A new report from the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) and GetUp reveals that as recently as 23 May this year, refugees and people seeking asylum endured a critical or major incident on Manus Island, on average, almost every day.
The report, Four Years Too Many, was released to coincide with the four year anniversary of then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s commencement of the current offshore processing regime.
Human Rights Director at GetUp, Matthew Phillips, said the Department’s own records confirmed the situation on Manus continues to be chaotically unsafe.
“It’s eight months since Turnbull announced the US deal, but not one single person has been resettled in safety. Instead over 2000 people - including 169 children - have remained in limbo for four years in unsafe conditions on Manus and Nauru. This cannot continue a day longer.”
The report cites the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s own records, revealing that in the 84 days between the 28th February and 23rd May this year, there were 78 major incidents and 1 critical incident reported in the Manus Island camp or surrounding communities.
Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist currently held on Manus Island, said “the Australian government is putting pressure on people to leave the detention centre and accept to live in the local community. But it is not safe. In the past weeks some locals attacked a number of refugees with knives and robbed them of their belongings. These kind of incidents make refugees too scared to leave the detention centre.”
Boochani, who worked with several of the men on Manus to document their stories for the report, said he is speaking out “because I think it's my duty and mission as a journalist. We refugees don't have any power except by telling the truth and telling our stories to the Australian people. We have to speak out to make a change.”
Director of Legal Advocacy at HRLC, Daniel Webb, who has visited Manus three times, said Australia’s detention regime has “extinguished all hope”.
“My first trip was back in March 2014, just after Reza Barati was murdered. I’ll never forget the fear and exhaustion on the faces of the men being detained there. They had no idea how long they’d be there for - no idea if they’d ever get a chance to see their families again or to build a life in freedom and safety. One man described the uncertainty as being like “mental torture”. It’s inexcusable that four years later his torture still continues.”
“All these innocent people want – all they have ever wanted – is a chance at life in safety and freedom. They’ve had four years of their life taken from them. They deserve a future.”
GetUp’s Human Rights Director, added “The islands are clearly unsafe, and these people are clearly Australia’s responsibility. Immediate evacuation is the only humane option.
“We are calling on both major parties to commit to immediately evacuating the offshore camps and bring these men, women and children to safety.
Thousands of Australians congregated at vigils all across the country on Wednesday 9 July to commemorate the four year anniversary of the commencement of Australia’s current offshore processing regime.