Who is responsible for asylum seekers on Manus? Terrifying Evacuation.

There has been an earthquake in the Pacific which has killed people in the Solomom Islands. I heard on the news that there was a tsunami warning for PNG. It did cross my mind to wonder if the Australian, PNG or Nauruan governments had given any thought to the extra responsibility of caring for asylum seekers if a natural disaster should occur on Manus Island in PNG or Nauru.

I was just closing down for the night when this email arrived from asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Red Cross arrived on Manus today.

It was around 1p.m that Salvation army received a fax from Canberra. It was written that tsunami may is coming to manus around 4p.m and you should evacuate the center as soon as possible.

All people were scared. the staffs only took their passports and cellphones. All the families were stressful and scarred. they took some clothe and left by bus. Some of the families went by walk to the topest place. Some of the SAMS didn’t left the camp. Most of them were Iranian. Poul moulds stayed with SAMS in detention center.

Some people were crying and kids terrified. They all thought that’s the end of their life. There were PNG police around people. They were waiting for Tsunami.

At 3:30 they said that everything is fine and nothing will happen and we are safe! All people went back to detention by walk.

Who is responsible for asylum seekers on manus? What would have happened if tsunami came? 34 kids may died!


Asylum seekers on manus island


Note: Paul Mounds works for the Salvation Army.  The SAMS are single men, many of whom are very depressed and have been refusing food at times.

This terrifying incident meant that the asylum seekers were forced to leave the camp. This was their first visit onto the rest of Manus Island since they arrived. Up until now, they have been locked up inside the camp 24 hours a day.

If you want to know how they were feeling before today, read the letters that we published today on New Matilda.



The story of Hediye, an Iranian girl our government has locked up on Manus Island

Several days ago, 18 year old Hediye, who has been detained/imprisoned on Manus Island by the Australian Gillard Labor government, posted this story on an asylum seekers facebook site. I am reposting it here on my blog so it can easily continue to be found.

Many women in Australia and other Western countries take for granted freedoms that are denied Hidaye and other Iranian women who are harrassed, arrested and imprisoned when they resist strict dresscodes and other forms of patriarchal discrimination. Hidaye has committed no crime. She has made a bid for freedom. She deserves the support of feminists and human rights activists everywhere. Instead she is locked up with no information about how long she will be detained or even how she can pursue her refugee claim. Yet, she continues to bravely send news of fellow detainees who self-harm, traumatised women who wail and cry out in the night, and children who ask their parents ‘why did you bring me here?’

Here’s Hediye’s story – please help make sure her voice is heard.

Patriarchy is alive and thriving in Iran where Iranian authorities take a hard-line approach to women, who don’t abide by the strictest rules set out by Islamic law. Women are not allowed to go to the stadium. Women are not allowed to drive a motorcycle. After divorce women are not allowed custody of their children. Lots of women are hit by their husbands but they don’t have any rights to complain about it. In comparison, a man and a woman with the same education, opportunity and skill, the woman has no chance at all and also they don’t get paid the same as males. If a woman cheats on her husband the government can stone her. Sometimes when they arrest girls they abuse them. In Iran, police charge you because of long nails. Men are allowed to have four wives. Women are not allowed to be a singer.

There was always something in Iran that stopped me from achieving my goals. Women have no rights in Iran. They are all dying slowly. Morality police travelled around in green cars, checking for boy/girl’s behaviour, making sure boys didn’t have western hair styles, etc. I was arrested in Tehran because I was not wearing my hijab correctly. They fined me many times. I paid lots of money. Whenever I saw a green car I ran away from them.

During my high school years I got into trouble. The teacher was always monitoring me and made me pray, read the Quran and appear in Islamic ceremony. I’m agnostic; I didn’t want to do those kind of things. My teacher told me “you are getting in trouble, Hediye”. Then I felt unsafe. The husband of the principle at my school worked for the SEPAH (Iranian Military branch that protects the Islamic systems and revolutionary guards) so I just felt unsafe and scared. I didn’t want to be separated from my family. I didn’t want to go to jail. I didn’t want to be hung. I didn’t want to be abused by the government. So I left everything; my friends, family and lot of things.

All I want is safety, justice, freedom and honesty. I never found them in my country.

I just want a life which is the same as any other 18 year old girl. I’m full of wishes and hopes but… Now I’m here in Manus Island without any future.

