With the Manus Island Detention Centre officially closing tomorrow (31 Oct), a crisis is imminent.
HUNDREDS of people (more than 600 of whom have already been formally recognised as having refugee status) who wanted to reach Australia to make lives for themselves in peace-loving communities are set to face abandonment on an island where they are not welcome, following up to 4 years of torturous imprisonment.
The Australian government has been cutting off food/water/power supplies to the centre in recent weeks as well as dismantling the fences. Tomorrow, the facility will be handed over to the PNG Defence Forces.
Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre – who has been to Manus three times to investigate conditions on the ground – had no doubt that there are multiple grounds for refugees to fear for their safety …
“PNG military personnel have attacked these men once before. Now our Government is tearing down the fences and putting them in charge. The UN has already called this a humanitarian disaster. It could be about to turn into a bloodbath.”
And the refugees and asylum seekers know they are not safe within the local community.
Four days before the official closure, Behrouz Boochani wrote a piece ‘from the inside’ for the Guardian. His own empathy means that he understands the feelings of the local people.
“…they do not feel safe with 800 foreign men among them. Their feeling of insecurity is understandable if one considers the circumstances characterising the Manus Island society: one must account for the cultural framework of the local people, their economy and demographics. The population on Manus Island exceeds 40,000 people, most of which live in villages nestled in the jungle. Only a small number – just over 3,000 people – live in Lorengau. This is a tribal society, living according to traditional cultures unique to Manus Island. Also, the island’s economy is totally based on a traditional system that is connected with the natural environment. With the closure of the RPC more than 2,000 jobs will cease to exist in a small traditional society that does not have the capacity or the readiness to accommodate hundreds of refugees; not to mention that a high percentage want to settle down with their families.”
A report by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 40 refugees and asylum seekers indicates that young intoxicated local men have been robbing and attacking the former detainees using sticks, machetes, rocks, knives and screwdrivers.
Six detainees have already died – the majority of whom committed suicide.
And with health services to be terminated at the former detention centre, PNG’s general healthcare system in crisis and the high prevalence of mental health issues among the refugee cohort, leaving men who have been incarcerated for up to 4 years – following the trauma of leaving their war-torn or oppressive homeland – is seen by many medical professionals as highly risky.
Only 25 Manus detainees have been accepted under the US resettlement deal and, unsurprisingly, few Manus detainees have taken up the Australian government’s ‘offer’ to relocate to the Nauru detention centre. Amir Taghinia from Iran stated clearly:
We do not want to move there because this is another detention centre, this is another island prison.
And now, the PNG immigration minister has clearly stated that those who don’t want to to remain after the detention centre closure are Australia’s responsibility.
“PNG has offered refugees the option of resettlement but will not force refugees who do not wish to settle in the country … they remain the responsibility of Australia.”
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, agreed saying:
“Australia has bullied the PNG government into meeting this arbitrary deadline of October 31, while providing no long term solution for the men trapped on Manus … Australia should start living up to its international obligations and immediately transfer all the men to safety.”
Australian citizens who believe that their government must TAKE this responsibility to do:
- what is legally obligated as a signatory of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and/or
- what is morally obligated as one of the world’s better resourced nations where multiculturalism is espoused as a key pillar of Australian society and/or
- what is humane and true to the values of ‘mateship’ and helping out innocent people who are suffering
have the opportunity to act NOW …
… send an EMPATHY EMAIL via emailpathy.com OR
email the following people directly with your expectations as to how they should be representing the values of all Australians as well as the legal obligations of a democratic government committed to responsible global behaviour:
Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister (via online form)
Bill Shorten, Opposition Leader (whose Labor party also advocates offshore detention)
AND PLEASE SHARE THIS POST AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN –
one email might not seem like much.
But one email from 1/4 of the Australian population = 6 MILLION emails.
AUSTRALIAN POLITICANS MUST REPRESENT AUSTRALIANS
AUSTRALIANS CANNOT STAND BY WHILE INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE TORTURED AND ABANDONED IN OUR NAME