Manus: an emotional rant

A colleague in Sydney recently sent me what follows. She described it as an “emotional rant”. I think it makes a lot of sense. Tragically, it show just how little sense our refugee policies make.  Turnbull and dutton should hang their heads in shame.

“My dear friend on Manus, let’s call him ‘James’, is in severe pain.
James confessed to me that IHMS only have given him ibuprofen and paracetamol- nothing stronger, and no further medical appointments.
So you know what he’s resorted to? Sniffing burning toilet paper.
This is a university-educated, highly resourceful, incredibly intelligent Christian (not that the latter should be a factor in determining his ability to contribute to this country, but it seems to be), who is using toilet paper as a painkiller. …

This is a kid who went without glasses for a year after they were deliberately smashed by security guards.
This is a kid who left his home country and paid to complete his education in a country where he wasn’t at risk of execution.
This is a kid who brightens my day, and makes me laugh like nobody else can.
And this is a kid who we’ve locked up, beaten, denied medical attention to- because he arrived by boat.

James mentioned to me last night that this year he should be finishing his Master’s degree. He wants to be a magistrate. But billions of dollars are being used to incarcerate him instead, and our country is poorer for it in more ways than one.

Congratulations Peter Dutton. Our borders are safe. But people like James should be inside of them, not on Manus. By killing James, you aren’t saving lives; you’re ending them.”

Here’s what their Attorney-General says about human rights:

“Across the entire panoply of human rights Australia has not only been an activist, but those rights are integral to what we Australians regard as our sense of nationhood … As a Liberal, I am proud that Australia has been so active, both domestically and internationally in the promotion of a vigorous, ambitious human rights agenda.” 

Attorney General George Brandis speaking at the launch of a campaign for Australia to become a member of the UN’s human rights council. October 19, 2015

Assuming he was being sincere (big assumption) perhaps he could have a quick chat toTturnbull and Dutton and tell them what “Human Rights” means.

“James” languishing on Manus, might wonder whether George Brandis was just kidding.

More horrors at MITA

Here is a message I just received from the wonderful Pamela Curr at ASRC.  As she says, our detention facilities are designed to break people – to punish them for daring to come to Australia seeking protection:

ONE OF THE WORST OF DAYS AT THE MITA – formerly a transit camp at Broadmeadows- now a HIGH SECURITY PRISON.

Today Border Force has broken up friendship groups at the MITA.

27 single men are now locked up in Calder, isolated from their friends and only able to make contact after applying in writing to request a visit.

It has been clarified that no time lines are given for when these requests will be honoured. It depends on SERCO staff deciding if there is a suitable time and space in visits.

10 women and family groups are locked up in Bass compound.  6 vulnerable men are in AVON and Eildon is empty.

Food will be delivered to the compounds so there will be no eating together.

Gym facilities consist of 3 machines in Calder and there are 4 Computers for 27 men. So no communal activity.

Worst of all are the rooms which are smaller than ever, estimated to be 2.5 x 3 metres. Two men are expected to live in each room in a double bunk. The men report that the bunks are so low that no one can sit upright in the downstairs bunk. No one wants to sleep upstairs jammed against the low celing. Detention regulations have always breached health and safety standards of residential care with impunity.

As one man said- they want to make conditions in detention so horrible that no one will ever come to Australia.

Another person said- these guys are our friends- we spend our days having a laugh with them in this terrible place.

Many of the women did not come to visits becasue they were too sad by the separation. Border Force and SERCO were there in force for this brutal change to the ” Operating Model” of the MITA.

There are 27 men to occupy 19 rooms. Most do not want to share rooms after years in detention. Some men are considering sleeping outside tonight.

What was saddest was to see young men so broken down that they said- there is no point in protesting- if we do they will just punish us more by sending us to MIDC or worse.

Day by day the cruelty and inhumanity increase.This model of separate zones, limiting communication and friendship has been implemented in MIDC at Maribyrnong. Now that the children are gone, the same brutal imprisonment techniques are being implemented in MITA at Broadmeadows.

They are designed to break people to punish them for daring to come to Australia seeking protection.

Manus

I am posting this largely for historical interest: Manus has been shocking but it’s getting worse.

This document has a number of alarming accounts of the brutality which surounded, and followed, the murder of Reza Berati.

At the end of the document, it has a number of photographs of conditions in the camp.

Here is some of the damage YOUR taxes have paid for (Note the injuries, bullet holes etc): injured asylum seekers on Manus

Joint Urgent Appeal on behalf of asylum seekers at Manus Island (1)

Border Force cracking down at MITA in Victoria

MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accomodation) is increasing the pressure on detainees.  They are making it increasingly difficult for people to visit detainees, even though the detainees have committed no offence and are held in conditions which are slowly driving them mad.  And now this – I got this report today:

Today Border Force operatives are “Messaging” people in detention at the MITA – Broadmeadows about the changed “operating model” to be implemented.
They are cutting the camp into high security locked zones where people will be separated according to gender and composition only able to see each other under supervision at set times in a set place.
SAMS= single adult men
SAFS= single adult females
Families
ASIO guys.
Todays action is to draft the SAMS into a high security area where they will be locked off from the others. There they will live and eat alone. If they wish to visit a friend in another area they must apply in writing to SERCO who may or may not approve a request and arrange a visit in the visits centre.
Now that the children are gone the prisonification of detention grows more extreme.

The only ones exempt from this treatment are the ASIO guys who are recognised as having special needs by virtue of their long detention.

Tomorrow the separation begins.

Although there are more than 100 people in the MIDC Maribyrnong camp which has a capacity of 70, so far none are being moved. MITA is well under capacity.
The men in MIDC are already “zoned” and separated. However even though they have the capacity they are still putting vulnerable IMA’s in the same rooms and Zones with angry 501,s. We have repeatedly requested that the IMA’s be transferred to the MITA to no avail.
One young man with a girlfriend is very distressed at the proposed separation.

 

A plea from Manus

Letter from men detained on Manus, 15 April 2016.
Here is the original (I have removed the signatures to protect the writers from reprisals) Letter April 2016-image
To the UNHCR organization in Canberra
We, detainees in Manus Island, are writing to you to thank for coming your delegates in here. We are hoping to see positive results of your reports.More than 3,000 years ago some people in the world treated their wounds by mould of bread. By passing time scientists discovered antibiotics from mould. Now, in the world today, many kinds of antibiotics are made for each type of infections.

More than 2.000 years ago Human Right Charter was written by some great people in the world. Human Right Charter have been completed and now exists in the United Nations. It is one of the best honours of mankind.

Many years ago, Hippocrates made an oath for medical doctors and also medicine staff like nurses, etc. When somebody takes the Hippocratic Oath, they must treat the best with patient people even if they are enemy to them. The Hippocratic Oath is also one of the best honors of mankind.

Ona a place in the world is called Manus Island, an Island in PNG, many people have been detaining for around 33 months as the off shore processing centre of Australia. This time started from 19 July 2013. During this time antibiotics, Human Right Charter and Hippocratic Oath did not work for one of them. He was Hamid Khazaei. He died because of septicemia. He died because of lack of antibiotics. He died because of lack of Human Right Charter. He also died because of lack of the Hippocratic Oath.

Unfortunately, IHMS is still a tool in hand of Australian and PNG governments to pressurize us. We reported everything in details to your delegates. We just refer to some of them. Psychiatrists prescribe as much depression and sleeping tablets as that you want. They just want us to be quiet. Psychologists propose East Lorengau, and area near our compound as transit centre as a psychology way to control your mind and that you will be happy there. If you see the fortune of people who went to East Lorengau, you understand what we mean.

Prime Minister of PNG claims that we damage their reputation. He claims the we caused to dam age the reputation of Manus people. If so, why is he cooperating with Australian government to send us to East Lorengau? We are 100% happy to leave this country as soon as possible not to damage their reputation.

There are just 27 countries in the world that participate in UNHCR resettlement programe. We would like to resettle in each of them. PNG is not of them. If people go to East Lorengau, that does not mean they are happy. That is because they are tired. Many of them wish to return to our compound.

