The situation on Manus Island is reaching breaking point.
Late last week, PNG’s government issued an ultimatum to the 421 men stranded at Lobrum Naval Base on Manus Island. Leave the base by Monday 13 November or face forcible eviction, they said. Then local authorities began removing the fences around the base, and destroying the refugees’ make-shift rain storage facilities.
Conditions inside are increasingly dire. The men have been without electricity, running water, regular food supplies, or medical care for 13 days now. And it is clear that they have nowhere safe to go. Independent observers and media outlets say that alternative accommodation remains unfinished and uninhabitable. Refugees attempting to leave the centre for Lorengau, the main town on the island, have been repeated victims of armed robberies, assaults, and death threats.
As Behrouz Boochani, a journalist and refugee on Manus Island, wrote recently after witnessing a fellow Rohingya refugee suffer an epileptic fit:
“Manus prison can no longer tolerate the death of another individual. There is a mood of death, climate of death. Death is always ever so present. Death. The breath of death. The scent of death. The reign of death over Manus prison. This is the reality of living out here.”
Australia is responsible for the lives and safety of these men.
The Australian government has held children, women, and men in offshore processing centres for over four years, simply because they sought safety on our shores. Our government maintains effective control over the conditions in which people live, over their rights to mobility and freedom, and their access to long-term safety and stability. And we have spent close to five billion dollars in tax payer dollars for them to do so. It would be yet another cruelty to abandon these men now when they are in fear for their safety and for their lives.
We have a commitment to these people as Australians, Catholics and fellow human beings. Indeed, Pope Francis’ message on the 103rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees captures the spirit of this imperative perfectly:
“The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return.”
Today, JRS Australia is calling on you to take action in the following ways:
- CALL Malcolm Turnbull’s office (02 6277 7700) or your local MP’s office. Register your concern and ask now for the men to be brought to safety immediately.
- TELL friends and family about what is happening on Manus Island. Ask them to contact our politicians.
- MAKE A DONATION via our website to help JRS Australia support vulnerable individuals who have been medically evacuated from Nauru and Manus Island, and who are at risk of being forced back to offshore detention or to their home countries.