politics

A few more

Dear Prime Minister,

The fifth group of refugees have been flown from offshore detention to the USA. President Obama offered to swap 1250 refugees with refugees waiting to get into the US. But since that time, only 139 refugees have left Nauru and 85 from Manus Island.

What about the remaining 1800+? Why is it taking so long? Why have no Iranians, Somalis or Sudanese gone to the US?

Demolition doesn't erase crime

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani reports:

The old prison camp that was closed on 23 Nov has been completely demolished. Some bulldozers are working there and have completely destroyed Mike, Delta, Oscar and Foxtrot compounds. There are only a few places that remain - P block which was built in the Second World War and was used to accommodate about 130 refugees for a year in 2013-14; and a few rooms in Foxtrot where the Sri Lankan refugees were living. Also some of the fences around Foxtrot are still standing but they are being demolished too. These parts of Manus prison that are being destroyed were officially known as “RPC1.” They are an important part of history and it’s unacceptable that they are being demolished because they should not be forgotten. There are many places on Manus with important heritage, like damaged ships from the Second World War, that the government is protecting. But they demolished Manus prison because they are also a part of it and don’t want the evidence to remain as part of the island’s history. You cannot wipe this history clean by destroying Manus prison camp.
— Behrouz Boochani

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, http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/australia-refugee-2017/

Bring all refugees on Manus and Nauru 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.

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.

Enough is enough

Dear Prime Minister,

It’s going to take a very strong leader to turn and say enough is enough
— Russell Broadbent, Liberal MP

Can you be that leader, Prime Minister? Can you rise to the challenge laid down by Mr Russell Broadbent, Liberal MP, when he spoke at a book launch last week?

What is happening on Manus and Nauru can’t go on ...
If you believe this country is what I believe this country is, this situation is unacceptable. The situation on Manus is unacceptable – because I believe this country paints a picture of who it is.
— http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/unacceptable-liberal-mp-russell-broadbent-slams-own-government-over-refugees-20170923-gynccp.html

And what picture do we paint? As Mr Broadbent laments, it is a 'sad tale of our response to people often fleeing terrible, terrible hardship,' which was 'something that we as a nation have no sympathy for or understanding of.' This is why you must show strong leadership, Prime Minister. Mr Broadbent acknowledged that the public, especially women, cannot abide indefinite detention of refugees. He encouraged his audience to send letters to Malcolm Turnbull. And so I am. While the 50 refugees prepare to leave for USA I write on behalf of the many others who remain tortured in limbo on Manus Island and Nauru. And, in my 422nd letter to you, once again I ask that you bring all the men, women and children detained there to safety and freedom.

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.

Fifty of 2000 accepted to USA

Dear Prime Minister,

What support and assistance is Australia giving to the refugees who have been told that they have been accepted to the US? What about the many others who have not been offered asylum? Why have the offers from countries such as Denmark been blocked by Australia?

Australia has had more than 4 years to process the claims and resettle the asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru. We have had 18 months since PNG found the Manus RPC to be illegal. Every additional day compounds the suffering. Give amnesty now to all detainees on Manus and Nauru and bring them to safety and freedom.

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?

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, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australia-s-long-history-offshore-detention

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.

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.

Australia's lies

Dear Prime Minister,

...This week, the Dutton claim was that refugee policy goals are “frustrated” by the Constitution is utterly wrong, in law and in fact. Under s51(xxvii), the Commonwealth is constitutionally authorised to make laws with regard to immigration. This is not complex. There is no ambiguity. A constitutional head of power for the Commonwealth to make laws on migration exists and laws on migration it makes.
One such law is the Migration Act 1958 (Cth). The current policy is that anybody who arrives in the migration zone by boat to seek asylum will never be re-settled in Australia. This monstrosity is codified into s5AA, which defines “unlawful maritime arrival” to include babies born in Australia to asylum seekers we have forcibly sent to offshore detention.
Ponder this: Australia is predominantly ruled by people descended from boat arrivals — people who not only found asylum but have prospered from untold riches derived directly from stolen land. These people systematically murdered descendants of the actual first fleets, which arrived 60,000 years ago and produced descendants like Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, who constantly boasts that this is the most successful multicultural nation on earth. White people presume to define what is “un-Australian” in the public debate and have defined at law who is un-Australian forever, based on their mode of arrival being by boat.
...
All are equal before the law. Refugees have legal rights. Murder is always wrong and thus mass murder is too. It is logically impossible to enter somebody else’s land and then slaughter them in self-defence. No, the free speech “right” of Andrew Bolt to disseminate harmful racist nonsense can not be reconciled with summary offences used to criminalise black people who say “fuck” near a police officer.
— Ingrid Matthews, Western Sydney University School of Law

Prime Minister, get out of this sewer of lies. Change the vile Immigration act which expressly demonises and punishes asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Give amnesty to all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru.

final departure Bridging E visa

Dear Prime Minister,

I asked in yesterday's letter what would Minister Dutton's next unspeakable act be: here it is, already. Detainees from Manus Island and Nauru, who are in limbo in Australia after being sent here for medical treatment, will have the paltry amount of financial support removed, given only three weeks to find accommodation and put on a 6-month visa.