Please remind Australian People that we are in critical condition. Long time in detention, around 33 months, have been deteriorating us. As Tony Abott said, we are some part of Australian government policy to stop the boats. Malcolm Turnbull have been continuing that policy. Now boats have stopped. Operation Sovereign Border have been completed. In fact the last Bali Processing completed that policy. Detaining us at the moment wastes your taxes. Detaining us damage your reputation as free people. Even north Korea condemn Australian government.

We would not like to come to your country if you are not happy. But, we would like to resettle in UNHCR resettlement programme’s countries. People of the same boat from Christmas Island went to Australia around 15 months ago and it is completely unfair.
To sum up, we, the signatories, believe you as a highest organization in the world for supporting us. If some detainees do not sign it does not mean they are happy, but they are disappointed from everywhere. We are looking forward for your help. Please help us as much as you can.

Yours faithfully
Detainees of Manus Island
15 Apr 2016

News from Australia’s gulags

News from Nauru:

“Guards have raided and ransacked single women’s quarters in Nauru. Looking for phones and cameras etc. One woman was arrested, why?, who then cut her wrist and chest in police custody. Mina Taherkhani had a Heart Attack and has been sent to IHMS in Nauru.”

And here is part of a news report about detainee S99:

Bianca Hall, Legal Affairs reporter
Published: April 14, 2016 – 9:23PM
“[A] young African refugee known only as S99 was in the midst of a violent epileptic seizure when she was set upon and
raped on Nauru.
She was semi-conscious during the rape and is unable to identify her attacker. Now, she is nine weeks pregnant and
desperate to have an abortion.
Since her rape, the young woman has attempted suicide. She continues to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic
symptoms. She can’t sleep, and she has received no ongoing psychological care.
Abortion is illegal on Nauru and the woman – who has been accepted as a refugee by the island nation – is seeking an
abortion on Australian soil, arguing it has a responsibility to provide her with the medical care she needs.
But instead of bringing her to Australia for the termination, Australian authorities last week transferred her to Papua New
Guinea where, according to the country’s criminal code, a woman who attempts to “procure her own miscarriage” faces a
maximum seven years’ imprisonment.
Clouding the situation is a PNG policy that says abortion is lawful only if the mother’s mental or physical health are at
stake.
On Wednesday last week, Australian authorities woke the woman and told her she would be immediately transferred to
PNG. She was taken to a hotel in the PNG capital of Port Moresby, told she would be taken to a medical appointment the
next day, and left alone. Then, she called her lawyer, George Newhouse. …”

News from Manus:

“Last night was tragic. me and one of my boat mates who recently arrived from *** Compound were hanging out in his room and we were sharing some clips on our phones and a Wilson guard stormed into room without knocking or anything and we both got caught with phone in hands. He send code black on radio and lots of Wilson arrived. My friend got angry and outta control, he was resisting the first Wilson guy not to come inside the room however the guy come on his blanket with shoes one where he sleep..a total mess, chaos, now my friend in Chaukka… (sad emoticons) Just a phone, nothing…have to fight with life to save it (sad emoticons) The place we sleep mean nothing to them…all came with shoes on stepping on pillows, blanket.”

“I am still waiting for friend to come back from Chaukka…last night dozens of them hold him, by twisting his arms, legs, dragging along the corridor like animal about to slaughter. So sad, so feeling bad for him….”

So this is Australian values in 2016.  Brought to you by:

Mike Pezzullo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Pezzullo, and

Peter Dutton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Dutton and

Malcolm Turnbull https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Turnbull .

Wilson Security

The Greens are campaigning  to get rid of Wilson Security.  The campaign has got a lot to be said for it, not least Peter Dutton’s dismal performance on PM on 7 April, during which he conspicuously refused to answer questions on the issue, instead taking shelter behind slogans and set-piece speeches. 

Wilson guards operate at Manus and Nauru detention centres.  Have alook at how they behave:

Don’t forget: this is an Australian company, paid by Australia, to “protect” innocent people who fled to Australia to find safety.

Don’t forget, Reza Berati was killed in Manus while being abused by Wilson guards.

Don’t forget that Benham Satah, the main eye-witness to the murder of Reza Berati, was beaten up by Wilson guards in order to get him to withdraw his witness sstatement.

Don’t forget, Wilson Security hides its operations in a tax shelter, as revealed by the Panama Papers.

The Greens’campaign reads like this:

Wilson Security is rotten to the core, and the government knows it.

On Monday, the Australian security company was linked to dodgy offshore affairs which were exposed in the ‘Panama Papers’ leak.

Today, it was revealed that the government is “reviewing” Wilson’s multi-million dollar contracts with the offshore detention centres. 

The government is starting to feel the pressure, but will you help keep it up by signing the petition and sharing it with your friends?

Things are changing, but not fast enough.

Just last night, allegations emerged that Wilson Security guards were hitting and kicking children in the detention camp on Nauru, with video surfacing of one frightened child yelling “They are hitting us”.

It’s more important than ever that we keep the pressure up and demand a better way for people seeking asylum.

Wilson Security should be stripped of their contracts now and the government should get on with closing the camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

I’m not a member of the Greens, or of any political party, but I agree with what the Greens are saying on this.

And more bad goings-on at Manus

I just got this report about the Detention centre on Manus:

Manus guards tried to turn the mosque into a sleeping area today. They fought the men who objected to their prayer room being used as housing. No serious injuries, but it’s clear that they’re deliberately trying to provoke unrest. They cut the power during the compound shift; men had to carry all of their belongings unassisted in the sweltering midday heat- without fans to offer relief for an hour prior to them having to do so. …

Could this be coincidental?

Tom Ballard writes about refugee stories

This is from Tom Ballard’s piece in The Guardian, published 7 April 2016. Follow the links:

The White Australia policy was ended and Malcolm Fraser did the decent thing after the Vietnam war, but the good times didn’t last. Hawkie had no time for the “queue-jumpers” and Paul Keating condemned all boat arrivals to indefinite mandatory detention (an “interim measure” that’s lasted for 24 years).

We declared all out war on the people smugglers and refused to show any sympathy for their desperate customers, caught in the crossfire. The story of “Ms Z” is chilling.

She arrived by boat in 1994, seeking asylum from the People’s Republic of China and its draconian one-child policy. Ms Z fell pregnant while in immigration detention. In 1997 all her legal appeals were exhausted and we deported her back to China. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. A week after her return, Ms Z was subjected to a coerced abortion.

Almost 20 years later, the horror stories keep coming:

Abyan.

Human teeth being found in the food on Manus Island.

Claims of guards on Nauru sexually abusing refugee children.

Kids in detention as young as seven attempting suicide.

Footage of Wilson Security employees joking about shooting people seeking asylum.

Earlier this year we found out that suicide attempts are such a regular occurrence on Nauru that guards have been issued with special knives so they can “cut down a transferee who is hanging”.

Refugees in terror on Nauru

Very recent reports from Nauru:

Wednesday 6 April 2016, at 8:42 pm:

Some Australian guards have beaten women and children in RPC3 and some have been taken to medical. This was only a few minutes ago.
Trying to get hold of [name] but her phone was stolen by locals who robbed her and her friend at the start of the week.

Wednesday 6 April 2016, at 9:31 pm:

All of our friends are cowering and furtively sending messages when they can.
… Something has to be done to de-escalate this.

The Guardian newspaper reported on the disturbances on 7 April

And here are some direct accounts of what is happening in Nauru refugee processing centre.

This was recorded in Nauru on the night of 6 April 2016. The screaming at the end was when the guards were trying to get into where the women were protecting the children.

Social media posts from Nauru:

Screenshot_2016-04-06-23-25-29 Screenshot_2016-04-06-21-28-03

#Hushtag

The Refugee Council of Australia is launching a social media campaign that aims to stand up for the victims of refugee abuse by launching HushTag – the tweet that’s all-hashtag, leaving no room for freedom of speech.

Please visit http://hushtag.sh and hit “Tweet it” to show your support.

Hushtag 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HushTag reads:

#TheBorderForceActSaysTwoYearsInPrisonForAnyDetentionCentreWorkerWhoSpeaksUpAboutOffshoreRefugeeAbuse #ThisLawMustBeStoppedRetweetIfYouAgree

In Australian detention centers, there have been 100 known cases of sexual assault, child abuse and even murder, under the current government. Not one single perpetrator has been brought to justice and every day they go unpunished.

