A merciless fear provoked by last night’s events has gripped the Manus Island camp

A merciless fear provoked by last night’s events has gripped the Manus Island camp

Originally Published in The Guardian.

Behrouz Boochani is a journalist and an Iranian refugee held on Manus Island since August 2014. The Guardian invited Boochani to keep a diary of the countdown to the closure of the Australian-run detention camp that closed on Tuesday.

Wednesday 1 November

Last night the refugees were in a state of absolute exhaustion, starvation and thirst. They drifted into sleep as they wasted away. We have not been able to sleep well during recent months; the possibility of sleeping at night has been completely disrupted, particularly in recent weeks. Nightmares have been an inseparable part of our sleep and our lives. After the generators in Oscar compound have been shut off, many have left their hot tents and moved into other camps. As people are moving to other camps I observe this horrendous scene playing out before me. Their movements resemble people who are left wandering due to war, but it is people seeking refuge in a neighbouring country.

Rooms and tents are crammed with people, and the atmosphere is filled with tumult and a deafening ruckus. It is a tropical ecosystem out here, full of insects and oppressively hot. Without the benefits of having power, insects chew into the skin. The constant, unbearable fear is provoked by the events last night. This relentless fear continues to haunt us, a merciless fear has gripped the camp. Fear of being attacked, fear of being murdered. We decide to assign some people to watch the camp and inform others in case something suspicious happens or police attacks us.

Nevertheless, if any incident occurred last night, would there have been a place for us to take refuge? Surely not. And this is the reality of Manus today. If we are attacked, we will be nothing but a group of defenceless bodies. It took a long time for everyone to fall asleep, or maybe they were just pretending to sleep. Sleeping with absolute exhaustion, sleeping with starvation, sleeping with thirst. This is the most disastrous situation ever.

At 7am in the morning, the generators suddenly shut off. Subsequently, all refugees wake up at the same time. After a few minutes, dozens wander around the camp again. The heat is unbearable out here. This is hell out here. Hunger makes everyone angry, the atmosphere is full of tension out here, and there is struggle and tumult. In these tragic circumstances, a refugee has cut his wrist and his chest using a razor. It has agitated the situation even more for a while. It is like throwing a match into gunpowder, adding fuel to the fire. Shouts come up and tension rise. It takes a while until the situation becomes stable again. But the fear remains.

 When the power is cut off the water in the toilets is also automatically cut off. This means the toilets have become even filthier. They stink to high heaven, it is extremely annoying and debasing. It is so humiliating. I have witnessed with my own eyes how a human being can degrade another human being, using toilets as a technology of torture. It is utterly disturbing when one comes to the realisation of the cruel machinations of a human being, of what a human being is capable of.

At 9am PNG immigration officers come and tell us: “You have to leave this place, there is no way you can stay.” However, it is very dangerous outside. In the past, refugees have been attacked several times, even the police cannot guarantee their safety. We are stuck here, no way to go forward, no way to go back.

Senator Nick McKim comes to see us again. He tries to enter the camp, but immigration officers threaten him in a manner that resembles a form of faux respect: “If you do not leave here within five minutes, you will be arrested.” He has to go. It is like a war zone here and people have become refugees all over again. They have become homeless in the detention centre; their faces are frightened, distressed and weary. Their eyes … their eyes are looking up at the sky, they are looking up at the clouds. Looking forward to rain. If it rains, the weather will cool down. Also, they can save water. They have trust in the Manusian ecosystem. It is a tropical ecosystem out here; it will rain in the evening for sure. Nature will not abandon us. Right now, there are hundreds of men out here with their clothes stripped off, they are wandering around.

We have no idea what will happen tonight. It is both horrific and surreal when the threat of an attack and abandonment is fused with extreme starvation, thirst and instances of self-harm. The worst part of this oppression and debilitation is the humiliation. Throughout this whole ordeal we have been utterly debased. The situation in the toilets, the lack of food and water, the insulting visits by Australian and local representatives and guards, the looting of out belongings, the abandonment … the abandonment … It is humiliating to be thrown into this prison space for years and now left to deteriorate.

There is a rumour in this camp that the navy is ready to attack. The fear is unbearable. We have taken control of the camp and refuse to be forced into a place we are not wanted and where we do not feel safe at all. However, even though we have experienced a glimmer of autonomy by deciding to stay here against all odds, it is like we are now living under the sword of Damocles. The edge of the sword is looming over our heads.

I am worried about my physical health. I have become very weak over this past week. I have not slept. I am extremely concerned about my whole state of being. I am no longer afraid of experiencing nightmares as I sleep. I am now undergoing a surreal experience where the horrifying reality of my waking state has taken on the characteristics of the most harrowing nightmare, and this nightmare is more horrendous than I can ever imagine.

