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Issue #1765      February 15, 2017

Bring Them Here

Locked up for seeking sanctuary

Imagine fleeing your country of birth because the words you wrote angered the regime in power so much that your life was in danger. But instead of being offered sanctuary by the country you fled to, you find yourself locked up in a remote island thousands of kilometres from home.

That’s the reality of life for Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani.

For more than three years, Boochani, cartoonist “Eaten Fish” and actor Mehdi Savari have languished out of sight, out of mind on Manus Island.

A week ago, dozens of Australia’s best-known journalists, writers, actors and cartoonists took the unprecedented step of sending a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling for the three men to be resettled here from the Manus Island detention centre.

For different reasons, all three men feared continuing persecution in Iran and embarked separately on treacherous journeys on open seas in a quest to claim asylum in Australia. On Manus Island, their stories have become intertwined.

The little we know about life on Manus Island is due to Boochani’s courageous reporting for Australian and international publications, which has often put him at risk.

Eaten Fish’s sensitive and heart-rending cartoons eloquently depict the endless cruelty of our offshore detention regime.

And Savari’s talents as an actor and director of stage shows have provided some distraction from the daily grind experienced by his fellow embattled inmates.

All three men, like the hundreds of other asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island, have suffered immeasurably.

They each sought refuge from Iran so they could freely express themselves without fear of persecution or harm, but instead their freedom has been further suppressed in detention.

The farcical on again/off again resettlement deal with the US government has only increased their anguish.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance is joining with a range of international freedom of expression organisations to call for the government to #bringthemhere.

We regard Boochani, Eaten Fish and Savari as professional colleagues who would make a meaningful contribution to Australian society.

Each has been recognised internationally – a motion in support of Savari was passed at last year’s International Federation of Actors congress; Eaten Fish won the 2016 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from Cartoonists Rights Network International; and Boochani has been shortlisted for 2017 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards.

MEAA has been a long-term campaigner against the strict media blackouts, secrecy and harsh anti-whistleblower legislation that governs not only the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, but asylum seeker policy in general.

Paul Murphy

Next article – Public support for make it here

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