To read more on why Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers is a “catastrophe of conscious and political creation” with the ‘saving drownings’ myth exposed, click here AND
For detail on the recent revelations that the Australian government used increasingly more harsh measures to drive refugees and asylum seekers from the detention centre KNOWING the ‘possibility of “extreme” outcomes’, information on the leaked documents can be found here.
Imprisoned on Manus
Representatives of the Australian government have continually portrayed the alternate facilities to the original Manus Island detention centre (Regional Processing Centre) as the solution to the legally enforced closure of the premises where innocent asylum seekers were incarcerated for up to 4½ years. The facilities of Hillside Haus, the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre and West Lorengau Haus have – according to Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and all government representatives to whom pleas have been made or comments sought – been not just ‘completed for weeks’ but are emphatically “not prisons” but ‘accommodation facilities with full services (including medical support).’
- Anywhere that you are not able to leave (a building, a town, a small island …) – whether you’re being detained; because you fear for your safety; or that there is nowhere else for you to go – can be a prison i.e. if something is preventing you from leaving when you wish to, you’re imprisoned.
Having no future beyond basic existence from day to day is a prison.
Not being able to see your family – including newborn children you have never met – is a prison.
Being treated like a criminal and having few rights and freedoms makes your life a prison.
Being denied your human rights simply because you sought to find a place where you weren’t denied your human rights significantly diminishes you as a human being.
Sometimes prison is a state of mind.
Sometimes it’s a physical structure.
The refugees on Manus Island are forced to endure both.
- The alternative facilities are not completed and the sections that are habitable are far from luxurious. There is also not plenty of room for everyone.
- Adequate medical support is not available at any of the facilities – particularly when healthcare is required for people suffering not just with chronic and acute illnesses but from trauma and ongoing complex mental health issues – to say nothing of injuries sustained by the force used to relocate them from the RPC. Both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and MSF Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have requested access to the asylum seekers on Manus in recent weeks. The AMA offer was rejected and even though the MSF was granted approval to assess the health and wellbeing of the asylum seekers following the forced relocation from the RPC, when their representatives tried to do so, they were denied access. So men with serious illnesses remain neglected in circumstances that can only exacerbate their health issues.
- When innocent people have expressed serious concerns about alternative accommodation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ has clearly stated concern that the situation those people are in is deteriorating rapidly and is already a humanitarian crisis BUT … the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has rejected the UN’s criticism and said that detainees’ protests are simply to put political pressure on the Australian Government, then those innocent people are once again rendered defenceless and dehumanised.
Having been assured that there will be no physical duress applied but then being forced to leave their camp through the use of aggression and violence wielded by people with power and authority, it’s likely that the destination detainees are taken to unwillingly will feel like a prison. Then if those same authorities kill their pets – nurtured from stray animals – (who have been one of the only sources of comfort for years for the incarcerated asylum seekers), trust in those authorities to ensure safety for the asylum seekers is beyond decimated. All this can only create an atmosphere of extreme vulnerability and powerlessness. When such an atmosphere has already existed for years.
So it is clear that …
Hillside Haus, the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre and West Lorengau Haus are not a solution. They are the problem.
Support for Asylum Seekers simply “the emotion that’s on Twitter“?
Despite Australia’s Immigration Minister conflating the widespread demands to grant refugees and asylum seekers their basic human rights as “the emotion that’s on Twitter“, significant organisations and individuals continue to protest the Australian government’s treatment of the Manus asylum seekers and refugees:
- Internationally, the UNHCR, Amnesty International and numerous experts on immigration and human rights law have expressed outrage at Australia’s ongoing treatment of refugees and particular horror at the continued descent into greater cruelty imposed on the men on Manus Island
- Very recently, a group of Rhodes scholars wrote to their fellow Oxford alumnus, Malcolm Turnbull, expressing “disapproval, horror and shame” at the treatment of detainees being held on Manus and Nauru.
- Within the last week, twelve former Australians of the Year wrote to the Australian Prime Minister to express their urgent concern for the safety and welfare of the asylum seekers left on Manus Island stating “we’re all unified in our absolute abhorrence of Australia’s handling of this situation“.
- Australian religious leaders who recently visited Manus Island camp have said that what the Australian government is doing is “absolutely inexcusable“, demanding “safety and justice” for the men stranded there and
- World Vision’s Tim Costello too made a trip to the island following the forced removal of the asylum seekers from the RPG and was refused entry to the new facilities but could easily conclude that at least one of the new ‘finished’ facilities is still a construction site.
No one is denying that emotion is involved. No one would dispute that some of that is being expressed via social media. Emotion comes from compassion. Compassion is an attribute that allows human beings to exist together instead of each living in individual isolation. And if representatives of international and national organisations as well as members of the public feel emotionally moved by the appalling actions of the Australian government, it is because they not only know the laws that are being broken and the lies that are being told, they cannot help but acknowledge the effect those conscious actions are having on the lives of innocent and vulnerable human beings.
But minimising the well-informed free speech of expert organisations and of citizens who hold their government to the basic moral and legal values they claim to stand for is a wholly inappropriate response to justified criticism. It is the reaction of bullies, the response of ego-driven people with closed minds. Only those who utilise selective information or falsehoods to argue their case need to diminish those who have called their narrative into question.
Those who speak out against unlawful cruelty and misuse of power in favour of adherence to legal, international, national and moral obligations more often than not are doing so for others, sometimes even for the impact on future generations.
Those who brush aside facts that oppose the rhetoric orchestrated to suit the ends of only a few (who already wield considerable power) are thinking only of themselves.
Who would you like to represent you in government?
Who would you have on your side in a crisis?
If you oppose the ongoing actions of the Australian government, please tell them. And then tell them again. So they can’t discard the expectations of those who believe in human rights and legal obligations as “the emotion on Twitter“.
Malcolm Turnbull: 02 9327 3988 or
02 6277 7700 (Parliament House Office)
Peter Dutton: 07 3205 9977 or
02 6277 7860 (Parliament House Office)
Julie Bishop: 08 9388 0288 or
02 6277 7500 (Parliament House Office)
Bill Shorten: 03 9326 1300 or
02 6277 4022 (Parliament House Office)
Tanya Plibersek: 02 9379 0700 or
02 6277 4404 (Parliament House Office)
Finally, if you would like to express your support and concern directly to asylum seekers held in indefinite detention throughout this festive season, you can sign the open letter composed by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.