The above letter was written by detainees at the notorious Manus Island asylum-seekers detention centre, run by the Australian Government. It sums up the desperation of those there, that they prefer to die rather than live indefinitely in the centre. Their suffering is only matched by the detainees in a similar Australian gulag on Nauru. Clearly the detention cannot go on forever. Privately the Australian Government knows this and no doubt would love to find a way out without losing face and losing the votes of the conservatives in the electorate. Both the Liberal (conservatives) and Labor (conservatives) parties are trapped by their own rhetoric. The courageous thing to do would be to seek a bipartisan solution that would end offshore processing of asylum-seekers once and for all. But neither party would appear to have that courage.
(Note: the many, many signatures to the letter are given in the images at the end of this article.)
In the meantime there has been an update on the fate of the 16 asylum-seekers who were pushed back to sea by the Australian Navy from Christmas Island just over a week ago. The good news is the 16 survived. But it was a very hazardous journey and it was due to sheer luck that they did not die.
The 16 asylum-seekers came from Bangladesh, India and Nepal. The boat was washed up at West Kupang (West Timor). An Indonesian police officer who helped them off their boat said: “They were in OK condition, they were given enough food and plenty of water, but they ran out of fuel. They could’ve died if they had sunk or if no one had found them”.
One of the asylum-seekers explained: “We were heading to Christmas Island in Australia. When we arrived, we were detained for four days, the boat we used from Jakarta was destroyed by Australian security.”
The Australian Navy towed the asylum seeker boat away from Christmas Island before transferring its passengers to a naval vessel and sailing them east to meet the Farah, one of several ‘turn back’ boats that the Australian Government has had custom-built by the Chinese for occasions such as this. The boat contained fuel, maps, life-jackets and supplies.
Australia has “turned back” 20 boats since Operation Sovereign Borders began in late 2013. Boats have been forcibly sent back to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, some crashing on reefs and requiring rescue.
In May a boat with 65 asylum-seekers was returned to Indonesia after the crew were paid by Australian government officials, according to an investigation by Amnesty International. The Australian Government’s turn-back policy has also been condemned by MSF.
Signatories of Manus Island asylum-seekers to letter: