Jay Fletcher

A possible malaria scare in the Manus Island refugee detention camp has sparked new calls to label the offshore detention regime a violation of human rights. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said on January 27 that a 10-year-old girl had been in the camp's medical centre with malaria-like symptoms — high fever, shivering and bodily pain.
Tamil refugee Ranjini and her two sons made headlines last May when they were taken without warning to Sydney's Villawood detention centre and locked up after Ranjini was labelled an ASIO “security risk”. The very next day, 33-year-old Ranjini learned she was pregnant. She gave birth to Paartheepan (Paari) on January 15. The newborn boy has the right to live outside detention with his father, Ganesh, who married Ranjini a year before she was detained and lives nearby in Sydney.
A Tamil refugee living in Australia on a bridging visa died in a Fremantle hospital on January 5 from suicide. He had a wife and young daughter still in Sri Lanka, and was waiting for an outcome on his refugee status. It was his second suicide attempt. Refugee advocates in Perth said he had been tortured in Sri Lanka and his mental health deteriorated while in detention on Christmas Island and in the remote north Queensland Scherger base — where he first attempted suicide.
Photos taken by refugees of their living conditions in the Australian detention camp on Manus Island have led to a new round of “systematic assault on asylum seekers’ basic rights”, according to Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Nick Riemer.
Hunger-striking refugee 35-year-old Omid Sorousheh's desperate plea to be recognised as a refugee in Australia has been treated with contempt by immigration minister Chris Bowen, despite clear indications that he was close to death. Omid has been on a hunger strike for 50 days on November 30. That day it was reported he had been finally airlifted from Nauru and returned to Australia.
Labor is making a full-scale assault on the right of refugees to seek protection, as it continues to fill the Nauru detention camp, forcibly deport hundreds back to Sri Lanka before hearing their claims for asylum and keep thousands in perpetual limbo in the name of “deterrence”. Now, the federal government has revealed its plans for the almost 8000 people that have arrived seeking asylum by boat in recent months. The plan is worse than the extreme temporary protection visas introduced by the former John Howard Government.
This month is the start of the wet season on the tiny island of Nauru, where more than 370 refugees are being detained in Australian army tents that leak and do nothing to keep mosquitoes out.   In these appalling conditions, more than 300 men are refusing food and some are refusing water in a bid to have the department of immigration hear their claims for asylum.   That’s right — people that came to Australia exercising their legal and moral right to seek protection are on a hunger strike because the Australian government has decided to make an example of them.  
Refugees on Nauru have staged several peaceful but desperate protests in recent weeks to call attention to their worsening conditions. Several refugees have attempted suicide. But allegations have surfaced that staff inside the centre have made attempts to obstruct and interrupt their bid to be heard by the Australian public. One asylum seeker held on Nauru told Green Left Weekly that Salvation Army staff stationed in the centre had torn down protest signs assembled by the detainees.
An Iranian man became the fourth asylum seeker to attempt suicide in Australia’s detention camp on Nauru on October 24. He was cut down from hanging himself by guards and other refugees. Other acts of self-harm have also broken out on the island. On October 25, one detainee told Green Left Weekly that another man who injured himself with a razor did not get any medical care. The wave of self-harm and hunger strikes has hit the detention camp after only a month of the Labor government’s return to a “Pacific solution” for refugees.
PM Julia Gillard's sharp serve against opposition leader Tony Abbott’s sexism gave many, especially women, long overdue cause to fist-pump the air and think, “Finally, a point for us.” She threw a verbal hand grenade on top of the simmering indignation that had pent up due to radio broadcaster Alan Jones’ relentless misogyny and the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of ABC journalist Jill Meagher. The speech rapidly went viral, hit global news and connected with thousands of women fed up with being told to shut up and accept the double standards.
The Australian government is set to give notorious private security firm G4S the contract to run the refugee detention camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. G4S has been dumped from previous contracts — including running Australia's refugee detention centre network — for medical negligence and incompetence. Reports from Christmas Island suggest many families, teenagers, women and children will be among the first to be sent to the island in coming weeks, where the army is finishing a “tent city” similar to that built on Nauru.
More than 3300 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by boat since the August 13 “expert panel report” on refugees. The Australian government has made no moves to hear the asylum claims of those sent to Nauru or held in mainland detention. The decision to stop processing refugee claims from people arriving by boat was part of Labor’s government return to the “Pacific solution” under a so-called “no advantage” system. It has already created an alarming backlog and distress for many.
Refugee advocates rallied in Sydney and Melbourne in a snap response to the first group of 40 refugees flown to Nauru to be held indefinitely on September 14. Protesters in Sydney rallied outside the department of immigration offices and heard Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer pledge to “stand side by side in solidarity” with refugees.
Forty Tamil asylum seekers were flown to Nauru overnight on September 13, marking the beginning of Labor’s “Pacific solution” and a return to offshore processing. The group on Christmas Island were reported to have been under guard of federal police and did not resist. An earlier High Court decision on September 7 rejected the right of asylum seekers to appeal against pending deportations. The court ruling also makes possible further forced returns of refugees to danger.
Fewer than 50 Hazara refugees from Afghanistan survived when a refugee boat sank en route to Australia on August 29. Amid the tragedy and horror, Australian politicians have stormed and blustered over so-called people smugglers selling refugees “a ticket to the bottom of the sea”.
Newly arrived asylum seekers are staging a desperate resistance to Australia's plans to ship them to remote Pacific island detention camps, as the government's efforts to begin the moves were slammed as “chaotic”. Children, women and men joined a hunger strike that began in Christmas Island detention on August 25 after they were told their asylum claim would not be processed in Australia. A small group of men continued for three days before beginning to eat again.


Subscribe to Jay Fletcher