In 2015, The Australian Border Force act made it illegal for Detention Center works to talk about abuse of refugees in detention onshore or offshore. The penalty is two years in prison: Mind you, if ANY health worker is prosecuted for disclosing facts which reveal the harm which is being inflicted by detention, I will arrange the best pro bono defence ever seen in this country.

HushTag uses two tweets to demonstrate the injustice of the legislation while also leaving no room for freedom of speech. The means we can re-tweet without fear of prosecution, with a goal of reaching 100,000 tweets.

Hushtag 2

Social campaigns can have monumental power to be heard, bring to light legislative injustices and place them on the political agenda. The first step is social awareness; be a part of the cause for change, tweet the HushTag and support freedom of speech. The goal is to reach 100,000 mentions by mid-May to coincide with a joint Parliamentary sitting. Your support will be commemorated by ‘The Wall of Voices’ on the hushtag.sh webpage.

As part of this social campaign, you can also push the message visually by taping an ‘X’ over your lips and posting this with the above hashtag. I can send through a sneak peak of the social influencers pack for visual if you like?

Workers from the Refugee Council of Australia can freely tweet this without fear of prosecution. By seeding the HushTag through uncensored social channels, namely Twitter and Instagram, you’re fighting the Border Force Act and simultaneously adding your voice to a Digital Petition.

You can find further information on hushtag.sh

 

 

 

 

 

Also Instagram:

Hushtag 3

The “Drowning” Argument

Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull and Dutton are not to be believed when they express concern about people drowning in their attempt to reach safety.  Their policy (which Labor basically supports) seems to be this: “We are so concerned about you drowning, that we will punish you if you don’t drown.”

The Federal election campaign of 2013 was the first time in our political history that both major parties campaigned on a promise to be cruel to a particular group of human beings: asylum seekers.  They promised to treat asylum seekers so harshly that others would be deterred from seeking our help. This completely ignores the point of the Refugees Convention, and it ignores Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, which says “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Since the 2013 election, we have witnessed increasingly brutal treatment of asylum seekers. This was done, in large part, by Scott Morrison repeatedly referring to boat people as “illegal arrivals” and then morphing it into the idea of “border protection”.  It is the great lie on which his campaign of cruelty was based.    It ignores Article 14 of the Universal Declaration.  It ignores the fact that it is not an offence to come here, without papers, without an invitation, seeking asylum.  It is also the foundation of Mr Dutton’s equally harsh approach to boat people, in which votes are more important than human decency.

It is based on an alleged (but not genuine) concern about people drowning in their attempt to reach safety.  When Abbott and Morrison or Turnbull and Dutton express a humanitarian concern about boat people drowning, they are lying.  In fact, their stance demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the lives of persecuted people who are unable to escape.  While it is undoubtedly tragic that people drown trying to escape persecution, it has been known for centuries that people perish in their attempt to find safety.

 I do not believe Mr Abbott or Mr Morrison had any genuine humanitarian concern about asylum seekers.  They said they stopped the boats.  It was largely true: with a couple of exceptions, boats have stopped arriving.  But we know they have not stopped setting out from Indonesia: we have been pushing them back.  We are not allowed to know how many have drowned on those boats: it is an “on-water matter”, so it remains a secret.

“Stop the boats” became the mantra by which our government would be judged.  Of course, the boats have not stopped setting out, so “stop the boats” came to mean “stop the boats arriving”.  Morrison and Abbott were thrilled to be able to tell us that they had stopped the boats.  But even if it is gratifying to say that you have achieved a three word slogan, it is not self-evident that the endeavour should be hailed a success.

Stopping refugee boats arriving is not a self-evident good.  It might stop people drowning inconveniently in view of Australians at Christmas Island.  But if they do not get on a boat and are, instead, killed by the Taliban, they are just as dead as if they drowned.  If they try to flee to Europe and drown in the Mediterranean, they are still dead.  The real difference is that our conscience is not troubled by their un-noted death somewhere else.

It is worth remembering that boat people are, by definition, people with enough initiative to take steps to escape persecution, and enough courage to risk their lives at sea.  And they are fleeing the same extremists we are fighting in the Middle East.  So what’s not to like about them?  Stopping the boats prevents our society from receiving people who are brave and determined.

Boat people who have managed to get here without drowning are treated with unparalleled harshness.  They are treated as sub-humans, in needlessly dreadful conditions in Nauru and Manus Island.  Reza Barati was murdered in the Manus Island detention centre, by the people guarding him.  Hamid Kehazaie died of septicaemia after cutting his foot in Manus island, because the medical care for detainees in detention centres run by Australia is hopelessly compromised.

Let us face the plain facts: innocent men, women and children are suffering terribly in detention centres, and their suffering is the intended result of Australia’s policy.  As a nation, Australia is responsible for the misery and harm deliberately inflicted on boat people by successive governments.

Cruelty in Australia’s offshore detention camps

The following are statements giving evidence about conditions and treatment of detainees on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island, :

Manus Island

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS A”

I, [WITNESS A] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I am a Medical Doctor, formerly employed at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”) for some months. Whilst employed at the Manus Island OPC, my duties were mainly the supervision of the provision of medical care as provided by other doctors employed there, as well as the provision of medical care myself.
  2. My professional experience includes the provision of health care services in maximum-security prisons in Australia.
  3. On the whole, the conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are extremely poor. When I first arrived at the Manus Island OPC I was considerably distressed at what I saw, and I recall thinking that this must be similar to a concentration camp.
  4. The detainees at the Manus Island OPC are detained behind razor wire fences, in conditions below the standard of Australian maximum-security prison.
  5. My professional opinion is that the minimum medical requirements of the detained population were not being met. I have no reason to believe that the conditions of detention have improved since I ceased employment at the Manus Island OPC.
  6. The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC appeared to be calculated to break the spirit of those detained in the Manus Island OPC. On a number of occasions the extreme conditions of detention resulted in detainees abandoning their claims for asylum and returning to their country of origin.
  7. At the Manus Island OPC, bathroom facilities are rarely cleaned. There was a lot of mould, poor ventilation, and the structural integrity of the facilities is concerning.
  8. No soap is provided to detainees for personal hygiene.
  9. When detainees need to use the bathroom, it is standard procedure that they first attend at the guards’ station to request toilet paper. Detainees would be required to give an indication of how many ‘squares’ they will need. The maximum allowed is six squares of toilet paper, which I considered demeaning.
  10. A large number of detainees continue to be in need of urgent medical attention.
  11. Formal requests for medical attention are available to the detainees. The forms are only available in English. Many of the detainees do not have a workable understanding of English and the guards will not provide assistance.
  12. The medical request forms are collected in a box throughout the week, and then on the weekend the box (together with its contents) is disposed of in a waste bin without having been reviewed. I witnessed this on a number of occasions, and understood it to be common practice.
  13. On some occasions when I was given access to particular detainees to provide medical treatment, they told me that they had filled out and submitted more than 15 forms over many months but until now had not received treatment. The medical complaints they had were serious and in urgent need of attention.
  14. I have personally witnessed a number of instances of trickery and deception on behalf of Manus Island OPC guards. Medical treatment is often used as bait for removing detainees from their compound where a particular detainee has complained about conditions. Once removed, and prior to the provision of any form of acceptable medical attention, the relevant detainees are transported to the local prison as a form of punishment for agitation.
  15. I often expressed my concern about the lack of medical treatment provided to the detainees. Never were my concerns addressed.

 

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS B”

I, [WITNESS B] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Iran, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I am a former detainee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I was detained there for many months.
  2. When I was detained at the Manus Island OPC, I was treated like an animal, and I was tortured.
  3. I was detained at the Manus Island OPC on 16 and 17 February 2014, at the time that Reza Barati was murdered inside the detention centre.
  4. I know that there were detainees who witnessed his murder.
  5. Those detainees provided written statements to the police following his murder. The written statements named specific persons who they believed were responsible for his murder, as well as detailed accounts of misbehaviour by the guards.
  6. I know that the detainees who provided those written statements were removed from their compound and taken to a different area of the Manus Island OPC, away from the other detainees.
  7. Exhibited to this statement is a true and correct copy of the eye witness statements, marked as: Exhibits to Annexure B-Redacted Affidavits.
  8. Once removed, the detainees who had given statements were tied to chairs by Wilson Security guards, and physically assaulted.
  9. They were then asked to retract their statements.
  10. The detainees refused to retract their statements, and so the guards continued to beat them, more savagely.
  11. They were then asked again to retract their statements.
  12. The detainees still refused to retract their statements, and so the guards told them that if they still refused to retract their statements, they would allow the local men waiting outside to rape them.
  13. I don’t know for sure whether or not the detainees retracted the statements.

 

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS C”

I, [WITNESS C] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I am a former employee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I worked there for a number of months.
  2. I also have many years experience in the prisons system.
  3. Whilst employed at the Manus Island OPC, I witnessed certain events that deeply disturbed me; I continue to be deeply disturbed by these events.
  4. Detainees are not allowed communication with the outside world. They are restricted in the Internet sites that they have access to.
  5. Asylum case managers that are granted access to the Manus Island OPC are searched on entry. The case managers may not bring paper or documents of any form into the Manus Island OPC.
  6. When new detainees arrive at the Manus Island OPC, often, I saw one or two taken aside and offered a ‘more favourable’ assessment of their asylum claim if they agree to act as an informant on the balance of their boat group.
  7. Staff at the Manus Island OPC operate on the assumption that detainees of all ages will attempt self-harm. As such, self-harm is not addressed as a symptom of anxiety or depression, or dealt with at all.
  8. From what I witnessed, self-harm was not a concern to guards when it was reported.
  9. Site-staff move detainees constantly without their permission. It is impossible for detainees to form friendships or find stability whilst their asylum claims are assessed.

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS D”

I, [WITNESS D] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I am a current employee at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”). I have been employed there for more than 12 months.
  2. I have a number of years experience also in the Australian corrections system. The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are markedly worse than those I have seen in the corrections system.
  3. It is not possible for me to speak to my superiors about my concerns. In my experience people who speak out have a difficult time doing their jobs.
  4. On a number of occasions detainees were forcibly removed from their accommodation at the Manus Island OPC and taken to the local prison. I was unaware, and remain unaware, of any offence that any of those detainees may have committed.
  5. On the morning of the 20th of December 2014, I witnessed a detainee being handcuffed with zip-ties and forcibly transported to the local prison. He was visibly in extreme pain, and complained that the zip-ties were too tight. In response, the attending guards held him down and tightened the zip-ties. On arriving at the local prison, the guards could not remove the zip-ties because they were too tight to be cut off.
  6. I do not know how the zip-ties were removed.
  7. The detainee suffered long-term nerve damage.
  8. The detainee asked why he had been detained and he was informed that it was for “being a smart-arse and trying to contact a lawyer”.
  9. I know that a number of days earlier, that detainee had tried unsuccessfully to make contact with legal representation.
  10. Detainees at the Manus Island OPC are not afforded adequate medical care. Of particular concern is dental hygiene. Dental problems are extremely prevalent, causing serious distress amongst the detainees.
  11. For a number of months, dental treatment was refused to all detainees.
  12. One detainee had approached guards in extreme pain, complaining about a tooth. The guards told him he did not have a medical issue that required treatment. Dental care was refused, and he was not afforded the opportunity to speak with a medical practitioner.
  13. I then witnessed that detainee using wire taken from one of the security fences to manually extract a tooth from his jaw. Still, no dental care – or medical care of any persuasion – was provided to this man.
  14. I have also witnessed a number of instances of untreated infection on the feet of detainees. In these circumstances the guards again provide faux medical diagnosis, sending the detainees away in want of treatment.
  15. In February 2014 there was a riot, during which a man’s throat was slashed. Since that time, the relevant detainee has been very distressed. He was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
  16. I have witnessed the guards regularly intimidating this man, often by mocking him in ways that would remind him of having his throat cut. On a number of occasions I have seen the guards running their fingers across their throats to intimidate the detainee.
  17. Wilson Security guards often wake the relevant detainee early in the morning, around 3am. The guards will stand around his bed to intimidate him once he is woken.
  18. The population of the Manus Island OPC is made up of various ethnic groups. Each group naturally has members that take a leadership role.
  19. I witnessed the leaders of the ethnic groups being forcibly removed and taken to the local prison. They remained there for 21 days, in crowded cells, sleeping like sardines together on the floor. I believe this was done to destabilise the ethnic groups.
  20. Whilst detained in the prison, local police beat an intoxicated local man in front of the ethnic leaders to intimidate them. The man who was beaten lost most of his teeth in the incident.
  21. Often the guards at the Manus Island OPC allow local police access to the site. On one occasion in December 2014, I witnessed local police take Qur’ans and other personal items (including photos) from detainees.
  22. Also in December 2014, the guards conducted a number of raids on the accommodation of the detainees. All of these raids occurred in the early hours of the morning whilst the general population was asleep.
  23. It is my view that these raids were conducted in a way designed to agitate and anger the detainees. The guards were always unduly aggressive and on a number of occasions treated the detainees in a way that I perceived to be designed to start a physical confrontation.
  24. In December 2013, the local police lined the detainees up in the sun for hours. Whilst there, the local police seized a number of personal items from the detainees.
  25. It is my view that this was designed to cause maximum distress amongst the detainees.
  26. On a number of occasions in certain parts of the Manus Island OPC, Wilson Security guards tried to force the detainees to leave the camp so that they might be physically assaulted by local people outside the Manus Island OPC.

Nauru:

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS E”

I, [WITNESS E] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I work for a refugee advocacy organisation. I deal with many refugees who have been held at Offshore Processing Centres, including many from the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre (the “Nauru OPC”).
  2. At the Nauru OPC, womens’ sanitary pads are considered a fire hazard, and so the detainees are forced to ask for them often.
  3. Women seek also to use the sanitary pads as make-shift nappy’s given the high rates of bed wetting.
  4. Women are also terrified of going to the toilets at night because of the male guards present there. They prefer to wet themselves.
  5. Showers are restricted to extremely short periods at the Nauru OPC. A male guard sits outside a plastic sheet, and has control of the water.
  6. Often, the male guard will stop the flow of water while young girls are washing their hair and ask the girls to expose themselves in before turning the water back on. This is a common complaint amongst former and current detainees. It has not been addressed.
  7. The guards at the Nauru OPC have also on a number of occasions asked to see nude children. On at least on occasion a naked child was placed on the guards lap and rubbed in a way that I would consider to be inappropriate.
  8. On one occasion a child (on seeing a psychologist) was asked to draw a picture of what made him upset. The drawing appeared to be a dark-skinned man with an erect penis.
  9. A number of parents have similar complaints about their children being abused.
  10. Male guards continue to loiter around the toilets, often offering lollies in exchange for the young children cleaning the toilets, which are filthy and covered in mould and excrement.
  11. The guards forcibly restrained fathers who protested about their children being asked to clean the toilets in exchange for lollies.
  12. On one occasion a 22 year-old girl (who has the physical appearance of a much younger child) attended the toilet facilities late at night. A male guard seriously sexually assaulted her. The victim feels she cannot report the identity of the guard to authorities as the guard is still working at the Nauru OPC where the remainder of her family is detained, and she believes that this will put her family in additional danger.

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS E”

I, [WITNESS E] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I work for a refugee advocacy organisation. I deal with many refugees who have been held at Offshore Processing Centres, including many from the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre (the “Nauru OPC”).
  2. At the Nauru OPC, women’s sanitary pads are considered a fire hazard, and so the detainees are forced to ask for them often.
  3. Women seek also to use the sanitary pads as make-shift nappy’s given the high rates of bed wetting.
  4. Women are also terrified of going to the toilets at night because of the male guards present there. They prefer to wet themselves.
  5. Showers are restricted to extremely short periods at the Nauru OPC. A male guard sits outside a plastic sheet, and has control of the water.
  6. Often, the male guard will stop the flow of water while young girls are washing their hair and ask the girls to expose themselves in before turning the water back on. This is a common complaint amongst former and current detainees. It has not been addressed.
  7. The guards at the Nauru OPC have also on a number of occasions asked to see nude children. On at least on occasion a naked child was placed on the guards lap and rubbed in a way that I would consider to be inappropriate.
  8. On one occasion a child (on seeing a psychologist) was asked to draw a picture of what made him upset. The drawing appeared to be a dark-skinned man with an erect penis.
  9. A number of parents have similar complaints about their children being abused.
  10. Male guards continue to loiter around the toilets, often offering lollies in exchange for the young children cleaning the toilets, which are filthy and covered in mould and excrement.
  11. The guards forcibly restrained fathers who protested about their children being asked to clean the toilets in exchange for lollies.
  12. On one occasion a 22 year-old girl (who has the physical appearance of a much younger child) attended the toilet facilities late at night. A male guard seriously sexually assaulted her. The victim feels she cannot report the identity of the guard to authorities as the guard is still working at the Nauru OPC where the remainder of her family is detained, and she believes that this will put her family in additional danger.

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS F”

I, [WITNESS F] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I am a Medical Doctor, formerly employed at the Christmas Island Refugee Processing Centre (“Christmas Island”). Whilst employed at Christmas Island, my duties were mainly to determine whether or not a particular refugee was fit to be transferred to the Manus Island Offshore Processing Centre or the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre.
  2. I was employed on Christmas Island for an extended period, and was working there during July 2013, when boat arrivals were at their peak.
  3. When asylum seekers arrived, they were usually badly sunburned, starving, and incontinent of urine and faeces. Often they had vomited on one another.
  4. I was frustrated to see that it was standard procedure to strip these asylum seekers of their belongings on arrival. In my view, this policy became unreasonable when it extended to removing glasses and hearing aids with no discretion.
  5. Asylum seekers were taken to the “induction shed” immediately on arrival.
  6. There were so many asylum seekers and so little staff, so we were forced to sacrifice the quality of our health assessments.
  7. The primary purpose of the health assessments was to ensure the asylum seekers were fit enough for detention on Nauru or Manus Island. Our health assessment checklists included a box that we could tick if we thought that the person was not fit for detention.
  8. On a number of occasions I recall being instructed verbally to “never tick that box”.
  9. On the electronic medical records, we were restricted to changing information about allergies. We were restricted from providing further medical assessment.
  10. At one point when the centre was extremely busy, we were made aware that the government wanted to have as many asylum seekers transferred to the Nauru and Manus Island OPCs as possible. We were to make an example of the children who were fit to travel.
  11. I recall being upset, as were my medically trained colleagues, when I was heard that a four year-old boy with cerebral palsy and a young mother with twins were sent to Manus Island without medical advice.
  12. These were the first people sent with the intention of demonstrating, for the other recently arrived asylum seekers, who would be considered fit for detention.
  13. On one occasion, a new member of the medical team refused to certify an asylum seeker for detention for medical reasons. My understanding is that she was removed from the medical certification process, and the asylum seeker was reassessed (positively) and sent to the Manus Island OPC or the Nauru OPC.
  14. It is also my understanding that, generally speaking, in the transportation process from Christmas Island to Manus Island or Nauru, medical records were usually lost. As a result of the loss of medical records, some women received between 18 and 19 separate, unnecessary vaccinations.
  15. I know that five pregnant women were given vaccinations that were unsafe for expectant mothers. Of these women, I know that four suffered miscarriages.
  16. I know also that a young boy who I considered to be inappropriate for detention on Manus Island or Nauru was sent to Manus Island where I understand he was repeatedly subject to sexual abuse, including rape.

Christmas Island

STATEMENT OF “WITNESS G”

I, [WITNESS G] of [ADDRESS WITHHELD], resident in Australia, can give evidence as follows:

  1. I arrived on Christmas Island [in mid September 2015].
  2. There is identifiable and dysfunctional tension between Border Force who manage the centre, Serco who run the centre and Immigration who make all the decisions. This enormous discord and resentment and creates enormous incompetency and faulty service delivery as a result. I arrived at the centre after lengthy correspondence with Immigration to be told Serco were not aware of my application to visit. I was then questioned by a Border Force Superintendent who questioned what political or advocacy group I was a part of?
  3. I visited the centre on three days [and spoke to a number of detainees]The detainees told me they were woken in the middle of the night in their previous I DC (immigration detention centre) by a group of men, Border Force officers, who are geared up for violence. They are taken from their beds in underpants, pyjamas – one man said he made the entire trip in one shoe. They are handled with extreme force and any resistance is met with violence and verbal abuse. One very small and young detainee was shoved to the floor and his head was hit. He still had the scar on the side of his face.

Removal From Mainland To Christmas Island

  1. They are put on a plane and arrive at various airports where they are held until transported to Christmas. One detainee was handcuffed for 12 hours straight and still has problems with his wrist as a consequence. When they arrive on Christmas they find many of their belongings missing: personal photos and mementoes, watches, rings, clothes and shoes.

Detainees Are Abused By Guards

  1. I was told by the detainees of ongoing physical and psychological abuse. Detainees spoke of the kindness of some Serco staff members, but said these ones are in the minority. They are regularly called cunts, arseholes,- they are told “Get the fuck out of here” “Shut the fuck up”
  2. Consistently they are told “Its your fucking fault you’re here”. One notorious staff member they all spoke about – stands in people’s faces and says “Fucking hit me ….. I dare you”. One detainee asked me with complete genuineness “Why do they need to speak to us like this ….. we always do what they ask”. Another staff member was · consistently named  as being particularly racist and sadistic.
  3. The Emergency Response Team, whom I personally saw on their way to trouble look like a football team. Muscled up and tattooed …. with skulls and overtly negative messages in some of their tattooing. All the detainees spoke about the extreme violence they experience at the hands of these people. Detainees have had their teeth broken, bruises, split lips, and cuts while being managed by these people. This crew also use abusive and threatening language and I found them extremely menacing in my brief interaction with them. I wouldn’t want to be in their hands for anything.
  4. lf you speak out, or defend a friend – you are threatened with consequences. These start at the most extreme Red Section where detainees spend up to a week (one detainee spent 4 days here during which time he started to cut him and tear at himself). This space has a metal door with a cement bed, a toilet, a camera and a light that stays on 24 hours. Food is passed through a grate.
  5. After a period of time you are let into White 1. This is a basic camp bed, camera and lights – but you are allowed out for 30 minutes into a caged yard every day. If you question or argue with staff in this section you are returned to the Red section. One detainee told me the only way to survive this is to disappear into yourself. I ask him what this meant and he said “I just leave myself and stop talking because this is what they want” This man spent 2 months in White section and he also self-harmed extensively during this time.
  6. If you continue to comply you are then moved in White 2. All the detainees spoke about a woman [name suppressed] who decides your punishment. They all said she is sadistic and often looks in on them and laughs. I personally witnessed her become enraged when she was locked out of her office – and her response was frightening. She was unaware I was sitting in the visitors’ room with the door open, and she screamed and kicked and pulled at the door. I was so uncomfortable with her behaviour, I coughed to let her know I was there.

Food

  1. There is no fruit and vegetables in the men’s diet (one detainees spoke of his dreams about lettuce) and many detainees have stomach, and gum issues. The food is often stale and very poor quality. I was aware that this a general issue on Christmas but in conjunction with poor health and medical assessment and response to these issues, this poses life-long issues for many of these young men.
  2. I noticed every single man I saw shook excessively. Only one of the men I saw was not on medication. They are not diagnosed by a psychiatrist – yet a majority of them are on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. I would find in the morning they were groggy and slow and their cognition improved as the day proceeded.

Guards

  1. The detainees talk of the apathy and negligence of their case managers. One man who has been waiting to return home – having signed 3 months ago, told how his case manager forgot to notify Immigration of his desire to return … for a month. Case managers regularly tell detainees the best option is to return home – even those who been found processed and found to be refugees.
  2. There was a very slack and slapdash approach to every aspect of dealing with myself and my friend, who accompanied me from Sydney. The rules changed every day. We never saw our friends on time. … one day waiting forty minutes. I took a cool bag through the metal detector after having purchased over $100 worth of special foods to take in for the guys. We were refused because we were told we were only allowed to bring in food purchased from the vending machine outside (chocolates and lollies).
  3. Asylum seekers are given a 45 page TPV application and given no help or assistance with answering this – it’s all in English.