  • Translated by Moones Mansoubi

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AUSTRALIA STRANDS REFUGEES ON REMOTE ISLAND W/ HOSTILE LOCALS

AUSTRALIA STRANDS REFUGEES ON REMOTE ISLAND W/ HOSTILE LOCALS

 

A common narrative is people washing up on tropical island after their boats have become lost at sea.

The refugees on Manus Island did embark on a dangerous voyage by boat but that is not why they are now in this predicament, at least not directly.

Fleeing their home countries for security reasons they arrived on Australian shores and asked for protection.

Unfortunately for those on Manus the Australian government had just implemented a policy to send all people who arrived by boat to offshore processing centres.

These centers are in developing nations who this colonial power can bully and bribe with money.

Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island fits the bill for this policy which seeks to send a message to other refugees that Australia is not a welcoming humanitarian country (as many believe).

After some three years of locking refugees in the derelict centre on Manus the PNG supreme court ruled this incarceration unconstitutional.

A series of events have lead to the current situation where detainees feel safer in the cage they have so longed to escape from than outside.

Even when not surrounded by wire on Manus they are still held captive by the ocean and the administrative chains which deny them the freedom we take for granted.

Fearful for their lives if they leave the center and move to the new accommodation closer to town they are now isolated.

Gradually all staff and nearly all services have been withdrawn from the center.

The 615 men have stockpiled water and food preparing for what now is an unknown future.

As  October 31 draws to a close some areas of the center still have services – power, unpotable water.

Unable to record an interview about of poor reception Farhad sent me some voice clips explaining the situation at the center.

Download from Radio4all

Terrified some men are now sleeping and others are keeping watch, ever fearful of attacks by locals.

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I Will Not Celebrate the Release of Baby Asha

This is a continuation of something I wrote for the 4ZZZ AnarchyShow today.

Regarding the release of Baby Asha into community detention.

This is not a victory. This is one step along the road to victory. There have been many steps before this and there are many to come.

There’s still over 260 people in Australia facing deportation to Nauru including 36 other babies.

Personally I know the relatives of a Kurdish baby and her family who are in Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation.

This is called a transit centre because it is for people in transit. This baby is set for return to Nauru. And it seems this will happen soon.

This is no reason for celebration.

There are still almost 1500 people in Australia’s offshore detention hellholes.

I will not be celebrating until they are brought back to this country and are living in the community.

The government and opposition still have offshore detention policies.

I will not be celebrating until these are abolished.

I will not be celebrating until the government has a fair and just refugee determination process.

Minister Dutton has said Baby Asha will be sent back to Nauru after all legal and medical issues are resolved.

Like other refugees brought from Nauru to Australia if Baby Asha and her family are found in need of our protection – through the recently introduced dodgy fast track policy – they will be sent back to Nauru.

Fungal diseases have become epidemic in the so called community on Nauru. Just imagine conditions in tents with no air-conditioning.
Fungal diseases have become epidemic in the so called community on Nauru.
Just imagine conditions in tents with no air-conditioning.

They also will have the ‘opportunity’ to settle in Cambodia or another of Australia’s poor neighbors who are bribed by our government to take them.

If they are found not to be owning of our ‘protection’ they will have to stay on Nauru or be sent back to the country they fled.

In Baby Asha’s case Nepal where her family are part of a persecuted Christian minority.

This is no reason to celebrate.

There is no reason to celebrate while lawyers for Baby Asha and family are being denied access to their clients.

I will not be celebrating while I am receiving messages from people (they are people, not numbers, not statistics) saying they are sick of life in the Manus Island detention facility and want to die.

I will not be celebrating while cats walk around inside the hospital in Nauru.

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A cat can be seen in the background although the condition are bad in without the cat

I won’t be celebrating until there is justice for Reza Berati, Hamid Kehazaei, Leo Seemanpillai, Fazel Chegeni, Omid Avazali, Ali Muhammad, Mohammad Nasim Najafi and all the others who have died because of Australia’s refugee policies.

This includes deaths, there is a way to ensure we help refugees without them having to risk their lives at sea.

Basically I won’t be celebrating until Australia has humanity at the centre of all things not money.

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Reza Berati’s grave he was murdered during unrest on Manus Island in 2014, no one has been convicted of his death.

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The conditions Baby Asha will grow up in if sent back to Nauru

NAURUAN CRANE CLIMBER ARRESTED BY POLICE

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Refugee Action Coalition
MEDIA ALERT

NAURUAN CRANE CLIMBER ARRESTED BY POLICE

The Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Khestinzhad, who staged a nine hour
protest on top of a the crane on Nauru on Friday (27 November), has
been arrested by Nauruan police.

Reza was taken to the IHMS clinic on Friday, around 6.30pm, after he
ended the protest and came down from the crane.

