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?

Do you back Peter Dutton?

Dear Prime Minister,

Foreign Minister Bishop refused to back Minister Dutton's claims that white South African farmers need special visas to flee to Australia.

You were asked at the ASEAN Australia summit in Sydney if you backed Minister Dutton's position on white South African farmers and his use of the word 'civilised.'

You did not answer.

Meanwhile the refugees imprisoned by us on Manus and Nauru for nearly five years, look on.


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.

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.

As you have done it to the least of these

Dear Prime Minister,

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
— Matthew 25:40, King James Bible

Amnesty now for all refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. Bring them to safety and freedom now.

Christmas message from Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the poet and gardener, Mohammad Ali Maleki, here is his Christmas letter:

Dear Australians,
From detention on Manus Island, we — who came seeking asylum — wish you a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Just as in the last four years, we are about to embark upon our fifth of pain, sorrow, torture, and the endless nightmare of detention.
We don’t know why we are in this prison. What illegality have we committed? What logic does the Australian Government use to decide upon our lives?
We light candles for our lost friends instead of celebrating New Year. We hope next year will be our last of such miserable times. We can’t go on under the torture of detention very much longer. We pray to be set free from this prison someday.
I wish Merry Christmas to all the Christian and Catholic people, especially to the good and wise people of Australia who’ve given us help in the past four years. I hope they are happy and healthy with their families.
I also wish a special Happy New Year to those Australians who do not like us; I love them too, from the bottom of my heart.
It is true that these dear people insulted us by swearing and sending rude comments, and that their words broke our hearts and made us feel ashamed. In fact, their comments hurt us much more than even the harsh difficulties of detention; their comments made our situation harder to bear. These dear people made us cry, and cry again.
But I respect their views and read their comments. Then I offer their words to the clean clear waters of the ocean to carry to its farthest point so I don’t have to see them anymore. And I forgive them with all my heart, and wish them a Merry Christmas.
— Mohammad Ali Maleki, Manus Island, PNG


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.

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?

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.

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 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?

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,

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.

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.

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.