Effects of mistreatment

  1. Every detainee I saw is profoundly depressed and suicidal. Of the 7 men I saw, 5 are self-harming on a regular basis. They said the place is awash in blood – from bashing and constant self-harming.
  2. A man with obvious mental health issues, from Iraq, who arrived .on Christmas Island on a boat 2 ½ years ago and has never left – explained to me in great detail his plans to slit his own throat and would kill himself any way he could find. He said repeated requests to be transferred anywhere …. even Nauru or Manus are ignored and not even responded to. I begged him to give me some time, to see what I could do to help him- I even told him I am suffering from cancer and don’t have the choice he does. I told him his life was valuable and please not to kill himself. He was incredibly gracious and took my hand and said how incredibly sorry he was I had cancer. He said you deserve life, but I am sorry I can’t live mine like this anymore”
  3. 0n the above visit, which was my last, I was escorted out by the Director of Operations. He questioned me about what this man had said, specifically his threat to cut his own throat. I told him that yes he had said this and I am very concerned for his well-being. He raised his eyes and told me “It’s very unfortunate he did this as he was doing so well” I said that the man is mentally unwell and in need of help and he proceeded to tell me he was attention seeking and would be reprimanded for this behaviour. I was incredulous and asked if he was serious. He said “Absolutely ….. he will be reprimanded”

Staff

  1. A man sat outside the room and took notes of everything I and the detainees said. Each visit a Serco officer sat outside in the doorway listening to our conversations.
  2. The staff are jaded and institutionalised – and in the isolation that is Christmas Island have transcended the normal behaviours one would expect of people working in custodial care. There were numerous staff members on our plane and it is very evident there is a big drinking culture and many of the people working at Christmas are poorly educated and ill-equipped to deal with the social nuances of the population of Christmas. Many of them see all the residents at the centre as criminals and one staff member told me the asylum seekers broke our laws by coming there on a boat in the first place.
  3. A frightening culture of cruelty, punitive responses, physical and verbal violence has been allowed to flourish and individuals are being damaged in ways they will spend the rest of their lives living with. I have no hesitation in stating the isolation and lack of community visitors has created a palpable redneck lawlessness that derives its validation from poorly conceived concepts of nationalism and truly … a base and ugly form of jingoism.
  4. Every detainee I saw was broken … cried … and beyond despair. They just looked to be completely deadened. One said to me “It doesn’t matter what happens ….. I’m already dead”

 

Bigotry and terrorism in more than 140 characters

Some arguments need more than 140 characters.  A minor dispute on Twitter on the link between bigotry and terrorism demonstrates this.  So, for those with the skill and stamina to read more than 140 characters, here goes:

It is a matter of ordinary experience that a person who is treated badly may, eventually, react badly.  If people in the West regularly condemn all Muslims, it is inevitable that some Muslims will begin to feel as though they are seen as the enemy, as though they are hated in the West.  So, for example,  British mosques have been attacked by anti-Muslim groups.  In Australia, the construction of mosques has been violently opposed by some community groups, who were vocal in their condemnation of Muslims.   Donald Trump has, in substance, said that Muslims should be excluded from the USA.

Any group confronted with hostility like this is likely to be offended. As a matter of ordinary human nature, it is easy to understand that some members of that group will react badly.

I do not approve of terrorists, whether Muslim, Red Brigade, Irish separatist or anything else. But I worry about the consequences of treating one group as if all members of that group present a threat to our Society.  What we need to learn is that we are threatened by extremists.  Of course there are Muslim extremists, just as there are extremists who adhere to other ideologies.  We would be making a catastrophic mistake if we treat all Muslims as if they are extremists.

Until an expert in the field can show me that I am wrong, I will continue to hold the opinion that being the target of relentless bigotry will drive some people to extremism, and is therefore one cause of  terrorism.

We are being very foolish if we continue to tolerate public abuse of Muslims generally.

The Australian now quotes Twitter

On 30 March, the Australian Newspaper offered up the following morsel:

Pack your bags, Julian Burnside, your companion is ready

Julian Burnside on Twitter on Sunday:

Bigotry creates terrorists, by radicalising people who were willing to see hope in everything

Rodger Shanahan (associate professor at the Australian National University’s National Security College, and research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy) replying over several tweets:

Comment from someone not very well travelled nor versed in areas in which he prognosticates. Am sure that the people killed (in) Nairobi mall, Paris, Brussels, New York, Ankara, Istanbul, Bali, Tunis etc were questioning their bigoted past before they were killed. Travel in some hard parts of the world, economy class by foot may expand your rather closed mind. I know your “thing” is to be controversial and eloquent, but some real life experience may temper your strange world view. Possibly. Education is supposed to allow discernment. Tempered by real life experience it is powerful. Alone it is like an empty vessel. Methinks you are an empty vessel railing against things about which you have theoretical learning but nil practical experience.

But Shanahan doesn’t just come bearing criticism, he brings a solution, too:

I would recommend a holiday to real world. Happy to travel with you. Warning: may involve real-life ­experience.

The Australian newspaper saw fit to extract just some of the relevant tweets:  One of mine and all of Rodger Shanahan’s.  Presumably the editorial theory is that, if you strip out the context, you can skew the result.  As in most things, even on Twitter the context can be important.  Here’s how this little non-story developed:

On 27 March at 11.15 am @DanWosHere wrote:

It’s terrorism @JulianBurnside and it is Muslims from refugee backgrounds committing it. End of story

On 27 March at 4.02 pm I responded:

People like you, Miranda Devine &c will radicalise some who may become terrorists. You’re part of the problem

And then at 4.06pm I said:

Bigotry creates terrorists, by radicalising people who were willing to see hope in everything

 

The next day, 28 March, Rodger Shanahan, came in swinging.  (I will confess, I did not see his tweets until the Australian printed them, so the article was not entirely useless).  His contributions went as follows:

7.41 pm:

Comment from someone not very well travelled nor versed in areas in which he prognosticates. Am sure that the people killed (in) …

7.43pm:

Nairobi mall, Paris, Brussels, New York, Ankara, Istanbul, Bali, Tunis etc were questioning their bigoted past before they were killed.

7.43 pm:

Travel in some hard parts of the world, economy class by foot may expand your rather closed mind.

7.46pm:

I know your “thing” is to be controversial and eloquent, but some real life experience may temper your strange world view. Possibly.

7.50 pm:

Education is supposed to allow discernment. Tempered by real life experience it is powerful. Alone it is like an empty vessel.

7.51 pm:

Methinks you are an empty vessel railing against things about which you have theoretical learning but nil practical experience.

I did not respond to Shanahan, because I did not notice his tweets until The Australian put them up this morning.

All in all, it was a fairly standard bit of trolling by Shanahan: abuse without any attempt at argument, although the second tweet suggests that he had misunderstood the point I had made.  I have never suggested that all terrorists are the result of bigotry, merely that bigotry can radicalise some people, thus forming one element in the process which results in them turning to terrorism.

In all of this jollity, there is a serious point to be made, which @DanWosHere exemplifies, and Shanahan leaves completely unanswered. It is a matter of ordinary experience that a person who is treated badly may, eventually, react badly.  If people in the West regularly condemn all Muslims, it is inevitable that some Muslims will begin to feel as though they are seen as the enemy, as though they are hated in the West.  So, for example,  British mosques have been attacked by anti-Muslim groups.  In Australia, the construction of mosques has been violently opposed by some community groups, who were vocal in their condemnation of Muslims.   Donald Trump has, in substance, said that Muslims should be excluded from the USA.  And don’t forget what was said at the start of the Twitter exchange: @DanWosHere “It’s terrorism and it is Muslims from refugee backgrounds committing it. End of story”.

Any group confronted with hostility like this is likely to be offended. As a matter of ordinary human nature, it is easy to understand that some members of that group will react badly.

The strangest part of Shanahan’s response is that it does not appear to draw on his professional credentials, and it does not seem to acknowledge  ordinary human experience.

I do not approve of terrorists, whether Muslim, Red Brigade, Irish separatist or anything else. But I worry about the consequencws of treating one group as if all members of that group presnet a threat to our Society.  What we need to learn is that we are threatened by extremists.  Of course there are Muslim extremists, just as there are extremists who adhere to other ideologies.  We would be making a catastrophic mistake if we treat all Muslims as if they are extremists.

Until Shanahan, or an expert in the field, can show me that I am wrong, I will continue to hold the opinion that being the target of relentless bigotry will drive some people to extremism, and is therefore one cause of  terrorism.

We are being very foolish if we continue to tolerate public abuse of Muslims generally.

