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Issue #1791      August 23, 2017

Editorial

Manus detention toll

Hamid, a 31-year-old Iranian asylum seeker, was found hanging from a tree near the school close to the East Lorengau Transit Accommodation, on Manus Island.

Refugee advocates are deeply concerned at PNG police statements that they have ruled out “foul play” in regard to the death of Hamed. “It is impossible for the PNG police to rule out foul play. The hastiness of the declaration only makes it look more suspicious,” said Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Anyone who has seen the photos knows that Hamed’s death is suspicious. And anyone who is familiar with Hamed’s circumstances, would know that Hamed had been arrested and beaten by the local police many times. The PNG police could not be relied on to carry out a thorough or impartial investigation. There are no facilities on Manus for an autopsy.”

There is an urgent need for an independent autopsy and investigation to establish the cause of Hamed’s death on Monday August 7. An AFP officer was with Manus police at the scene where Hamed’s body was found near the school, making the Australian government directly implicated in Hamed’s death and the investigation.

Refugees and asylum seekers held a vigil for Hamed in Delta compound inside the detention centre on the Monday night.

Hamid’s death brings the Manus detention death toll to five and seven overall on Manus and Nauru: lives cut short by the brutality of offshore detention. His mental health problems were well-known for months. He had been held in prison at the Lorengau settlement, then was placed at the East Lorengau centre when he was released.

“Like all the others who have died on Manus, Hamid should never have been in detention or on Manus. Detention had robbed him of his mental health and now it has taken his life. Whatever the immediate cause, it is Dutton and Turnbull who are responsible for his death,” said Ian Rintoul.

Amnesty International Australia said Australia must accept liability “for the damage its cruel policies are causing refugees.”

Following two protests earlier this month, the asylum seekers released the following statement:

“New Zealand wants us”

We have waited long enough! We have a right to be free and to know our future! We were tricked into being transferred to Nauru from Christmas island, promised that we would be freed quickly if we followed the rules. Those who remained on Christmas Island, are now in Australia. Some of us have children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and family in Australia. Our families are heartbroken and devastated from the separation.

We stopped protesting in November 2016, when the Prime Minister promised to free us and allow us to go to USA. We felt the life come back into our blood with just a tiny bit of hope and thought of freedom. We are still not free nine months later! We are more tormented than ever because we were tantalised with a glimpse, and then slowly let down, yet again. We have been imprisoned for four years on Nauru. We are punished for our patience and good will.

If Australia won’t take us, we accept that. Let us go to a country who wants us. New Zealand wants us. Let us go there, so we can be good loyal citizens and contribute to the community and build our future. We are good people. We just want freedom in a country where we belong. ABF [Australia Border Force], you say Nauru is responsible for us, but you make all of the decisions. For Nauru, we are a commodity in a ruined economy. Why do you want to punish us and hold us prisoners in a place where we are simply a means for people to earn an income, because their land was destroyed by your greed. We are human, we want to be responsible for our own lives.

We cannot take this anymore, the lies and false promises are killing us and destroying our minds and souls.

People are still living like animals in the camps. The conditions have made everyone sick. The mould is toxic and dangerous. ABF, you know it is a danger to our health because you had experts from Australia come to Nauru to test it. The experts stated that you are in breach of your duty of care if we remain living, or dying in the those conditions. We have the full report!

We were promised safe accommodation in the community when we became refugees. Many refugees are still in the camp, denied phones with cameras, denied bringing in food and things you think is contraband. We are not free! We live under strict, high security detention control, robbed of our civil liberties because you have no where else for us to live. ABF, you say it is the Nauru government responsibility to provide housing. Nauru government says “We asked Australia for money to rent the places, it is their responsibility”. Let us be free so we can be responsible for ourselves.

We try to talk with ABF and meet to discuss our future, your plan for us, but no one ever comes. You leave us to rot, with no information, with no hope, with no future and with no freedom!

We formally request that we be EVALUATED NOW! Please give us amnesty and let us go to New Zealand. Let the separated families reunite and please have some compassion for us.

As Behrouz Boochani, a refugee on Manus, stated, “In the four years we have been imprisoned on Manus Island we have experienced three prime ministers. But our usefulness as a political football has never changed.”

Next article – Welfare card “no remedy”

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