But this morning, Sunday, 29 November, Nauruan police arrested him at
the clinic and took him to the police station, where he is being held.

Police refused to allow his sister to see him at the police station
today and indicated that he would be held until at least Wednesday,
although police have not said what charge, if any, he would face.

“We are extremely worried for Reza’s welfare,” said Ian Rintoul,
spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “Reza should not be in
jail. The police are an extension of the Nauruan government that is
doing everything it can to stifle the right to protest on Nauru,
including arbitrary arrest.

“Reza’s only crime was to send a message to the world that Nauru is a
prison island.”

Meanwhile, today, Sunday 29 November, a Sri Lanka asylum seeker has
scaled a high tree near the family camp on Nauru. The asylum seeker
has been in the tree since 9am, Nauruan time.

The man, his wife and a daughter, have been held on Nauru for two and
half years.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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Teacher Outcry at Students Detention

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Brisbane teachers have taken “historic” industrial action in their campaign to release an asylum-seeking high school student from a detention centre.

More than 50 teachers from Yeronga State High School, including principal Terry Heath, staged the strike in support of 21-year-old Mojgan Shamsalipoor on Tuesday afternoon.

Asylum seeker Ms Shamsalipoor was months away from graduating at the school when a failed visa application saw her forcibly removed from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre in August and taken to a Darwin detention centre.

A spokeswoman for immigration minister Peter Dutton says he stands by the authorities’ decision to refuse the student refugee status and she should be deported.

“This is historic action,” said teacher Jessica Walker, who is leading the campaign to free Ms Shamsalipoor.

“Teachers have taken industrial action because of human rights abuses for the first time.

“It’s hugely significant and it’s only the beginning.”

After being refused refugee status, campaigners are now asking for Mr Dutton to allow Ms Shamsalipoor, who married fellow student Milad Jafari, also 21, to apply for a partner visa without the need to return to her native Iran.

“He has the power to do that and we urge him to do the right thing,” Ms Walker added.

Ms Shamsalipoor arrived illegally (sic – it is not illegal to seek asylum) in Australia by boat in 2012 after fleeing Iran to escape sexual abuse and an arranged marriage to a man in his 60s.

Dozens of students joined their teachers in a rally outside the school to call for the release of Ms Shamsalipoor, who managed to complete her year 12 studies from the detention centre with the help of the school.

In a speech directed at Mr Dutton, 17-year-old Eden Boyd said: “As young Australians we feel betrayed by the injustice of this situation.”

MP Mark Bailey said he supported the community campaign and has urged Mr Dutton to grant a visa to the student, who fears she will be killed if she returns to Iran.

AAP Photos by Mark Gillespie

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To the Australian People from Manus Island

In the heart of the dark nights, I yell out through the mass of metallic and hard fences. Surrounded by agony and torture, I yell out right next to the tropical birds, thousands kilometre further away from the people’s world, in the heart of a remote island located in the corner of the vastest ocean in the world.

In the name of humanity and freedom, I yell out, in the name of all the values, values which connect human’s dignity with peace. I yell out, a yell from the hell where people are tortured and humiliated in a systematic form.

A yell having the quality of those flower-like ambitions when their petals are being plucked cruelly and a yell having the quality of a heart which has been crushed under the steel boots of politicians. Here is the hellhole Manus island.

Protecting the boarders and saving lives from the dangerous sea journey are the excuses for this brutal policy (The excuses for this brutal policy are to protect the boarders and to save lives from the dangerous boat journey).

After 27 months of implementing this policy, now it is time to impartially evaluate how this policy has been applied. During this long period, the Australian government has been accused of human rights violations by most of the credible international organisations which are active in human rights realm.

So far two people have lost their lives in the Manus prison ( detention centre). On Naura, dozen cases of rape and violence against women and children have been recorded, and with the continuance of this policy, everyday new cases are being added to the list of rape and violence.

Unfortunately, the government still insists on pursuing this policy. after 27 months, no one has been settled on Manus island yet. It shows that there is no planing for refugee resettlement on the island. Thus we could say that an obvious and official hostage-taking is occoring because since then no one has been resettled and no one has been released from the prison.

It is an apparent reality that saving people’s lives at sea is being used as a cover to implement the inhuman and immoral policy. Unfortunately, this policy has not had any achivement, it has just caused the intense suffering and the extreme agony for detainee asylum seekers as well as damages to the reputation and the credibility of Australia in the worldwide public opinion. It seems that it is time for Australian people to yell loudly at the government to urge it to confess that the policy of Naura and Manus resettlement has reached a dead end, and also to urge the government to bring an end to this harsh policy as soon as possible.

Behrouz Boochani Journalist and human rights defender Manus prison 5 October 2015

FREE BEHROUZWRITE OF ASYLUM