 

Fare Go report: rethinking public transport

WEstJustice today released a ground-breaking report called Fare Go: Myki, Transport Poverty and access to education in Melbourne’s West.

Here is the report: Fare Go Report

It makes the point that, especially in disadvantaged suburbs, Myki fares compete with a kid’s ability to get breakfast or buy books:

There are many poor families in this school community who can’t even feed their children breakfast – they are fed through the school. Many families can’t afford the initial payment for Myki.”

 “A lot [of students] stay at home, miss out on school until they can top up [Myki], starting the cycle of educational disadvantage.

In the course of 12 years at school, a student will pay about $7,500 in public transport fares.  Public transport is an important integer in our social life.  Making sure kids can get to school is essential. Public transport is not just about revenue raising.

The system is complex, even for adults, and especially for kids:

“I helped one boy to contest fines…. I made numerous phone calls…tried to explain that he had a mental illness… also had an insecure home life… I spoke to three different people three times, got the same response, then someone said, ‘go and plead the mercy of the Magistrate’. Going to court then causes much stress and anxiety. In fact, this boy was struggling to speak in sentences. I can’ t imagine him going to court. I haven’t heard from him, so I don’t know what happened to him.”

We should never allow the cost of public transport, and the complexities of the system of fines, get in the way of a kid’s education.

The Report includes some very sensible recommendations, including:

1. Provide free public transport travel to all passengers up to 18 years of age and to any passenger who is a secondary student where their parent, carer or guardian is in receipt of Centrelink income or a healthcare card.

2. Accept identification issued by any authorised educational institution as evidence of age or student status for the purposes of free travel.

3. Authorise educational institutions to issue Myki travel cards to students free of charge.

4. Cancel all outstanding public transport fines related to Myki ticketing issues and fares which were incurred while a young person was under 18 years of age.

5. Abolish the public transport fines system for all young people under 18 years of age.

If you value the education of children, urge the Victorian Government consider the contents of this Report.

LNP only pretends to be compassionate

On 3 February 2016, the case of Plaintiff M68 was decided in the government’s favour. So here was the great moral challenge: should women, children and Australian-born infants be sent to Nauru where, on all the evidence, the conditions constitute child abuse.

PM Malcolm Turnbull responded with fine rhetoric. In a doorstop interview on 8 February he said:

“All of us are anxious, are anguished at the plight of children in detention. … The one thing we know we must do is manage our border protection policies, yes, with compassion, yes, with humanity, yes with a deep concern about children.

But, if we make changes that have the consequence of giving the people smugglers a marketing opportunity – which they will take – they are very dangerous and agile criminals, and they use modern social media with an efficiency that is remarkable.

We have to be very careful, anything we do which gives them a marketing opportunity, they will use, and they will use it to get more vulnerable people on boats and more children and their parents will die by drowning at sea.

So, we have stopped the boats, and we are managing the caseload that we inherited from the Labor Party, but we have to do so – yes, with compassion, yes, yes with a passionate concern for those children. We are giving their parents every incentive to return to their country of origin, to go to settle in another country, because we know that if we give those people smugglers any marketing opportunity, let me tell you, they will use it. They will use it, and there will be more deaths at sea and more children put at risk….”

Now it is easy to be distracted by the silvered delivery, and the polished rhetoric.  But the political reality is that Turnbull has inherited the grim logic of 15 years of demonising boat people as “illegal”. And he has a party room which is fairly hostile to him.

But the worrying thing that underlies his seductive pretence at compassion is that he is prepared to send children to face abuse if that will reduce the possibility of people trying to escape persecution and reach safety in Australia. Of course, Turnbull’s position (which is currently shared by the Labor Party) amounts to this: We are so worried about you drowning, we will punish you if you don’t drown. That will persuade others to stay at home and face persecution.” In short, Australia is now being candid about something that was always implicit in its mandatory detention and offshore processing policies: the idea of coming to Australia must be made to look worse than the prospect of facing the Taliban or ISIL.

In addition, Turnbull apparently wants people to return to the persecution they have escaped (“We are giving their parents every incentive to return to their country of origin”). And he said we were giving people an incentive “to go to settle in another country”. In 2013 New Zealand had offered to resettle 300 refugees as part of a two-year deal with Australia. But in January 2016 New Zealand’s Immigration Minister said Australia has not taken up the offer and the resettlement places had instead been given to Syrian refugees.

More bad news from Manus

Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

A refugee from Somalia, living in the transition centre in Lorengau, said that he was happy and would move to Lae for employment.

A few weeks later, he emailed and FaceBooked several friends in Foxtrot compound. He said that he was in Lae and that it was awful. His employment paid him less than the bare minimum and he was struggling to survive. He then asked to be moved back to Lorengau. His request was refused. His Iranian friend who was also placed in Lae, was even worse off. This Iranian ended up being abused, not being paid and lost the accommodation and lived on the streets…Eventually he was picked up by good Samaritans who sheltered him in the church in Lae. He is now staying there and helps out with the church without any prospects of a better life.

So, the transferees in Foxtrot now are even more determined NOT to move to Lorengau, ie they are NOT leaving the compounds!! Broadspectrum is aware of the email correspondence and realise that they are fighting a losing battle. What is next? The genuine refugees cannot stay in detention forever but refuse to leave….

Any wonder the Australian government, spending billions of tazpayers’ dollars on the detention system, does not want anyone knowing about this.  It is virtually impossible for a journalist to get to the detention centre on Manus, or to the centre on Nauru.  for this purpose, I do not regard Chris Kenny as a journalist: he was allowe onto Nauru to write a puff-piece in the Australian, but was apparently as blind to abuse as George Pell.

And any wonder that the Australian government now threatens workers in the detention system with 2 years’ jail if they disclose what they have witnessed in detention.

Make no mistake about it: our politicians DO NOT want y0u to know what is being done to innocent refugees, ostensibly out of concern for the safety of those same refugees!  The government, pretending to be compassionate, says it is worried about refugees drowning: so worried that it punishes the ones who don’t drown.

If it was not so tragic, it would be laughable.

A classic rant against Peter Dutton

I received this email today.  It is directed to Peter Dutton’s email address, and copied to various people including me.  It asks some good questions.  I fully understand the frustration which provokes a rant like this:

“What is the point of the Immigration Minister?

Why is that particular tangle of psychologies in that particular position? Do they have any degree of expertise they can lend to the position? What’s underneath them? How many intelligent and worthwhile individuals steer the machine beneath the so-called minister?

How many wrong-minded laughables contend with real operations? How many withering fools make depressingly retrograde decisions for pitifully tiny reasons?

Playing with honourable, actual people’s lives. Monied, privileged goons busying themselves with stupid processes because they have no perspective…

How many of the people in the halls of power have the imaginative engine requisite to the grand visualisation of reality, to be able to marvel at it and so intend to add good to it, rather than prop-up those processes that disrupt it into senseless pockets of misery?

The refugee policy is sickening. Shameful to anyone with a modicum of respect for human life and dignity in others who have been cast adrift on helplessness due to reckless, concerted idiocy such as war.

How dare you deny those who get scattered in terrified velocity by your cynical wars.

At least when everyone in the big houses ganged up with the weapon-makers and decided to stimulate their bank accounts in the past through warfare, the lot of the unfortunate pawns was not so dire when they were lucky enough to be jettisoned out of the war zone to search for some safe harbour round these parts. I refer you to Malcolm Fraser’s legacy. Obviously it’s up and down – we have always had give and take – but right now it’s all “take,” towards these desperate people… You cowards – you steep yourselves in this forlorn brew because you are so concerned about political blood on your hands – both major parties don’t want to get caught out with another episode of innocents lost at sea… you know very well it’s a straw man – the real cause of this one of several miserable ends (including detention on Nauru or Manus) is something you wish to keep separate from popular appraisal…

And these people, still they are another moving complex in a game for sociopaths to play with. Something to exploit.

Sickening, shameful policy that is not defensible… You are recorded saying the deaths at sea must be stopped as though this were your guiding ethos in this matter… you individual. You one element in a massive operation. I am also one element in that same massive operation. And I do not for a moment believe you give a damn about deaths at sea. If you had that capacity for caring you would do much besides the cynical, twisting politicising that you do in this role… You may, but it is not reported… Or it has been, but I have not read it…

So who’s reading this now? Anyone? Some staffer?

