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Issue #1669      January 21, 2015

Manus in meltdown

As the Guardian went to press up to 700 asylum seekers were on hunger strike on Manus Island. Noisy protests continued into the night at Delta compound as no water had been delivered to the compound and asylum seekers had to burrow under the perimeter fence to reach bottled water left outside the compound fence.

Last Saturday, more than 200 asylum seekers were taken to the medical centre for treatment after collapsing in their compounds.

At times asylum seekers have been left lying unconscious in their compounds or left on the ground outside the make-shift field clinic because there are not enough stretchers or mattresses for the numbers requiring treatment.

Another two people swallowed washing powder in the early hours of this morning.

Two supposed “ring-leaders” have also been taken into the notorious isolation unit Chauka. A letter signed by over 80 asylum seekers in Foxtrot Compound has spelled out their fears about resettlement in PNG.

“As the asylum seekers’ letter says, there is a disaster happening on Manus Island. The real fears of the asylum seekers can’t be ignored. There is no viable prospect for refugees to be resettled in PNG. The first step is to stop the forced removal of refugees to insecure temporary housing on January 22,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“There needs to be urgent discussions about possible third country resettlement. The asylum seekers are asking for the UNHCR to be involved with resettlement discussions. The ball is in the Minister’s court. He can keep pretending that the protests aren’t happening or he can act to prevent the unfolding disaster.”

Foxtrot letter:

To whom it may concern:

“It is been a week that hundreds of asylum seekers of Australia are on hunger strike and it is because of 18 months of indefinite detention without any clear future in Manus Island.

“Here a disaster is about to happen, please prevent this disaster. The Australian government is planning to resettle us in PNG against our will, by forcing us.

“We are not willing to be resettled in PNG because there is no safety [or] any future for us and our family.

“Today we consider us to be hostage for the Australian government so they can deter others not to come to Australia.”

Witch hunt

In an attempt to break up the hunger strike protest, Transfield officers began rounding up asylum seekers’ compound leaders. At least four leaders of different nationalities – one from Mike, one from Oscar, and two from Foxtrot – have been seized and taken to the high security Chauka isolation unit.

Up to 40 Transfield riot squad officers raided the Foxtrot compound around 1:00am (Sunday January 18), looking for other community leaders.

The riot squad also attempted to force water down the throat of two unconscious asylum seekers in the compound. They also threatened that a special forces unit will come from Port Moresby “to deal with you” unless the hunger strike was ended.

Foxtrot asylum seekers have sent another letter explaining that PNG is not safe and appealing to the Minister to halt the forced transfers of asylum seekers.

“Taking leaders hostage or using the riot squad won’t stop the hunger strike protest,” said Ian Rintoul. “The tactics are eerily similar to those that ended in tragedy in February last year.

“The Minister has said he supports ‘discussion and negotiations’. He must act urgently to prevent a tragedy on Manus Island.”

Next article – Film Review – The Imitation Game

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