Refugee rights protesters avoid conviction

February 22, 2018
Refugee rights activists in Sydney last November.

Seven protesters who staged a sit-in on November 3 at the Lonsdale Street headquarters of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection have avoided a conviction for trespassing on Commonwealth property. They were part of group protesting the closure of the Manus Island detention centre three days earlier.

In a group statement read to the court on February 13, they said they were “compelled by conscience” to act after the Manus Island detention centre was closed. They said the refugees who were to be resettled in Papua New Guinea were terrified and lived in fear of an attack if they were to move into what the group said was an unfinished compound.

“We are normal and peaceful members of the Australian public objecting in a dignified way to one of the most severe cases of mistreatment of people in Australia’s care,” the statement said.

Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter accepted that the seven were of exemplary character, noting that each had a “real commitment to social justice”.

“I've never seen so many with such glowing references,” she said, before making a non-conviction order and dismissing all charges against the seven.

Manus Island refugees attacked

Three asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran and Pakistan claim they were attacked and injured by soldiers from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force while walking in Lorengau, the main town on Manus Island, on February 16.

They suffered a number of injuries and were treated in the Lorengau hospital and the special clinic at the refugee transit centre.

Afghan refugee Mumtaz Ali said a man ran up behind him while he was walking in the rain.

“I thought that he wanted to share my umbrella with me,” he told the ABC.

“When I turned my face to him, he directly punched me on my face, on my right eye, right-side eye, then I fall on the ground and he started kicking me.”

Afghan refugee, Walid Zazai, said several men were attacked, and the incident caused panic in Lorengau. He said the incident showed the asylum seekers were right to fear being forced to relocate to the main town from the Australian-funded detention centre.

Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam said: “There were two refugees on their way to go to the bank … suddenly they just get attacked by those Navy [men] because they are drunk. From that moment [of the] Good Friday shooting, the navies are still so upset and so aggressive.”

Manus Island Police confirmed an incident occurred, but said they did not yet have any details about who attacked the asylum seekers.

Federal Court orders girl to be brought to Australia

The Federal Court has ordered the Australian government to bring a young girl from the Nauru detention centre to Australia for urgent psychiatric treatment.

The refugee arrived on Christmas Island with her family in 2013 while trying to travel to Australia by boat. She has been on Nauru ever since, and has already tried to take her own life.

In a judgment on February 9, Judge Bernard Murphy granted an urgent injunction by her family’s lawyers to bring her to Australia because there were no specialist child psychiatrists permanently based on Nauru.

“There is an extreme risk this unfortunate young girl will commit suicide or otherwise self-harm, or that her mental health will further deteriorate,” Judge Murphy said.

“Being stuck on Nauru since 2013, coupled with the recent separation of her parents, appears to have taken a serious toll on the applicant’s mental health.

Judge Murphy said the young girl's psychiatric condition was “very serious”, and that she posed an “extreme suicide risk”.

“She should be immediately admitted into a specialist child mental health facility for assessment, containment and treatment. There is no such facility on Nauru.”

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