Twelve people have died in Australian offshore detention centres in the past five years as a result of murder, suicide and medical neglect, according to Angelica Panopoulos from the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).
There have also been numerous cases of beatings, rapes and self-harm in these centres, Panopoulos told a crowd of 60 people at a forum on “the case to bring them here”, organised by RAC on August 29.
Panopoulos said that Australia has a responsibility for these people, who should be brought here and given permanent protection.
She also condemned the federal Coalition government’s policy of boat turnbacks.
Abdul Aziz Adam, a refugee detained on Manus Island, spoke to the meeting via Skype.
Aziz gave some examples of medical neglect, including a man who has had stomach cancer for three years, and a man with a broken leg who had to wait eight days to be taken to Port Moresby for treatment.
He said that the refugees on the island, while supposedly no longer detained, are subject to a 6pm curfew.
Aziz thanked refugee activists for their support, saying “it means a lot to us to see banners saying 'free the refugees'" at rallies in Australia”.
Greens senator Nick McKim, who has visited Manus Island, spoke of the non-violent resistance of the detainees when authorities tried to move them late last year.
Detainees had their water, food and medication cut off, and were beaten with metal rods by the police. McKim said this resistance was "an expression of agency", with the detainees refused to be "pushed around".
McKim also spoke of the situation of children on Nauru, some of who have lapsed into a "catatonic state" and lie in bed all day. McKim said the government's treatment of these children is "child abuse".
He predicted that one day there will be a national apology for Australia's treatment of refugees.