Letter from refugees: We thought the nightmare was over

November 13, 2011
Rohingya refugees apprehended by the Thai navy in 2009. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

Open Letter from three prolonged Burmese detainees in Australian detention call for humanitarian intervention

Call for humanitarian intervention

We are recognised refugees of Burma. Our ethnic minority is unknown to the world, yet is one of the most oppressed minority group in Burma, the sole ethnic who has been declined any rights for an identity. We are de-facto stateless. Remember our race: we are Rohingyas.

It was out of ultimate survival that we embark in a boat hoping for Australian protection and mercy. The trip was promising pain and potentially death but it was far better than continuing enduring abuses and extreme violations of human rights in the countries of transit. Although we had refugee status in Malaysia, Malaysia was never better than Burma for our people.

As we hope for a life that we never had the right to have, a safe land that we never walked on, where we could breath without fear, we remained locked in Australian detention until May 2010, when we were finally confirmed as refugee.

We thought the end of life of nightmare was over and we would born as new man. Yet we were kept in detention. The process of our case was not over and required security clearance by ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Two years have passed since our arrival in Australia and yet we remained detained. Although our physical health was maintained by constant check, our mental health has been severely affected as a consequence of the injustice of our mandatory detention.

We have a strong feeling of indirect discrimination and unfair treatment in processing our cases while both the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and ASIO uphold proper schedules which complete every process of asylum claim within 90 days with respect and dignity for the vast priority groups.

After a long wait of two years, we have been given a rejection letter as negative security assessment under Australian Security Act 1979-section(4) that stated to find a third country. This news has devastated us.

Why have we been rejected? What sort of security threat are we considered as? Rohingyas are terrorised by the military junta and there are no links that we know of to any terror organisation. Our minority is surviving and we , as part of this community have also spend each day of our life trying to survive.

We have no alternative or way to appeal to this decision as our stateless and illegal status in Australia does not provide us any legal ground. Although we are in Australia, we have no access to Justice to defend our case and we are left languishing in unlawful detention for unlimited period ahead of us.

Our full life in detention ahead. We are also not allowed to be placed into an alternative and softer detention like community detention and we are continuously placed in tight security were we are submitted to tempestuous intimidations although we are not criminal, just normal citizen of the world like most of you.

And like anybody, we feel stress facing injustice and this leads to mental health issue, stress, depression, nightmare and more. We urge domestic and international legal system to review its policy in regards to stateless people and the fate for stateless refugees that are denied security clearance. We are human, our life is precious to us and you can not just store us in a box until we die. We hope for a future.

We can't also help to feel injustice and inconsistency when we witness the release of four Bangladeshi people who claimed to be Burmese. They are granted visa and released earlier than genuine Burmese refugees.

According to immigration the three other Rohingyans in Northern Immigration Detention Centre detention are also awaited two years for security clearances when ASIO itself told a parliamentary enquiry in October that it is not a requirement under the ASIO Act for boat arrivals to be detained during security processing.

We have respect for Australian policy abroad defending the refugees rights and working hand in hand with UNHCR when it comes to refugees fleeing Burma to reach any country that would give them protection.

Unfortunately, the plight of Burmese does not end at the Burma border and Malaysia is a country of much oppression for refugees and Malaysia is another dictator to refugees. Unfortunately , Rohingyas are rarely granted any visa to go to a third country, which is the reason why most of Burmese coming by boat are Rohingyas.

This is how we came by boat. Today, the oppression of Rohingyas continues and has reached the soil of Australia that we considered a democratic country, respectful of human rights. Today, our life is hold forever in between walls, for no reason except ignorance.

We have no other ways to appeal any one, just through your kind humanitarian intervention to help us to get out of inappropriate, unreasonable, unlawful and arbitrary detention. Our lives are at risk, languishing in a legal limbo. We hope our voices will be heard, we hope all humanitarian quarters including resettlement countries will come and gather to help us through humanitarian intervention.

Today we are trapped, our past is dark. Our present is dark, our future is dark. Although we would like to taste life, Presently, death seems to be our only solution to finally find peace.

Please help us to find another solution than death.


Shoef (Boat ID: VAU-2, in Villawood detention of Sydney)
Razamya (Boat ID: SEA-10, in Villawood detention of Sydney) Mufis (Boat ID: SEA-3, in Maribyrnong detention of Melbourne)

(This letter is an open letter and sending it widely will be highly appreciated.)


Thanks for highlighting thier plights. I am surprise with how our gov pretends to be unheard and allowing the immigration's continuous backs on inconsistent asio's suggestions. Why not let them access through our judiciary system? Because the departments would get ashame!! Why bureaucratically preventing form their right to liberty???

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