We know

Dear Prime Minister,

Reneé Pettitt-Schipp is a poet and former teacher of English to asylum seekers on Christmas Island. She continues to use the power of her poetic language and her increasing audience to remind us, again and again, of what we have done and continue to do.

The Will of Water
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
- Rumi

out beyond the reef
beyond the horizon, beyond
the breakers
there is a space
that will break
that will break, that will
unmake you

out beyond the breakers
beyond borders, tankers, Customs
out beyond eyes
beyond sight and the light
of conscience

hear the timbre of strain
sing a low, sad song
this vessel was never meant
to contain such weight

out in the middle of
we will decide who comes
and in the thick of the circumstances
every fear of each imagined ending
will engulf you
for we are a land that will not
(a line that will not)

out where mothers
are grasping for children’s limbs
we are losing patience with pity, turn away
we will not witness, it will not stick
for we did not see
heard no screams
let me wash my hands
I know nothing
of the will of water

out beyond the ocean
and all its undoing
you had a dream. I will meet you there
for when each life is at last allowed its living
the world will be too full
to write about.
— Reneé Pettitt-Schipp

You cannot wash your hands clean of what you continue to do. We artists will see to it.

Bring all refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to freedom and safety now.

Australia’s responsibility

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (formerly DIBP) claims that the refugees on Manus island are free to settle in Papua New Guinea and that they are supported to do so by PNG services. Yet nine of these men in Port Moresby were abruptly arrested by police on 20 February and forced to the airport to be flown back to Manus. As the UNHCR said in January:

Neither Papua New Guinea nor Nauru are appropriate places for local integration for the majority of refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly given their acute needs as a result of prolonged detention and harsh conditions.

PNG does not even have a register of how many refugees and asylum seekers are in Port Moresby and on Manus Island.

These men are our responsibility. Bring them here.

15 sick men forced back to camp

Dear Prime Minister,

Fifteen sick men were forcibly returned to Manus from Granville Lodge, Port Moresby [2 Feb].
Armed police and PNG Immigration officers forcibly removed 15 sick men from the Granville Lodge accommodation in Port Moresby about 3 am this morning. They took them back to West Haus and Hillside Haus, in Lorengau, Manus Island.
The group included 8 refugees and 7 asylum seekers. After waiting months in Port Moresby, many have received little or no medical treatment. Many have not finished their medical treatment, for some, their medical treatment had not commenced.
Many men who have been waiting for medical treatment since arriving in Port Moresby since August 2017 have not been given medical appointments yet.
IHMS has been the contracted medical services supplier to men taken against their will Manus Island. IHMS contract expires this month. There seems to be no other contractor now employed to provide those services.
Manus Island’s medical services are insufficient for the local population. Manus Island does not have the facilities to treat the sick men detained on Manus Island.

This is completely unacceptable. Withholding medical treatment from detainees is torture. End it now. Bring all detainees on Manus and Nauru to safety and freedom now.

Take me out of fences and bars

Dear Prime Minister,

I (a manus refugee) want to share my feeling with lovely people of Australia.

I did not decide to flee my country and family but the war and situation force me to leave my country. I have known a humanitarian country called Australia which gave safety to oppressed and coerced people like me in past.

Not in my case Australian Government give me five and continue years of imprisonment for seeking asylum, unaccountable torture, suffering, wounds and cries, deaths of my friends.

I live a life where system kill my every day every hour every minutes while my same boat people released in Australian community since 2013. Two years before I got positive refugee status am still in detention.

Tomorrow 2018 will start. I am begging for mercies. Let me and people like me on Manus, go.

Take me out of fences and bars......
— A Manus refugee

Prime Minister, I beg you, let this man go. Let all the refugees detained on Manus and Nauru go to safety and freedom.

Federal Cabinet can free refugees at any time

Dear Prime Minister,

The Australian government’s determination that the refugees residing on Manus and Nauru never come to Australia and its inability to find other homes for all of them has created what one MP calls an “intractable problem”. There are many intractable problems in international affairs but this is most certainly not one of them. The solution is a straightforward one and entirely within the authority of the federal cabinet to implement. It is high time it did so.
— Jenny Hayward-Jones,

Bring all refugees on Manus and Nauru 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? 

All refugees in detention are political prisoners

Dear Prime Minister,

The John Butler Trio opened the Amphitheatre at this year's Woodford folk festival. Across the big stage, in view of tens of thousands of people, was the banner 'All refugees in detention are political prisoners.'

