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.
Manus Island and Nauru detention centres
The Australian government’s review of the February violence on Manus Island leaves critical questions unanswered and does not call for the detention camp to be closed. Robert Cornall’s 107-page administrative review, released on May 26, includes a detailed account of 23-year-old Reza Berati’s death and identifies a Salvation Army employee as instigating the attack.
Iranian asylum seeker and aspiring architect Reza Berati was beaten to death inside the Manus Island detention camp more than two months ago, during what former employees of the detention centre described as “inevitable bloodshed”. Now, the five witnesses who say they can identify those who allegedly kicked, punched and beat the 23-year-old until he succumbed to massive head injuries, have been receiving death threats from local security guards.
The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on March 11. *** Refugee advocates are warning of new dangers of attacks on asylum seekers if local staff are re-introduced into the Manus Island detention centre. Local and national PNG staff and police have been excluded from the detention centre since the night of February 17 when 23-year-old Reza Berati was killed and at least 77 others brutally bashed.
Don't Let it Go (Urthboy Flip) Sietta x Jaytee Elefant Traks Released March 6, 2014 Free download Hip-hop artist Urthboy has hit back at Australia's asylum seeker policy with a free song released online. The rapper drops some radical rhymes over a beat that originally appeared on the new album by bass-heavy Darwin duo Sietta, which was released on his label Elefant Traks this month.
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.
When refugees are being killed and injured by thugs hired by the Australian government to run its offshore refugee detention camp in Manus Island, PNG; when Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop pressures Cambodia (one of the poorest countries in the world) to take asylum seekers off Australia (one of the world's richest countries) surely it is time to say: NOT IN OUR NAME! And this is what thousands of people did over the weekend of February 22-23 in more than 750 vigils, called by internet campaigning network GetUp.
The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on February 5. *** The daily protests by hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island that began on January 25 have now spread to all four compounds inside the detention centre. Since January 25, up to 500 asylum seekers in the Oscar compound, the most deprived of the compounds, have been staging daily protests. On January 30, the protests extended to Mike compound. And on January 31, hundreds more asylum seekers were in involved in protests in all four compounds.
As asylum seekers face years of detention in the Nauru and Manus Island detention camps, where not a single claim has been assessed, the Australian government refuses to answer to scrutiny or calls for human rights oversight. The ABC’s Four Corners and SBS’s Dateline have now tried to investigate the conditions inside each “regional processing centre”. The camps are believed to be abysmal, inadequate and places of widespread physical and psychological breakdown among detainees.
The smuggling of cameras inside detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island by the ABC's Four Corners has added to pressure on Labor to answer for the shocking conditions in which men, women and children are being held. Footage that was aired on April 29 showed rows of muddy tents, derelict amenities and ablution facilities and image after image of people who are losing the will to live.
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.
A group of women asylum seekers share their reasons for seeking protection from Australia and their dismay and despair at being transferred to Manus Island. Their letters are reprinted below unedited. *** Letter 1 I am a 33 years old Iranian woman and I have a son, nine years old. We had to leave Iran because of the personal hardship that I experienced there.
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.
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.
Activists in Melbourne rallied on November 22 to protest the decision to send asylum seekers to detention on Manus Island.
Federal Labor MP Anna Burke captured the Gillard government’s increasingly right-wing refugee policy when she said plans to reopen the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea would be “going back to something we said we wouldn’t do, which is the Pacific solution”. Burke told ABC news on August 15 she had raised concerns in caucus about an overseas detention centre as well as the “Malaysia solution”, which faces a legal challenge in the High Court and could also be subject to a parliamentary inquiry.