'We want people to go [back] voluntarily' said Dutton.

By starving them and making them homeless? By sending women with babies back to where they were raped? By sending men back to a demolished prison and certain violence?

Here are some of the immediate responses:
Red Cross: 'humanitarian needs must come first'
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: 'We are not going to let these people go back ... we're going to fight.'
The Hon Bill Shorten, MP: 'Your weakest move yet.'
The Greens: 'this unspeakable cruel act'
Law Council of Australia: 'nothing "un-Australian" about human rights'

What a squalid, depraved little paragraph of Australian history you are carving out for yourself.

 

Australia has no plan

Dear Prime Minister,

Papua New Guinea will not allow Australia to abandon the refugees detained on Manus Island by Australia. The PNG Attorney General says that the PNG government has not agreed to the closure of the detention centre on 31st October. PNG demands Australia find a safe, viable place for the men trapped there. Amir Taghinia said:

This proves that the Australian Government does not have any plan. They are just playing a game and people are very desperate. After 4 years, we just want a chance to build a life in safety.
— Amir Taghinia

What is your solution, Prime Minister?

Show leadership

Dear Prime Minister,

Emeritus Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill (UNSW) was interviewed on Radio NZ today. He reminds us that Australia was integral to solving the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis of the 1970s and 1980s by working closely with other countries in our region. But when Australia's current 'Stop the Boats' regime started there was no resettlement plan for the detainees. Neither Nauru nor Papua New Guinea have the social, political or cultural resources to take refugees detained there. They are not viable options for resettlement. This four-year-long deadlock is due to the mistake of making 'tough' policies which have removed all options. Australia has painted itself into a corner therefore no other country will negotiate with us because we have nothing to offer in return.

Professor Goodwin-Gill challenges Australia to take the opportunity for leadership, in the local region and globally, in the interests of refugees, migrants and countries. There will be no progress unless we co-operate with other countries and obey international law. We must stop playing tough and being arbitrary.

Prime Minister, last week you claimed to be a strong leader. The issue of Australia's refugee and migrant policy gives you an even bigger role for leadership than the Marriage postal survey. Please demonstrate your leadership and find a humane, immediate solution for the men, women and children trapped by Australia on Manus Island and Nauru.

Enough.

Dear Prime Minister,

'Enough' -- Russell Broadbent, MP.

'This country's migration policy for refugees and asylum seekers has become an international disgrace.' -- Senator Lisa Singh.

'Of course its important to follow the rules – but to lose our heart, to lose our care? … While the law is important, the heart is more important.' -- Cathy McGowan, MP.

End offshore detention and bring all asylum seekers and refugees to freedom and safety.

Australia's responsibility #380

Dear Prime Minister

Alison Battisson, Human Rights Lawyer, has said:

Saeed’s case is another example of an asylum seeker getting lost in an unfamiliar legal system. Australias’s system for hearing and reviewing protection claims is so complex that many find it impossible to navigate. All we ask is that the Minister hear Saeed’s full story
— Alison Battisson

Saeed's brother and other refugees from the same Iraqi minority group were granted asylum in Australia but , on a technicality, Saeed was not. Ms Battisson was working with Saeed to appeal his case directly to the Minister, as is Saeed's right. However, today she found out too late that 15 officers forcibly removed Saeed from Villawood detention centre and put him on a plane back to Iraq despite his extremely frail health.

This is the same racist system which keeps refugees tortured and imprisoned on remote islands, keeps tens of thousands of recognised refugees without work, welfare, health care or education in limbo in Australia, forces employees to betray their professional duty of care and costs inconceivably large amounts of money. Is Saeed's death the price of your Prime Ministership?

Your yellow tie was apt

Dear Prime Minister,

Today I took my protest directly to you at Albany. I saw you deliberately avert your eyes twice: as you left the ANZAC Centre and then later as you were driven away from the civic reception. This is what our banners say:

Refugees are Welcome
End Offshore Detention

and 

4 years
7 Dead
169 Kids
$5 Billion
Manus Nauru

Lest We Forget. Manus. Nauru.

Lest We Forget. Manus. Nauru.

Prime Minister, I have written you 368 letters and today driven 100km to see you in person. Yet you were too cowardly to even look at us, let alone speak with us. The people we have locked up illegally on Manus Island and Nauru are in dire need after 4 years of torture. Today cleaning and rubbish services were stopped at Manus detention centre. Power and water have been cut off. The men there are in immediate danger, entirely caused by Australia. Bring them all to Australia now.