In her letter to The Age, Anne Walker writes that:

It was galling to watch and hear the Prime Minister ask us all to be mindful of the welfare of others in this, the “most successful multicultural nation on earth” while we have had people locked up on Manus and Nauru for years in torment and despair.
— Anne Walker, Carlton

And on one of those places of despair, Manus Island, the torment by Australia continues. Forty Australian guards, formerly employed by Wilson Security at the now-closed Manus RPC, have been  re-employed by the new 'security provider', Paladin, at the three refugee centres of ELTC, Hillside and West Haus. Many of these guards have been accused of violence towards the refugees and participated in the destruction of food, water and property in November. It is now more than four weeks since the refugees were forcibly moved from Lombrun to Lorengau, yet the buildings at Hillside and West Haus are still not complete and there is no reliable access to fresh water, food, services, allowances, medicine, medical care or support services.

Who are the 'others' whose welfare you ask us to be mindful of? Only others like us? Or the most vulnerable, who continue to suffer the most, on Manus and Nauru.

End offshore detention #442

Dear Prime Minister,

After stopping access to cigarettes, coffee, tea and sugar Australian immigration has ordered IHMS on Manus to give the refugees one month's supply of their medications.

What risk is there to a person suffering from mental illness who is given a month's worth of pills?


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.

Just as dead

Dear Prime Minister,

Stopping refugee boats arriving is not a self-evident good. It might stop people drowning inconveniently in view of Australians at Christmas Island. But if they do not get on a boat and are, instead, killed by the Taliban they are just as dead as if they drowned. The real difference is that our conscience is not troubled by their un-noted death somewhere else.
— Julian Burnside

Australia's policy towards boat arrivals is a sham, is illegal, is immoral, is exorbitant and is lethal. Bring all detainees on Manus and Nauru to safety and freedom now.

PNG is extremely unsafe

Dear Prime Minister,

On the 24th September a message came from Manus Island:

Refugees in transit in Port Moresby, heading for US, were told not to leave the hotel as it is extremely unsafe.
It is interesting that Australian authorities are still coercing refugees who are remaining in Manus Island Detention Centre to get resettled in PNG.
— Manus Alert

Prime Minister, there is no safe resettlement for the refugees in PNG. End the torture and bring all men, women and children on Manus Island and Nauru to safety and freedom now.

Reunite the families

Dear Prime Minister,

The news in today's Guardian about the impossible position of Arash, an Iranian refugee on Nauru, is yet another reminder that Australia's harsh policy has immediate and terrible consequences which will impact on people for the rest of their lives.

Which ABF officials wrote the "release of custody" form to get Arash to give up his daughter to go to the USA? How can such personal cruelty contribute any benefit to Australia's security? Arash and his wife Mariam were forced to go to Nauru by Australia. Mariam had to be sent to Australia to give birth to their child because the healthcare on Nauru is 'rudimentary'. Arash was forced to stay behind on Nauru. He has never held his daughter. He says:

I feel like I am being held hostage, and for no reason, this is all just a nonsense. I see my baby on my phone, and I miss her every day. I need to hold my baby, I need to hug her. They have kept us apart for no reason, only to be cruel.

If I ring Minister Dutton's office about this issue I will be told that it is a a breach of privacy to discuss an individual's situation. This is how Australia hides its cruelty. But the consequences of this policy are felt, bitterly and tragically, as deeply personal by Arash and every other detainee on Manus Island and Nauru. The ABF employees who write forms to enact torture, the bureaucrats who devise harsher and harsher conditions to force the refugees to choose refoulement rather than die in detention, and Mike Pezullo who builds his career on magnifying the suffering of vulnerable people are the only beneficiaries of maintaining this privacy. This toxic system must be ended now.

Bring all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to safety and freedom.

No health care

Dear Prime Minister,

Why did Dr John Brayley, former chief medical officer of the Australian Border Force (ABF), resign last week? Who is overseeing the medical services for Australia's prisoners on Manus island and Nauru since Dr Brayley's resignation? Why has Minister Dutton not responded to Shadow Minister Neumann's concerns about medical treatment for asylum seekers on Nauru being blocked?

Why haven't you sacked Minister Dutton? Incompetence, repeated lying, $9.6 billion wasted, eight people dead are each reason enough.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. 

On behalf of the 413th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Mr Mansour Shoushtari, 43 years old, is an Iranian refugee. He is a mechanic and a devoted animal lover. He practises compassion and care for any animal or bird that he sees in need. Even after 4 years of detention on Manus Island. As Behrouz Boochani writes:

He is someone whose presence in Manus prison is a paradox; that is, his very being conflicts with the prison in fundamental ways. Shoushtari’s personality projects beauty, he projects tenderness, he projects kindness; his existence is in opposition to the violence of Manus prison, in opposition to the power of the prison, in opposition to the barbarity of the prison.
— Behrouz Boochani

Every man, woman and child we have detained and tortured in the pretense of keeping our already inviolable  borders "safe" is forced to pay an agonising price for our racism, xenophobia and political expediency. What kind of people are we who demand physical and mental suffering and death from vulnerable strangers to placate our own insecurities?

