Protests are continuing in Manus Island detention centre as refugees resist the Australian government's plans to move them to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre. Two refugees have died since August and numerous others have been attacked by locals in East Lorengau.
Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani told Green Left Weekly: “The people are planning to resist. They don’t want to leave the detention centre because they have a lot of bad experiences with local people. On other side, the local people are very worried and don’t want the refugees to be in their community. Both sides know that if the government takes the refugees out there will be more conflict between them.
“Lorengau is a very small community, with a tribal culture and poor economy. The refugees know that definitely it will be dangerous. The local people are very angry with the Australian government because it doesn’t respect them. Probably the locals will do a protest while the refugees are protesting.”
Since then a group of local Papua New Guineans has come out in support of refugees. Below are three statements released in the past week: the first from the newly formed Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuses and the other two from refugees after medical services were withdrawn from the Manus Island detention centre.
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Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuse on Manus Island
[This statement was released on October 17.]
We human rights and peace lovers in Manus have formed a group to fight for our rights and those of our friends currently detained at the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Patrol Boat Base in Lombrum, Manus Island.
This group is called Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuse. We have formed this group to speak out and publicise to the world what Australia has done to us Manusians and to the asylum seekers, a group of human beings now in captivity in prison-like camps without charge.
Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuse has attracted membership from citizens wanting change from money attraction to moral attraction. Manus people have now realised that they have been used by the government of Australia to achieve its evil intention of forced detention of asylum seekers in prison-like camps without charge.
The group has pledged to support the Manus Provincial Administration and Manus Provincial Government to pursue available avenues to end Australia's continued detention and human rights abuse against the asylum seekers and against the people of Manus.
The group will be protesting to the Manus Provincial Government in the event that avenues pursued fail to stop forced transfer of asylum seekers from Lombrum to Lorengau town especially the private properties in Ward 1 of Lorengau town.
Manus Emergency — your help urgently needed
[This statement was released on October 15 by refugees in Manus Island detention centre.]
The Australian and PNG governments are trying to force the refugees and asylum seekers out of the Lombrum detention centre into a dangerous situation where our safety cannot be guaranteed.
Services are being abruptly withdrawn and there are currently no medical services, and no mental health support. The World Health Organization found that anxiety, depressive disorders and other mental illness afflicted 88% of people detained by Australia on Manus Island.
The government has already cut power and water from some compounds. We fear they could be planning similar cuts to finally force us all out.
You know that most of us have been found to be refugees in need of international protection. We urgently need your support to pressure the PNG and Australian governments to (i) immediately stop their illegal action and human right abuses; and (ii) evacuate all the asylum seekers to safety in a third country.
Manus detainees call for end to forced relocation
[More than 500 detainees on Manus Island signed this letter to the PNG authorities on October 13 calling for the PNG government to provide safe resettling third countries and an end to their imprisonment.]
To the people in authority over the treatment of refugees
We have been held in your country against our wishes and have been denied our liberty and have been tortured in your country.
We came to Australia asking for asylum. Australia has signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, however they deliberately broke it and have not offered us asylum. The UN, UNHCR, Amnesty International, Save the Children and many other organisations have rebuked Australia’s treatment of us here in Manus Detention Centre.
Please do not go along with this mistreatment of humans. We do not want to move into Manus. We do not feel safe. We cannot work or provide for our families, we cannot be respected by people in society here. We don’t want to resettle in PNG. We came to Australia — Australia should offer us asylum, or give us to a safe country like New Zealand that has already offered to take us. We will happily start our new life there.
Your own constitution says we are illegally here. The PNG High Court said last year that Lombrum detention is illegal and now at the end of October the Australian government said [they] are closing it. But they have built another three centres in town, where they will dump us for years.
How is this not illegal also? What words and phrases have been changed to make it not illegal?
The constitution says that detaining innocent people in PNG is illegal. It doesn’t say that detaining innocent people in Lombrum is illegal and legal in other parts of PNG.
Yet the situation remains the same. The semantics may have changed, yet the conditions have not. This is not right. For how long will you keep us on this island against our will?
We are refugees and that means going home to our homeland is not an option we can take. Yet staying in PNG is not giving us our liberty back either.
And we are dying by the policies that you implement. Please don’t kill us anymore. Our six friends have already died by this cruel policy that you have a hand in and support.
PNG please show some compassion and humanity. You claim to be a Christian country. Yet the way you are treating vulnerable people is against how the Bible says to treat people. Is this how you love your neighbours? Is this showing justice and compassion to those in need? That’s what Jesus told you to do. Instead you are helping Australia harm and torture innocent people and put them in detention for years. You are helping those who are torturing us and want to kill us.
Please consider our plea. We are defenceless. We will not fight. But we plead and ask you to help us have our freedom.
We are asking all of PNG authorities don’t force us to resettle in your country. We have much respect for your people and your country and your law.
If something happens to us, PNG, you will be responsible, because you are supporting this cruel policy with Australia.
From now on if any of us are found dead or hanged outside of detention centre in PNG, it would mean that he has been killed, because we will not kill ourselves.