human rights

On behalf of the 631st man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Since July 30 2016 I have been writing a letter a day for every refugee and asylum seeker detained on Manus Island. In that time conditions have drastically deteriorated, refugees have been violently relocated, services withdrawn and your Government now hides behind the fiction that since the men are no longer locked in Lombrun RPC they are now 'free.'

This is my 631st letter to you. After refoulements, deaths and some transfers to USA there are now approximately 630 men left on Manus and in Port Moresby. I will continue to write to you, a letter a day, for every refugee and asylum seeker on Nauru. I will continue to work, along with thousands of other Australians, to end offshore detention and see all these refugees have freedom and safety. It will happen, eventually, with you or without you

A corrosive influence

But just saying over and over again that you respect human rights doesn’t make it true, not for the innocent human beings warehoused on Manus and Nauru for the last five years, or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children being forced into prisons away from their families and communities at obscenely high rates.
All of the people suffering injustice right now in our community need action, not just words.”
“Victims of cruelty and injustice all over the world desperately need governments like ours to be part of the UN’s principled spine, not a corrosive influence gnawing away at the very foundations of human rights with their own hollow words and unprincipled actions.
— Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre

Act by freeing all refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru

PNG not safe

Dear Prime Minister,

Minister Dutton says that refugees on Manus are free to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Refugees say PNG is not safe, including the PNG police force.

The recent finding by PNG National Court supports the refugees' claims. The state has been ordered to pay four citizens damages for human rights breaches by the police including violence, property damage and injuries.

A stain

Dear Prime Minister,

Finalist for 2018 Young Australian of the Year, Kevin Kadirgamar, is a lawyer who assists asylum seekers and refugees suffering under our draconian, unfair laws. He says that our treatment of asylum seekers is

"a stain on the soul of our nation."

I agree with this remarkable young Australian when he says:

There is a duty of citizenship for all of us to stand up and say no, that is not the country that we are, we do not accept that, and to jealously guard Australian values. We all have the opportunity to help them find a much brighter future.
— Kevin Kadirgamar

How will your Government act to reflect the Australian beliefs of fairness and compassion?

Governor General Cosgrove made to be a hypocrite

Dear Prime Minister,

 Australia's punitive, repressive policy towards refugees is revealed yet again. At the UN, Governor General Cosgrove said

We have a duty to promote the rights of the most vulnerable, oppressed, discriminated communities, and to seek universality of human rights to all parts of our world.
— Governor General Peter Cosgrove

Yet Australia promotes its hardline policies of boat turn-backs on international waters, mandatory and indefinite detention and offshore 'processing.' Australia leads the world in exploiting and abusing asylum seekers by its policies of deterrence and punishment. We cannot pretend to uphold human rights. We deserve to be criticised and held to account.

Sack Minister Dutton

Dear Prime Minister,

Why have you not sacked Minister Dutton yet? He has repeatedly been shown to be a liar. His department has mis-handled contracts and not accounted for billions of dollars of spending. Senior positions, such as the ABF Chief Medical Officer, are vacant. The head of the ABF, Roman Quaedvleig, has been on paid leave for undisclosed misdemeanours for 8 months.

Judging by the media statements on the Minister of Home Affairs website, he can't even employ people to write grammatically correct, coherent press statements. In a media statement dated 31.10.2017 it says:

'The constant claims of IMAs [sic] and advocates' [sic] about their situation [whose situation? The advocates'?] in Manus are nothing more than subterfuge.'

This is another lie. Most recently Amnesty International are one of the numerous agencies and individuals to disagree:

'The PNG authorities have previously failed to protect the refugees from violent attacks or hold perpetrators accountable for violence. No one has faced charges following an incident in April 2017 when the military fired shots directly into the refugee camp, endangering people’s lives. Other complaints of violence have not been independently investigated by the authorities or resulted in accountability, fuelling a culture of impunity.'

Sack Minister Dutton. And follow the urgent recommendation by Kate Schuetze of Amnesty International that 'Australia should bring the refugees to its shores, accept a New Zealand offer to take on 150 of the men and look for additional resettlement options.'

On behalf of the 553rd man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

After nearly five years Australia has provided no viable or sustainable option for the refugees it forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea.

Amnesty now for all men, women and children detained by Australia on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Bring them all to freedom and safety now.

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? 


Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to the article titled 'Australia's refugee policy is a failure. This is not the time to shirk responsibility' by Thomas Albrecht, the UNHCR regional representative in Canberra?

