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Manus Island Riots - Four Corners 28 April 2014

Manus Island riots: Scott Morrison backs down from guaranteeing safety of asylum seekers in PNG detention

Updated Mon 28 Apr 2014, 7:46pm AEST
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has backed away from guaranteeing the safety of asylum seekers inside the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea.
Riots at the centre on February 16 and 17 this year resulted in violent clashes that left one man dead and 62 people injured.
A 23-year-old Iranian Kurd, Reza Barati, was beaten to death.

IMAGERY: Aerial view of Manus Island Regional Processing Centre taken on March 2, 2014. (DigitalGlobe)
In the wake of the violence, Mr Morrison said on February 18 that he could guarantee the safety of asylum seekers who remained in the centre.
"I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act cooperatively with those who are trying to provide them with support and accommodation," he said.
But when asked by Four Corners whether he could guarantee the safety of asylum seekers within the Manus Island centre, Mr Morrison said it was "difficult" to ensure safety at all times.
"It is absolutely my aspiration, it is my commitment to ensure that these places are safe, but it is difficult I think to do that in every instance," he said.


Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP                                                                 
PO Box 2056                                                                                    
Coffs Harbour 2450                                                                         Sawtell 2452 
28 April 2014

Dear Mr Hartsuyker,

I believe that I speak for many Australians when I say “enough is enough” in regard to your government’s policy on asylum seekers. As a retired asylum seeker decision maker who worked for the Immigration department in the mid 1990’s I am appalled at the downward spiral of policy and public debate on this issue since the dreaded “Tampa” decision. A decision that both major parties agreed to, in contravention of international maritime and refugee law, to their everlasting shame.  The bidding war that took place during the last federal election brought disgrace upon our political system and on this country as a democratic and law (international) abiding nation. Both your side of politics and the Labor government held a law and order style auction trying to outbid each other for who could brutalise these desperate people the most effectively. You should all hang your heads in shame. Many of you, including Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Kevin Rudd, profess to be Christians. The fact is that many Christians have been asking your government to stop these inhuman policies and you have thumbed you noses at them. How do you sleep at night? I don’t. Every night I lay awake wondering how a country like ours has come to this state of affairs where politicians with the aid of the media have demonized innocent men, women, children, babies and unborn babies and interned them in Australia’s 21st century answer to Nazi concentration camps.

Go home tonight, look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren and tell them that you truly believe that innocent people, who are entitled to seek protection under the international Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which our country is a signatory, should be treated like animals. If you can do that, with out any sense of guilt or remorse at the misery your policies are causing, then it is time for you to resign because you have lost any claim on humanity that you may have once had and are not fit to represent the people of Cowper.

Whatever good things you and you fellow politicians have done while in our Federal parliament, the cruel and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers has totally nullified those things. History will remember this Abbott government as a cruel and vindictive government guilty of the worst human rights offences perpetrated by a developed western democracy in recent times.

Yours sincerely


Luke Hartsuyker's reply right click on letter  to enlarge



Nauru guards accused of assaulting children in detention camp 24 April 2014

To read the Guardian article click on Nauru

Nauru guards accused of assaulting children in detention camp

Exclusive: Charity worker's letter says guard hit girl so hard on head that she fell to the ground 

There have been reports of 'a lot of conflict' between Save the Children staff and Wilson Security employees on Nauru. Photograph: Department of Immigration/AAP
Security guards at the family camp on Nauru have been accused of verbally and physically abusing child asylum seekers in a letter of concern from staff at the centre.
The letter by a Save the Children Australia worker to the charity’s Nauru contractors expresses “extremely alarming” allegations of “mistreatment and inappropriate behaviour” directed at asylum seekers by guards employed by Wilson Security, also now contracted at the Manus Island facility.


letter to hartsuyker 24 April 2014

24 April 2014
 Dear Mr Hartsuyker

I received your response to my letter sent on 2 April and found it unsatisfactory.

What I wrote was

As I watch the plight of Asylum Seekers on Manus Island, I find it difficult to understand why these human beings cannot be treated in a compassionate way.

Your Government has already made it clear that they will not be resettled in Australia.

Why is it necessary to make them suffer further especially after the horrific assault on these detainees?”

Your reply sent on 7 April merely suggested an investigation -  there was not any compassion about the death or the injuries or explanatation as to why you are persecuting these asylum seekers.