Where’s this gripe land? I’m taking the time to engage with you people. I’m dismayed by what I hear about your judgement, of your activities…

How many times must the same tired but true articulation of decent human action be put to you – in how many forms by how many individuals and individuals in groups?

Petitioning you like you were some lunatic monarch sick of mind and cruel in spirit… it’s pathetic. You are so thoroughly disappointing. What are you even proud of? What have you achieved but some title before you name for a time? But for the balance in your bank account, what do you know? What have you made better against what you have made worse?

You poor, similar, human beings that do not know what to do with themselves even when they find themselves with the portfolio of a major world state…

This is what we think of you when you act like this. Siphoning money to those who always had it and crippling those who prefer to act more kindly. I’m no bleeding heart, for I am no simple categorisation when I have no word limit, – I merely have some idea of the established order and I weep at the stupidity and simplicity of it.

It is a natural course – but there are too many non-entities doing worthless things taking up space that someone with some facility might better fill. Tony Abbott and Bronwyn Bishop, of course, spring to mind. Peter Dutton, what is your purpose? You who stood under an open boom mic to come off as a lacklustre fool to the king of diseased minds? Surely you can do better than this… I know you can, because we’re all on a spectrum and last time I looked you weren’t dressed as Darth Vader. And even he had his moment of redemption.

If you haven’t seen the original Star Wars – go and watch them now. (the good guys are the ones who don’t remind you of the Nazis)

You know, this sort of thing helps a little… I’ve not protested for a time in the traditional sense of wandering around a typical route with my fellow humans calling and responding simplistic slogans until we all reach the State Library… it probably helps too – I think it used to. There was a certain euphoria to the sheer numbers who opposed the bombing of Iraq back in 2003. Over 100,000 people in Brisbane, you know? Against a cynical war you never should have entered. We know they’re cynical because whatever prompts them doesn’t trigger any sort of investment when it happens in a poor country with nothing for you and your buddies to pillage…

You only give a damn about Syria because of the pipeline and the gas or whatever… because your cruel buddies in the region who do such horrific things as a matter of course have a problem with secularism and Assad was never meant to be there… he wasn’t the right Assad, was he? This guy actually had a liberal education and seems to be a logical kind of ruler… he seems to have his own thoughts and so that must be difficult for the would-be puppeteers.

Of course, everybody’s compromised. I’m not so naive to think that Bashar al-Assad is any kind of saint. But that he’s some monster upon whom you can pin it all is pure nonsense – wishful thinking… I held a conversation with a Syrian the other night – his family still live in Damascus. He is not naive but has no sense that Assad is somehow the devil incarnate any more than Hilary Clinton… Donald Trump on the other hand is just another depressing failure from a line. Whether circumstances fall to their knees enough to render unto him the presidency a la Bush mark II or Abbott mark I remains to be seen – but a failure nonetheless.

I have a different measure of failure perhaps to others… certainly those like Trump. He’s always carrying on about winning, which I find quite ironic. History will always view him as a nincompoop. Bush and Abbott both look as they are: spoilt rich kids who caught a free ride and didn’t know what to do with it so they were exploited because of their feeble minds…

Trump’s perhaps a little scarier because he’s more like Hitler… who was of course another colossal failure of a human being.

What’s the point. You can ignore this, sure. It’s only an email. One of dozens… hundreds perhaps that I have written… what happens to them? Who reads them, I wonder – but it doesn’t matter. I’m writing to ease my own conscience. To know that I didn’t sit in my little bubble and not address the raging bastards of the system that rig it dirty.

I’m scared of you people. I’m terrified of some of you because, let’s face it, you’re scary guys. You’re above the common law in many ways and only tend to fall when some other among your strata decide they can and will precipitate your political demise… and even then, all you get is a slap on the wrist and a demotion…

But I wouldn’t want to abide with the knowledge that I simply let you go along in psychopathic patterns without at least pointing to them and decrying them, these, your shameful tendencies.

It is my own vanity – pride, what have you… But wrapped up with that is an authentic goodwill towards my fellows. What do you know of that? Even though I hold that same goodwill for you, ultimately, despite your best efforts to totally erode the matter of my enduring hope in the sea of your miserable philosophies – what do you even know of that?

Grow up, you awkward children. Sad little bullies, extend your open hands and stop ripping everything apart…

Turnbull wants to do something radical and bring the budget forward, does he? Turnbull should do something radical and move by some noble compulsion to some noble goal. Set some goals and stick to them. You have nowhere to go but up.”

And a little later on the same day, the same person wrote again to Mr Dutton:

“Dear Mister Dutton,

You are actually a real person, forgive me for being dismissive of your humanity from such a relatively removed perspective, I was not being my best self… – I imagine you’re probably not demonstrating your humanity in the best possible light to the public eye… I understand the portfolio must be a sort of poisoned chalice – but I think if you do actually give a damn about a few basic principles in addition to whatever more complex balances you need to contend with – you can act decisively and nobly on them and successfully elevate the subsequent debate and move everybody in the equation forward sensibly and importantly. I think this is something you can do as you wear the title of minister of these affairs – you can do a good thing for a process that will benefit everyone and improve the functioning of the political mechanism – not simply be concerned with winning within the framework of an inferior one.

Leap-frog over the flimsy political ideologies and be sensible here – find the path to something that you can have as a worthy legacy… collaborate with all-comers on this from a position of frank honesty in the measure of the true dilemma – how to restore common decency to the treatment of all innocents. There is nothing more important – everything functions around this premise – the mechanism should bend and evolve in a positive way – by careful thought and planning that ultimately benefits society, enriches it – by this adaptation… by the welcoming of those who need sanctuary… some areas of the world are in miserable pieces and we are so very lucky for the moment, in the main… the majority of us in the region are very lucky.

I wish you all the best with the problem. I believe the conduct of the department is deplorable, what I have read about – it is deplorable. It is not the sort of thing I should consider a worthy legacy – what is being reported is not an attractive rendering of your narrative. You will look foolish, heartless and grey, and lost in the uncaring sweep of it, fifty years on… or you could do something else.

I strongly recommend that you should do something else with this opportunity.”

Guards’ conduct in Nauru getting worse

I have received this disturbing report from Nauru.  It is all the more disturbing given that the Republic of Nauru has been boasting on Twitter that the camps there are open, and people are free to come and go as they choose. (see @Republic_Nauru Follow what they say).  Note that the suggestion that people held on Nauru are “free”stands awkwardly with the fact that they are not allowed access to phones.  That, coupled with the Australian Border Force Act (which threatens people working in the detention system with 2 years’ gaol if they disclose facts they learn while working in detention) shows beyond argument that Australia and its puppet Nauru are determined to make sure Australians do not learn the truth about our detention system.

Here’s the latest report:

“I have heard some very frightening and distressing stories about events last night in women’s detention in #Nauru.

22 February 2016. 1.12 am.  Nauru. Women’s tent.

The guards blacked out the women’s tent by cutting the power.

Then fourteen male guards and one female guard entered the tent. Women screamed in terror.

Two women in the single women’s tent were strip searched. They were screaming . One had a phone in her bra. A total of five people in the women’s tent had phones taken. Communications with the camp have been cut.

A woman has been on a hunger strike for 18 days. When she heard the piercing screams, she suffered a heart attack. With no ECG machine available, it is impossible to reliably diagnose or treat cardiac emergencies. She spent some time in IHMS and was sent back to the camp.

A young woman was recently arrested for taking a piece of fruit from the dining room and at the time was seen dragged by her hair and beaten by Nauruan Police, leaving visible injuries. Terrified by the 1:12 am raid, she slashed her wrists and her body. She too was treated by IHMS and sent back to camp.

I know this is a true account of what happened.

Please share widely.”

Later edit:

“Most of the women have histories of serious trauma. They would have experienced extreme post-traumatic stress reactions to the massed invasion into the blacked-out room of sleeping women. Any person would have experienced great terror. I can’t imagine what went through the minds of those women who have already been assaulted, or witnessed assaults, by gangs of men in uniform.

The woman who had a heart attack is also severely depressed … so depressed is she, she believes they want to kill her so she won’t leave her room

She is now 32 kg and her BP is so low, she can barely lift her head from the pillow. I am baffled how or why she was sent back to the camp.”