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 #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.

For the 201st man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani speaks clearly about what is happening on Manus Island. This is his video diary, edited and presented by the New York Times.

President Trump has questioned a deal to bring migrants held by Australia into the United States as refugees. Here is what daily life looks like for one of them.
By MEGAN SPECIA and YARA BISHARA on February 2, 2017. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times.

As Behrouz Boochani says, 'take us from this hell hole ... I think this is our right, after four years, to know about our future'

Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 200th man on Manus island

Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to the 108-page submission that has been presented to the International Criminal Court which asks the ICC prosecutor's office to investigate Australia's crimes against humanity in the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru? That puts Australia in the same company as Congolese warlords and war criminals in South Ossetia.

Close the camps and bring them here.

For the 193rd man on Manus island

Dear Prime Minister,

PEN International has written:

end the offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manaus, and ensure that asylum seekers and those in immigration detention in offshore processing centres, including Behrouz Boochani, are provided with adequate legal protection in line with Australia’s commitments under international law.