Yours Faithfully

David W
Spicketts Creek
                                                                                                            24 April 2014

 Dear Mr Hartsuyker

I am enclosing a copy of the article about Manus Island Asylum Seekers that was in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 April 2014.
Please explain to me why it is necessary to torture these asylum seekers who are seeking our protection.


Letter sent on 24 April 2014 to Luke Hartsuyker about article in Sydney Morning Herald

Spicketts Creek
                                                                                                            24 April 2014

 Dear Mr Hartsuyker

I am enclosing a copy of the article about Manus Island Asylum Seekers that was in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 April 2014.
Please explain to me why it is necessary to torture these asylum seekers who are seeking our protection.



Letter to Luke Hartsuyker fropm John pollock 23 April 2014

23 April 2014 
Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP
PO Box 2056
Coffs Harbour 2450

Dear Mr Hartsuyker

I used to be proud to be Australian; to be a citizen of a nation that led the world in moral matters, that believed in a fair go, that had a government devoted to humanity and social progress.  Now we have a government so ethically debased that it is prepared to use the benighted and disadvantaged asylum seekers as political pawns in the game of petty power politics.  
Your government has manipulated and maligned the most powerless, has sacrificed the vulnerable in the pursuit of getting elected.  In so doing, you have demeaned your office, you have committed systematic cruelty and you have appealed to the lowest in humanity, reducing our once noble nation to an assembly of the mean-spirited.  I am ashamed.

I have some questions to which I would appreciate your considered answers:

Do you support locking up children and pregnant women?

Do you think PNG or Nauru can really support refugees for ever?  The Amnesty International report into conditions on Manus was absolutely damning and the latest outbreak of mosquito-borne disease on Nauru is a symptom of the inadequacy of these off-shore concentration camps.

Do you think spending billions of dollars on a few thousand people is wise for the country as a whole? Would it not make better economic sense to hold these people only for as long as required for basic health and security checks, before releasing them into the community, where they could obtain work and independence, as happens in other countries?  Why are we locking these people up instead of processing them, when we know the vast majority will prove to be genuine refugees?

How do you plan to protect the rights of children who arrive with no parent or adult family members? How can it be in the best interests of any child to be sent away from Australia and into remote, indefinite detention with no certainty around resettlement even if the child is a refugee?  Should one child be punished in the hope of helping another? You have children: how would you feel about your children being locked up in a remote detention centre?  I am a mother and I would find it agonisingly insupportable.

What are your thoughts on the suicides and mental harm caused by indefinite, remote detention? 

If we don't increase the number of refugees we take from Indonesia and Malaysia we are not saving any lives, they are just not dying in our ocean near our media attention. They remain home and die or are completely unsafe stuck in limbo between their homes and Australia, often for decades.  These inhumane off-shore gulags are not about ‘saving lives at sea’: please do not insult our intelligence with this manipulative, fraudulent posture.

If we deny refugees family reunion we are actually going to attract whole families on boats out of desperation, not just fathers or husbands.   What is your view on this matter?
How did your forebears come to Australia?  Did they come seeking a better life for themselves and their families?  Does that mean they were brave and enterprising?  Does that mean they were economic refugees?  Or were they fleeing persecution?  Did they have a right to come here?

In the name of justice and humanity, I wish to see an end to mandatory detention, an end to the persecution of people who have no choice but to arrive by boat without visas, an end to the deliberate infliction of misery upon these victims with the malicious aim of making them abandon hope and return to countries where they are in danger. I would like to see Australia live up to its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention for the treatment of asylum seekers.  I am mortified we are denying them freedom of movement, access to education and the other human rights to which they are entitled.
I wish to see an end to the travesty of democracy where love of country is corrupted to xenophobia, where a propaganda war is waged against the voiceless and the vulnerable, where compassion is thwarted in the service of political careers.   I want to see an end to the denial of human rights to legitimate claimants that has brought international shame on our once great nation.
You do not represent me when you vilify the persecuted and the suffering.
Yours faithfully

