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No Christmas joy on Manus Island

For the 130 Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi and Sri Lankan refugees on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, this Christmas season is an uphill battle to keep spirits up in a grim environment writes Socialist Alternative. On Christmas Day most Australian children wake up to a morning of opening presents; the 15 children on Manus Island wake up to a vastly different reality: their daily malaria pill.

In the humid isolation of Manus Island time stands still for those waiting to be granted asylum in Australia. Since the Refugee Processing Centre was reopened in November, none of the detainees have been given access to legal aid or assigned a case manager.

One detainee has reported that the mental state of many asylum seekers on Manus Island is rapidly declining. Yet there are no counselling services available. The Salvation Army’s failure to provide psychiatric help is incomprehensible given the widespread knowledge that life in detention can cause psychosis, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

For Aria Yousefian, a 28-year-old musician from Iran, the uncertainty of life in detention is the worst part of the experience. His wish list for 2013 includes “freedom, safety, and rights for women and children. I am not worry about music or other things anymore,” he says. “I am worry about my future… We do not know how long we will stay here. No one here will tell us what will happen to our future. People say they should let us die here by gun, it is easier.”

The nightmarish conditions faced by refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are a time warp back to the Howard government’s Pacific Solution of the 2000s. This time around it is the ALP that is implementing these inhumane policies whilst at the same time restricting access to journalists wishing to investigate the conditions inside the detention centre.

While the media are restricted from visiting Manus Island, some other organisations have been allowed to visit the centre, and their attitude has left Aria and others feeling abandoned:

“I saw workers from Save the Children were laughing at us, women and children were crying because of the situation, but it was a TV show for them. I don’t know what to say exactly. All I know is people can’t tolerate this anymore.”

As 2013 approaches and millions of people in Australia write their New Year’s resolution lists, a heavy cloud of uncertainty hangs over Manus Island. Refugees are being given no information about their fate, or told if their claims have even been initiated yet.

In this remote tropical island without air conditioning, adequate medical treatment, or privacy, the best gift the Australian government could give asylum seekers this festive season is the most basic and simple of all: freedom.

Comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.



Comment from paul walter
Time December 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

I have to agree, it’s become gruesome. Government polling must suggest that the marginals do not want to see asylum-seekers so much as seen to be punished.
So, this is the dirty battle for credibility amongst the political parties.
You can applaud Labor for turning the opposition’s filthy tactics back on itself, until you start to consider the human toll. Brilliant in a military sense, but like many things military, the underlying characteristic seems to involve lack of comprehension and imagination as to the Big Picture- the sense of proportion isn’t there because the vision is so muddy, that the actuality of asylum seekers and neo colonialism isn’t understood.
A People’s War is a legitimate defence of the safety of the People, but the politicians haven’t grasped that the People is ALL the People, not just a few white people.
We do as Othello did with Desdemona, goaded with fear and lies and when you wake up to it, it won’t leave room for self respect, only remorse, as you realise the progress since the Prasad case in the mid ‘sixties was an illusion.

Comment from Autumn
Time December 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I’m not sure how the provision fo counselling is the role of the Salvation Army.

Regardless,, it is not a good situation. Keep up the awareness campaign that perhaps social pressure can help cause politicians to make changes.