In May last year Nazanin, a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker, was raped on Nauru. It took three months and a medical emergency for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to send her to Australia for treatment. At the time, the department said Nazanin's mother and brother would also be brought to Australia to provide critical family support.
As of December last year, anyone who is not an Australian citizen who has spent 12 months or more in jail can be deported at the discretion of the immigration department. By September, 75 New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders were being detained on Christmas Island awaiting deportation. In this nine-month period, 406 New Zealand citizens had their visas cancelled, 95 had been deported and up to 184 were being held in detention centres.
Carol Hucker worked on Manus Island as a counsellor for International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and as a case worker for the Salvation Army from June 2013 to July last year. She has allowed Green Left Weekly to publish her account of her time there so people can become more aware of what is occurring on Manus Island and to these men. She said: “It is my hope that through this brief account the men on Manus will not be forgotten.” This is the first of a multi-part series and covers the period June to July 2013. * * *
“We will not be treated like slaves,” a refugee forced to live on Nauru said during a series of public protests held by refugees on the island. Hundreds of refugees living in the community, alongside asylum seekers still held in detention camps, have been holding a campaign of non-cooperation and protest since February 25. Children have boycotted class, refugees with jobs have begun a stay-away strike and many are refusing to talk to their case mangers.
There is one message refugees in the Manus Island detention centre want Australia to hear: we need help. In a letter written on January 20, a group of asylum seekers taking part in a mass hunger strike wrote: “In here alarms are ringing but heartless politicians are still indifferent.” They said they were writing “from the heart of Manus” as the hunger strike entered its “ninth day and it will continue”. “We will continue our push until we reach our ultimate goal, which is freedom.”
World Refugee Day is dedicated each year to raising awareness about the more than 43.7 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world. The United Nations and non-government organisations usually share refugee stories and make pleas for compassion and empathy. But in Australia, refugees and asylum seekers are treated like the enemy in a war: the target of a highly resourced, military-led “deterrence” strategy complete with arbitrary detainment, detention camps, guards to terrorise them, forced deportations and the violent suppression of those who protest.
A former welfare worker at the Nauru refugee detention camp says the July 19 riot that razed most of the Topside compound was an “inevitable outcome” of a “cruel and degrading policy”, in a new book released last week. The Undesirables by Mark Isaacs follows several big whistleblower revelations that have come from Nauru since the camp was re-established by then-PM Julia Gillard in August 2012.
Two important things were revealed when immigration minister Scott Morrison was finally forced to admit he had been wrong about most of the facts when one man was killed and at least 70 others were injured on Manus Island on February 16. The first was that asylum seekers who rang and messaged advocates, supporters and friends in Australia in a panic over the outbreak of violence, saying that G4S security guards and angry locals were brutally attacking dozens of people, were telling the truth.
Soft brown eyes flicked furtively towards the guard’s room, then back to the ripe luscious strawberry she had carefully placed on the table’s edge. She waited for the guard’s laconic indifference to blend into the certainty of distraction, then secreted the treasure in her loose pocket. “For my friend,” she confided, while a hint of defiance momentarily lit up eyes that for most of our visit had spilled out a lifetime of sorrow and loss. “My pregnant friend.”
The two big parties have long considered refugees’ rights forfeit. This election year has been a time of unprecedented sacrifice of refugees, as each “policy” idea from Labor and the Liberals becomes more extreme than the last. After signing up Papua New Guinea and Nauru to bogus resettlement deals, PM Kevin Rudd has most recently sent families to Nauru and continues to oversee legally dubious deportations.