Sydney Morning Herald article on Manus Island 23 April 2014

Sleepless nights until the Manus nightmare ends

April 22, 2014
Ben Pynt

In my day job in the construction industry, I specialise in alternative dispute resolution in the thriving gas pipeline sector in Western Australia. By night, I get to follow my true passion as a human rights advocate. I work with the men, women and children interned in the Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island detention centres. I speak with them daily, organise lawyers to represent them and co-ordinate complaints on their behalf (complaints are taken more seriously if an Australian lodges them). I sometimes put them in touch with journalists.
More than half of the people I work with have suffered torture and/or trauma before seeking asylum in Australia by boat. They are then detained indefinitely, without having committed a crime, in conditions unduly harsh for even the most despicable murderer or paedophile; conditions that lead about a third of asylum seekers to attempt self-harm and/or suicide during their time in detention.
They can’t believe that we do this to pregnant women and newborn babies. But we do. 
Those who speak with me send me photos and testimonies and beg me to have them published. They tell me they are under constant threat of reprisals: from locals who taunt them by making the sign of slitting their throats, and guards who they allege encourage them to commit self-harm. Many feel a return to their homeland and the prospect of being killed there is better than the uncertainty of indefinite detention and possible death on Manus Island.
Illustration: Kerrie Leishman.
Over the past week, I have relived a dozen times the trauma of the February attacks on the Manus Island detention centre. I travelled to London, Paris and Geneva for eight days to tell the world about what is happening on Manus. I organised interviews and meetings with media, non-government organisations and international human rights specialists. 

Every day, as I explained the circumstances of detention at Manus, and as I showed photos sent to me by the men interned there of the horrific injuries they sustained in the attacks, I felt like I was there. I have read their testimonies so many times they are committed to memory and I experience the scenes vividly. I see the attackers (I know their faces from social media), I see the men being pulled from under their beds and hacked with machetes or beaten with rocks and boots, and it brings tears to my eyes. Every time.
After these meetings, I would often walk around aimlessly for a while, staring into the distance. I rode the London underground from Victoria to Walthamstow before realising I had gone seven stations too far. I went to the theatre on my last night in London, but don’t really remember the show.
The people I met were shocked and disbelieving of my version of events. Until they saw the photos. Until they heard the voices of asylum seekers speaking over the telephone from Manus Island about what happened to them. Until they saw that everything we have reported since one day after the attacks has been verified by the media and, to a large extent, admitted by the government. Then they were horrified.
An audience of millions tuned in to engage with our BBC Radio 4 Today show package – the most listened-to news program on English radio. Journalists, when they had the full situation explained and saw the evidence for themselves, were eager to write about the Guantanamo Bay of the Pacific: Australia’s national shame.
The meeting with the United Nations was the most important but the hardest of all. The people I met with are hardened human rights specialists who spend their days sifting through complaints alleging serious crimes including extra-judicial killings, and even they were shocked at what they heard and saw. The UN wanted more details than the journalists and advocates I met with, I spent hours taking them through the minutiae.
I can’t bring myself to listen to my own interviews, and I don’t really read the news about asylum seekers any more. I skim the headlines and know what’s happening. I speak with other advocates, with sympathetic politicians and asylum seekers themselves, but reading the news is too distressing. 
The government has brought about a siege mentality in asylum advocates. We’re always on the back foot, always reacting rather than anticipating. Always reassuring people they’re going to be OK, hoping beyond hope our words are true.
I’m now working closely with the UN, human rights advocates and non-government organisations to take the next steps to shame Australia for its actions at the international level. I am working with journalists around the world to make sure their readers and listeners know what our government does to people who ask for our assistance. Because when people hear the truth, they are outraged. 
They are aghast that Australia has institutionalised mental torture on a massive scale, and facilitates the physical abuse of asylum seekers by sending them to places with inadequate medical facilities and an unacceptable risk of contracting malaria, dengue fever, cholera or infectious diarrhoea. They can’t believe that we do this to pregnant women and newborn babies. But we do.
Australia doesn’t have a bill of rights. The only constitutional rights protections that we have are about voting, religion, and equality before the law. But the Abbott government recently removed access to legal aid for asylum seekers, so the last guarantee has become ineffective.
What can we do? We can speak out. We can write to our local members. We can tell our friends in Australia and overseas the truth about what is happening at Manus. The same truth that has been reported by Amnesty, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and countless advocates. The truth that is communicated by brave men in detention at great personal risk. The truth that the government denies and is trying to suppress. The more we talk, the more pressure we place on the Abbott government to act in accordance with international human rights obligations.
Until then, the men at Manus will continue to sleep in shifts, because they are afraid of being attacked again.  Like me, and all of us with a conscience, we are unlikely to get a good night’s sleep until we put an end to mandatory detention in this country.
Ben Pynt is the director of human rights advocacy at Humanitarian Research Partners.
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