Australian psychiatrists speak out against Pacific Solution 2

On November 30, New Matilda published a report by Adam Brereton and myself  which included the comments of Professor of Developmental Psychiatry Dr Louise Newman who explained  how detention centres like the ones on Nauru and Manus Island produce feeling of abandonment, despair and psychiatric disorders. On the same day, Dr Michael Dudley is Chairperson of the Suicide Australia Prevention Board since 2001 spoke at a protest rally outside the Federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek’s office. As he spoke scores of asylum seekers detained by the Australian government on the Pacific island nation of Nauru were on hunger strike with one, Omid laying critically ill in a small Nauru hospital after refusing food for 50 days. A few hours later he was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Brisbane.

Protestors outside Federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek’s office on November 30, 2012. ( photo by Peter Boyle)

This is a slightly edited version of Dr Dudley’s speech notes. A psychiatrist at Prince of Wales and Sydney Children’s Hospitals, Michael has experience working with youth, indigenous people, and refugees at risk of suicide and self harm. He lectures in psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, is on the Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Committee (ASPAC) and the Advisory Board of Inspire Foundation’s ‘Reach Out!’ Program.

Dr Dudley told the rally:

“The Pacific Solution is in full swing again, under a different party’s banner of course, but with the same old places of Nauru, and Manus ( Manus Island is part of Papua and New Guinea).

In the wake of the somewhat obscure, cognitively challenging policy of ‘no advantage’, we have organised misery for those in these locations, by suspending them indefinitely and with a gross deficiency of ordinary goods, services and protections. Though the collective focus has shifted offshore, the bane of onshore immigration detention also continues. Many are released into the community, but many others are still indefinitely trapped. Hunger-strikes and self-harm continue, taking people to the very edge of life, because they feel that they have no other voice.

For those released, the myth that they are living in five-star hotels seems to persist, and therefore various parties want to make the conditions as Spartan as possible. From the Opposition, we hear talk of the resumption of temporary protection visas, and the reduction of the recently extended quota. (Compare this with the numbers of refugees in some European industrialised countries). We are currently revisiting the unseemly debate about whether these people should be allowed to work – as though there should ever have been a question about this fundamental human right. We seem still to be unable to appreciate how refugees enrich us – how they have contributed enormously to Australian culture and life: instead we build false security by excluding and disowning the stranger (and thus become strangers to ourselves).

There is little appetite for genuine exploration of real solutions from either main political party. What for example would an onshore model for responding to refugees cost? – say redirecting our misspent monies to properly worked out regional agreements with our neighbours, a properly resourced and supported UNHCR determination process, and air-lifting asylum-seekers to Australia, as Malcolm Fraser once did? Parliament and people know plenty now about the mental health impacts, but who cares?

If we can’t care about the mental health of asylum-seekers, and the nightmare that Australia creates for them, could we be induced to care about the mental health of Australians? Could excluding and creating an underclass of asylum-seekers affect our mental health– with the possibility that their nightmare may become ours? We know a lot about the social factors that underpin mental disorders – such as war, gender-based violence, abuse, poverty, racism, social inequality: and we also know a lot about the social factors that promote mental health – such as the rule of law, basic conditions of life being met, social connectedness, education, a reasonable standard of income, spirituality etc. …studies indicate that strong and connected communities with trust and cooperation across traditional divisions of ethnicity, religion, class and gender are more resilient and more effective at enhancing mental health than more homogeneous environments, while primarily competitive self-interested approaches tend to isolate people.

It seems that we need to wake up to what is really happening here. The overall effects of these asylum seeker measures are to increase isolation, stigma and a personal sense of burden, poverty, disability, and inequality. .

So we must therefore ask ourselves:

Do we want a more equal society, where all people can participate?

Do we want a rich diverse community?

Do we want a significant group of our future citizens (like those who will be joining us from Nauru) to be an underclass who are denied a productive life?

Do we want a higher quality national debate about those seeking asylum?

Our mental health and well being depend on each other. To misquote W.H.Auden, ‘we were mistaken. These faces are ours’. We cannot stand aside from what is happening: we have to stand and be counted. We not only diminish ourselves, but jeopardise our own interests, if we allow these policies toward refugees to continue, and allow the two major parties to continue to head-butt each other when there is clearly another way forward. Let us continue to press this point until the penny drops, and until sanity prevails.