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?

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.

Remember Hamid Kehazaei

Dear Prime Minister,

I draw your attention to the words of Michelle Bui, written on behalf of Walid Zazai

Today marks 3 years since 24 year old Hamid Kehazaei had his life support turned off after being evacuated from Manus Island after a treatable infection paired with systemic medical negligence left him on the brink of death. His Mother described him as a “very sensitive, harmless, lovable” son, she stated “Of all my three boys, he was the most gentle and loving...When all his friends found out what had happened they were devastated. No one can believe this happened to such a gentle soul.”

The moment that Hamid entered Australia’s territorial waters, his body was marked, weaponised and subjected to repeated acts of state sanctioned violence in the name of Australia’s so-called policy of ‘deterrence’. He was interned in the Australian run immigration prison on Manus Island in unsanitary and unsafe conditions where political concerns were ultimately prioritised over his life.

In the days prior to his death, medical staff warned of a ‘life-threatening systemic infection’ and stated that available treatments on the island had been exhausted. The Immigration Department didn’t approve Hamid’s medical transfer to Port Moresby until a week later and subsequently failed to approve a medical transfer to Australia until almost 24 hours after the request was made. These fatal delays killed Hamid Kehazaei. His agonizing screams were ignored and he was denied treatment that could have saved his life.

The systemic violence that Hamid was subjected to has been reproduced in the cases of Faysal Ishak Ahmed and Hamid Shamshiripour who were both denied life-saving care.

Our thoughts are with Hamid’s friends and family who continue to mourn his loss. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to seek justice for Hamid and all those ruthlessly killed by Australia’s immigration system.
— Walid Zazai, with Michelle Bui

How do you respond to the statement: "The moment that Hamid entered Australia's territorial waters, his body was marked, weaponised and subjected to repeated acts of state sanctioned violence in the name of Australia's so-called policy of 'deterrence.'"?

Every man, woman and child on Manus Island and Nauru are in danger of death like Hamid's. We know it. We see it. We see that you endorse this torture and violent use of life for your own political ends. We demand that you end the agony of Manus and Nauru immediately and bring all asylum seekers to safety and freedom now.

Silence Land. A poem by Mohammad Ali Maleki

Dear Prime Minister,

The peaceful protests continue on Manus. The children on Nauru still have never walked on grass, only poisonous gravel. Men on Manus are handcuffed and flown to Port Moresby. An elderly, sick Rohingya man was told he must sign papers to go back to Myanmar or he will not be given any water or food. In Myanmar the Burmese army are burning Rohingyas alive. Ronnie Knight, MP of Manus Island, tweets that Toll are going to build a new detention centre on Manus. PNG police arrest any refugees they find unless they are paid cash. Women on Nauru cannot get terminations for their pregnancies while their rapists go unpunished. You are Prime Minister. This is done in your name. This will be your legacy.

Mohammad Ali Maleki fears he is losing his mind now that he is in his fifth year in Manus hell. He writes:

Silence Land

I have doubts about my sanity:
not everyone can bear this much.
They stole all my feelings;
there’s no wisdom left in my mind.
I am just a walking dead man.
I am just a walking dead man.

I yelled for help so many times –
No one on this earth took my hand.
Now I see many mad things and imagine
how the world would look if it collapsed.

Perhaps it would be good for everything to return to the past;
for nothing to be seen on the earth or in the sky.
It would feel so good to be a child
again and go back to my mother’s womb.
For there to be no sign of me,
for me never to have gone crazy in this place.

What if the woollen jacket I am wearing unravels
and begins to fall apart?
Or the butterfly flies back to its cocoon,
or the autumn leaf grows green and returns
to its branch on that old tree?
What if the tree becomes a seed in the soil –
I sound crazy speaking this way!

It’s the outcome of being detained for four years
after seeking asylum on the sea.

What if that sea returned to its source
and flowed back to the river mouth?
If that river receded back up into its spring?
What if only the sun and the moon remained in the sky?
If I saw even the sun’s birth reversed,
watched it dissipate into space?
Witnessed the moon implode upon itself?

All things returning to their starting place…

How beautiful, to live in a colourless world,
everywhere silent and still.
The earth would be calm for a moment,
free of even one miscreant.

But what do you make of my vision –
am I sane or mad?
— Mohammad Ali Maleki trans. Monsoor Shostari ed. Michelle Seminara