In the article, Albrecht directly criticises Australia's policy to people arriving by boat as setting a 'destructive and dangerous precedent' and reminds us that 'Australia's obligation to people fleeing persecution, just as with any country in the world, is the same whether they arrive by air or sea. ... there is a false and disingenuous logic in saving people at sea, only to then mistreat them on land.'
'The consequences of open-ended mandatory detention, inadequate conditions and indefinite limbo, are devastating, yet predictable. For years now, UNHCR and others have highlighted the overwhelmingly negative toll on human lives, while the policy grinds on.'

Albrecht concludes:

The current policy has been an abject failure. A proper approach by Australia must include, at a minimum, solutions for all refugees and asylum seekers sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and an end to offshore processing.

This is the time to share, not shirk, responsibility.

This article is a direct challenge to Australia, by a representative of the highest authority on refugees, to immediately change Australia's policy and provide relief and care to those who are still suffering under it. Your response is needed urgently, Prime Minister.

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.

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.

Existing laundry services will cease

Dear Prime Minister,

Yesterday during the 42nd day of peaceful protest by the refugees detained at Manus Island RPC their placards included:

"Mr Dutton: killing innocent people is not a victory"
"No more hostages"
"Australia. Responsible for us"

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

On the same day the refugees were issued with yet another announcement of removal of services, despite the centre officially running until 31 October. 

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

End the torture. Bring all asylum seekers and refugees to safety and freedom now.

Where are the Human Rights?

Dear Prime Minister,

How can Australia produce a 'final departure bridging visa' when we are attempting to be elected to the UN's Human Rights Council? The 'bridging visa' has already put 63 people at risk of homelessness and destitution unless they can find support from charities or State Governments. A further 400 people, all in Australia for medical treatment due to injuries or illnesses sustained in detention on Manus Island and Nauru and including 100 children, are terrified that they will also be issued with the new visa.

'Excoriating' reports are currently being made to three UN special rapporteurs: on the right to adequate housing, on extreme poverty and human rights, and on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. How can Australia make any claim to upholding human rights?

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.

Twentieth day of peaceful protest on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Today is the twentieth day of protest by the men trapped in the Manus RPC. Despite everything they have endured at the hands of Australia they are still peaceful.

Please honour Australia's obligations as a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention and as a democracy and bring all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to freedom and safety now.

Vomiting blood

Dear Prime Minister,

After days of peaceful protest at Manus RPC while Australian Federal Police and PNG police cut off power and water to the main compound there is now a medical crisis. Some of the men who collapsed and were moved to the medical facility are vomiting blood.

We see it. We see the photos of the Australian uniformed officers acting illegally. We see the Manus detainees protesting peacefully. We see the crate of water bottles locked outside the main gate in the full sun, beyond the reach of the detainees. We see the knife wounds, the skin sores, the missing teeth, the mounds of uncollected rubbish

And we see hundreds of mostly young men, 4 years imprisoned and tortured, yet still peaceful, non-violent, trying to use reason and words to change their dire situation. Why haven't you brought the refugees to Australia yet? Where is Minister Dutton? Why is this still going on?

Peaceful protest on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Hundreds of refugees are protesting peacefully in Manus prison camp. This protest is completely peaceful and we refugees are asking Australia and PNG to stop pressuring us to leave the prison camp and accept settlement in PNG. I’m sure the local Manusian people are supporting this protest because they do not agree with this cruel policy. During the past week Immigration cut the power and water in Foxtrot compound which is the largest compound in Manus. At the same time, several refugees have been attacked when they have gone outside the camp into the Manus community. We are not safe outside the fences, and Immigration are trying to make like impossible for us inside. We are protesting peacefully for our human rights, and to call on Australia to uphold its commitments to offer us protection as refugees. The Australian government must provide us with resettlement in a safe country.
— Behrouz Boochani
Protest at Manus RPC, August 1 2017. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Protest at Manus RPC, August 1 2017. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

When will you answer Behrouz Boochani, the refugees Australia has forcibly detained on Manus and the people of Manus Island? When will Australia uphold its commitments to refugees? When will Australia provide all refugees on Manus Island and Nauru with safe resettlement?

Bring them here.

Knife attacks on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

More violence occurred on Manus Island overnight. Two men have been attacked, separately, and wounded. Another man was robbed when he went to church.

Activists target Ferrovial's offices in Sydney to protest against Ferrovial's company, Broadspectrum, which runs the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

End offshore detention now and bring all men, women and children to Australia.

How much longer?

Dear Prime Minister,

How much longer will we continue to punish proven refugees who are our responsibility while they await interminable, uncertain futures in Nauru and Manus Island?

That is a policy question, a human rights question and a question of our international standing.

What is your answer?