What You Should Know about the Manus Island Emergency (and How You Can Help)
On your to-do list for today: Take concrete action to help the asylum seekers stranded on Manus Island. By Grace Jennings-Edquist.
Wait, what’s happening?
More than 600 men are stranded right now inside the Manus Island detention centre without food, water, power, basic hygiene and medical care following the centre’s closure last week. The centre was closed after the PNG Supreme Court ruled it was illegal.
The refugees and asylum seekers have become reliant on collecting rainwater in garbage bins or from wells that they are digging to reach the groundwater. Many of the refugees are already unwell: In the last few days, several refugees have suffered medical emergencies – including epileptic fits, a possible cardiac arrest, kidney stones and an incident of self-harm arising from psychological trauma, according to activists. They also fear a violent evacuation by the PNG navy.
What’s the Australian government doing?
Appallingly little. While the government has offered the men alternative accommodation, the men are refusing to leave because they fear for their safety. Activists are calling on the Australia government to urgently evacuate the centre’s remaining residents to safety, but the government isn’t acting.
A number of leading human rights organisations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UNHCR) have variously described Australia’s treatment of refugees andasylum seekers as human rights abuses that are illegal under international law — and Steph Mawson of the International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention says the men on Manus are being used as hostages for political purposes. “The Turnbull government is engaged in an act of state-sponsored torture and terror on Manus Island, using vulnerable refugees as hostages within a political game,” Mawson adds.
What’s this I hear about New Zealand?
NZ has offered to take refugees from Manus Island, but the offer has been repeatedly rejected by the Australian government due to the porous borders between New Zealandand Australia.
And is the Opposition doing much to help?
Nope. “The Australian Labor Party have provided no genuine opposition to the cruel treatment of refugees in offshore detention centres which has resulted in the death of nine individuals, the systemic rape of women and children, and the censorship and criminalisation of whistle-blowers,” says Mawson. She adds that it was Labor that opened the offshore detention camps in 2013.
Mawson urges readers to place pressure on not just the Australian government but the Opposition, too. “It is vital for refugee rights activists to demonstrate to the Labor party that there are no votes in torture, no votes in human rights abuses, no votes in concentration camps, and no votes in institutionalised racism,” she urges.
What can I do?
- Consider donating for emergency food and water supplies here (food and water is expensive in Manus). Or provide phone credit to refugees on Manus and Nauru via this charity.
- Call or email your MP. You can use this online email template or use this form tofind the phone number of your local MP. Don’t know what to say? The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has helpful advice on how to have a conversation with an MP about offshore detention centres.
- Phone or email the current leaders of the Australian government and Opposition. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is on +61 2 6277 7700 or you can email via this website. Julie Bishop’s number is +61 2 6277 7500 or you can email Julie.Bishop.MP@aph.gov.au. Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten is on +61 2 6277 4022 and his email is Bill.Shorten.MP@aph.gov.au. Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, is at +61 2 6277 4404 and you can email her at email@example.com.
- Call or Email your Local Australian Embassy or Consulate. Find a list of Australian Embassies around the world here.
- Post photos using #IamWatching. You can post photos to this Facebook page and IAAMD will share them around social media to ensure that they are seen by the refugees. Also use this Facebook frame to spread awareness if you like.
The above tips were adapted from work by the International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention, a network formed by Australians living overseas, along with many non-Australian supporters. To get involved with IAAMD from anywhere in the world, join the Facebook page and group and email the group here.