This letter was written after visiting an Iranian man in immigration detention. The writer has given permission for me to put it on this site. Identifying details have been masked:
“To Mr Peter Dutton and Ms Sarah Henderson,
Today my husband and I visited [AB] at [XYZ] Detention Centre. He had been moved from Manus Island just before Christmas after seeing a Melbourne neurological specialist there. The specialist said he needed to be moved to Melbourne to receive medical treatment.
[AB] is Iranian and was caught in the Feb 7th rampage where his best friend Reza was murdered. Another of his friends lost his eye, another was shot and still has a bullet in his back. [AB] himself was attacked by guards and local people. He was beaten around the head with a rod, lost several teeth and suffered acquired brain injury to the extent that he cannot remember anything about his life prior to this terrible day. He still has nightmares every night. He cannot walk properly and has poor balance and regularly falls over. His friends tell him about what happened at Manus before and on that day, and his brother in Iran tells him about his life back in Iran before he came to Manus. This is very distressing for him. He has had these problems for almost 12 months, and spent several weeks in Port Moresby Hospital after his head and face were wounded, but on Manus had NO medical treatment to speak of. And your government says Manus Island detainees are receiving all the attention they need!!!@@#$%^&?????
[AB]’s other 2 friends have been brought to the mainland for medical treatment also but all sent to different states, one in Sydney and the other in Adelaide if I remember correctly. So he cannot see them and talk to them about their plight, or to console each other.
The conditions on Manus are in his words very bad, even as compared with Maribyrnong in every way. In the intense heat there they had no air conditioning, the food, the guards, the cramped conditions where they slept, and the very low morale of all the people there. Have either of you, Sarah or Peter, been to Manus Island to see for yourself how you would like to live in these conditions for a day or a week, much less with all the emotional baggage these men have to carry with them as well. [AB] says his physical condition is not as bad his brain injury which he finds really disturbing. He cannot concentrate and sometimes cannot think of the words he wants to say. His friends tell him his English was very good before the attack, but not so now.
Any organisation that treated the people they were responsible for looking after, in this manner would be sued for negligence and lack of duty of care. I believe that the Australian government has a lot to answer for and I urge you to immediately organise an independent inquiry into conditions on Manus Island, and the medical treatment available. A major Crisis is about to happen or should I say is NOW happening, and there is not the infrastructure and medical facilities to cope even when there is not a crisis as in [AB]’s case.
We stayed and talked to [AB] for 2-3 hours. He is a very gentle and good living man, with wonderful simple values to love and care for your family and friends. He was so appreciative of our visit and didn’t want anything from us although we took him some food treats which hopefully he will be able to pick up from security tonight. He will not pronounce himself to belong to any religious body and this is a real problem for him in Iran. If you do not pronounce to be Muslim you will be shot.
It is obvious that the prolonged periods of detention, characterised by frustration, uncertainty and insecurity, are doing further damage to individuals who have fled grave human rights abuses. These people are easily tipped over the edge. You could feel it in the air in some of them today in the Visitors Centre. The detention policy has failed as a deterrent and succeeded only as punishment.
How much longer will these people be punished for seeking safety from persecution?
I urge you to think seriously about our government’s Immigration policy and act in a humane, compassionate and responsible manner. Asylum seekers are a global problem and we need to do our share. Spend some of the billions of dollars on restoring these people’s hope rather than destroying it.
Sincerely, [name and address withheld]”