centres continue to be heard. Behrouz Boochani's year-long collaboration with theatre director Nazanin Sahamizadeh has resulted in

  • a play, 'Manus', which tells the stories of seven Iranian refugees imprisoned on Manus Island;
  • a two-month run of the play in Tehran;
  • plans for a world-wide tour;
  • a growing international movement to close the prisons on Manus Island and Nauru;
  • Behrouz Boochani speaking directly to the Iranian audience on the play's opening night;
  • growing international awareness of Australia's illegal actions.

I look forward to seeing the play in Australia and to be in the same audience as the freed asylum seekers. Free them now Prime Minister. Close the camps. Bring them here.

End offshore detention #222

Dear Prime Minister

Ms Mina Taherkhani is a refugee from Iran. We have imprisoned her on Nauru since January 2014. These are her words:

I am Mina Taherkhani. I’m 35 years old. I escaped from violence to seek peace and freedom. I’ve been in the detention centre in Nauru for over three years, where Australian people wouldn’t even keep their animals.

I was yearning for justice in a country which claims to uphold women’s rights but all I have experienced is terror and panic. Systemic violence keeps us in Nauru and it seems our pain has become very good business. We just asked for support and a safe place from the government but what they gave us was a hell called Nauru.
— Mina Taherkhani

Ms Taherkhani and the other women detained in Nauru are at daily risk of sexual assault and rape. Women who have been raped are denied medical care and punished for seeking help. That is your misogyny in action, Prime Minister.

Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 212th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

This is an excerpt of Hani Abdile's poem "The Fence", published in "I Will Rise"

The only thing your want right now
is to keep them in detention forever
and damage their little remaining hope.
No home, no education, no future for them.

It’s time Australian people knew.
It’s time to blast their silence.
I am sure they want to know
what you are hiding behind the fence.
— The Fence, by Hani Abdile

Hani has dedicated her poem to "the little kids behind the fence." What is the worth of our country if it demands the cost of thousands of lives in detention?

Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 211th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 211th man on Manus Island and all prisoners of Australia's offshore detention regime, what urgent steps are you, the health minister and the immigration minister taking to protect all our prisoners on Nauru from the current outbreak of dengue fever? According to Guardian Australia

The Nauruan hospital was unprepared for the outbreak, and ... it has no testing kits for the disease.

There are more than 70 known cases of dengue fever on Nauru, including ten asylum seekers. Their health is our responsibility.