Appeal to Europe for help to free Syrian asylum seekers on Manus Island

Issue 
Asylum seeker protest at Manus Island.

More than 100 asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island have signed an appeal to Europeans for help. They say that just like the asylum seekers in Europe, they have fled war and persecution and like them they need safety and resettlement. They request European countries “to urge the Australia government to cease the illegal detention of us…”

Almost 1000 refugees and asylum seekers are indefinitely detained on Manus Island and a similar number, including families with children, are on Nauru.

Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition Ian Rintoul said: “It is astonishing that among the calls to action over the European crisis, there has been no mention of the asylum seekers who are the victims of the government’s mandatory and offshore detention regime.

“There are Syrian asylum seekers in Villawood, Manus and Nauru, who have been held in detention for over two years while their families were bombed in Syria.

“It will be darkly ironic if Australia agrees to bring asylum seekers from Syria while Syrian asylum seekers languish in Australian detention centres. The dead boy on the Turkish beach could just as easily have been the child of an asylum seeker in detention in Australia.

“It is shocking that the Prime Minister could play to anti-Muslim sentiments by suggesting that Christians would be the first to be selected from Syria. It is not just racist, and an explicit break from the pretence of a non-discriminatory humanitarian policy, it is hypocritical. There are plenty of Christians in Australian detention centres also being persecuted by this government.

“The callous indifference being shown by the Abbott government to the asylum seekers in Europe is a product of the brutal, anti-refugee policies it enforces in Australia.”

Below is the text of a letter from asylum seekers held in detention on Manus Island to Europeans and European governments.

* * *

While your countries have been faced with the critical and difficult crisis due to the constant flow of war-torn people and all the world is witnessing that Europe is endeavouring to exercise its humane and moral responsibilities through providing hundreds of thousands of refugees with protection, the Australian government has imprisoned us, 900 asylum seekers, for 26 months on Manus Island in the heart of Pacific Ocean.

The situation is utterly inhumane and difficult over this period.

We have been under very heavy mental pressure. We have lost two of our friends — Reza Berati and Hamid Khazaei — due to the locals’ attack on the prison and lack of health facilities. The Australian government has done everything to persecute us. We desperately request the Europeans and the European countries to urge the Australian government to cease our illegal detention in this hellhole and to fulfil its international obligations in relation to the refugee crisis.

We have fled war and persecution just like the asylum seekers in Europe. We need safety and resettlement.

The Australian government has treated us like criminals and calls us boat criminals because we came by boat.

In order to obtain more information about our difficult situation in the prison on Manus Island, please refer to the international organisations’ reports on this matter such as reports from Amnesty International, UNHCR, Australian Senate Inquiry, Human Rights Watch and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.

Signed: Manus asylum seekers

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