INTERVIEW WITH ASYLUM SEEKER DETAINED ON MANUS ISLAND – first published on sievx.com – http://sievx.com/articles/OSB/ManusIsland/20140311ManusInterview.html
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
B: Hello. How are you?
A: Thank you. I am ready to read.
B: I am ready to record.
A: Should I read?
B: Yes, read.
A: OK. Today is 11 March 2014. We detainees are on Manus Island for a variety of reasons. We were forced to leave our home countries and endured many dangers to seek asylum in Australia. But not only did you not accept us but you also exiled us to an Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
There are more than 1300 of us dealing with various difficulties on a daily basis. Some of these difficulties are as follows:
There is no access to hot water for showering. Water is just used for drinking as it is so limited. Oscar camp was given unsanitary water for 2 months. Their drinking water was a brownish colour and smelled very bad.
There is a lack of medical treatment and medicine for all diseases. The medical team suggests drinking water as the only treatment.
The only medication is Panadol, which is used as a painkiller to reduce pain temporarily but is no cure.
There is no dentist or dental treatment on the Island. Many of the detainees suffer from dental problems and the excess use of Panadol not only doesn’t help the pain but causes stomach and kidney problems.
There are no recreational or educational activities in this camp and as a result detainees are experiencing extreme mental and psychological problems.
Uncertainty about our future
On top of all this there is a constant reminder by various organisations that ‘you will never see Australia and you will be sent to PNG’. This results in people losing their sanity.
They keep telling us about the lack of safety in PNG and they also provide classes to educate us about the difficulty of life in PNG. They emphasise all the negatives about life on this Island such as mobiles and money are banned to carry because not only are they likely to be stolen but they also bring a chance of you being attacked by locals.
They tell us there is no drinking water on the Island but PNG people hunt people and crocodiles. They showed us photos to this effect.
These things affect us so badly that many of us attempt to take our own life by cutting our wrists or hanging ourselves.
On many occasions we question authorities about when the processing of our cases will begins. How long will they take to complete? What will happen to us?
To date no processing has started and no answers to any of our questions have been given.
As a result the detainees began a passive resistance; every night at 2200hrs we call out ‘Freedom! Freedom!’
All these peaceful demonstrations are recorded and monitored by DIBP and G4S.
Once there was a letter distributed in the camp in all languages by G4S staff encouraging us to continue with peaceful demonstrations as our voice is heard by DIBP and they finally agreed to receive our questions and concerns on 5 February 2014 at 10am. They also arranged another meeting to provide answers to our questions.
On 5 February the authorities came and we raised our concerns and handed a list of questions to them.
On 16 February it seems there was a prior plan because when the answers to our questions arrived, immediately the internet and phones were cut off.
The answer was as follow: ‘Your processing is a very lengthy process and takes a very long time and if you are considered to be a refugee you will be sent to PNG.’
That shocked the camp and it became unsettled. However, G4S and DIBP arranged where the G4S locals/ Australians, special guard PNG on one side and detainees on the other fight on the night of 16 February and the conflict continued to the next day.
The next day PNG special guard, G4S security Local on shift or off shift, G4S Australia, PNG police break into the camp armed with metal / timber poles, sharp knifes used to cut the coconuts into half, (machetes) baseball bats, BB guns and rifles and attacked unarmed and unaware detainees.
The attack was so violent like you only see in the movies. They attacked us so brutally that within a few minutes gun smoke filled the air in Mike compound. 350 people in Mike were attacked which left one detainee dead and 150 with serious injuries. It is important to mention that 80 people had face and head injuries to show just how recklessly they attacked. They attacked to kill.
This information that I give is only about Mike and Foxtrot compounds. Due to the lack of information coming from Oscar and Delta compounds, I am not aware of the condition and injuries suffered by them.
This attack was intended and organised
Five months ago the locals gathered around the fences to attack the camp. On that day G4S and Australia left us and ran for safety. They left us to our fate, but this time none of the local G4S or Australian guards left the camp. When the attack took place, whenever Australian senior guards order PNG to leave a compound alone or not to attack someone, the PNG moved to the next person, so they were the ones in charge. I am asking you how is it that 5 months ago when we were attacked by PNG locals they all ran away and left us to face the music, but this time around they wait and co-ordinate the attack?
After they attacked the detainees they entered the rooms and destroyed everything we had and they left nothing behind. They stole anything they wished to keep.
One of the boys covered himself with his friend’s blood and hid under the bed, pretending to be badly injured so they would leave him alone. But when he was pulled from under the bed and G4S put him in the ambulance, they realised he had faked his injury and they hit him with the ambulance chair on his head and as a result he had multiple cuts to his eyebrow and forehead.
When all the injured were removed from the camp, they told us the camp is not safe and escorted us to the nearby soccer field. We were in groups – 10 detainees per two guards. On our way to the field there were PNG people standing with various weapons in hand threatening us. The guards told us not to react otherwise they will attack; then the guards photographed us in the open field.
When they gathered people from all compounds, there were only 30-40 people remaining from 350 detainees in Mike camp; the rest were injured and taken to available treatment facilities. We were kept there until morning when they made the announcement that the camp is now safe and you can return to your rooms.
On the morning of 17 February many raised concerns about safety to the supervisors of the camp but were told if you remain in your rooms nothing will happen to you. However, the majority of badly injured detainees were the one that stayed in their rooms.
Some of us tried to use bed sheets to tie to our door handles and secure to bed legs to stop them opening the doors but we were not successful; so many were attacked brutally and barbarically. PNG people would not leave until the person suffered serious injuries. But it didn’t stop there – shooting into the crowd began (see attached photos highlighting where bullets have been removed indicating they were not shooting into the air but at our heads. All bullets removed were at the height of a person)
We seek asylum in Australia but they send us to the most remote and dangerous Island in the world. The day of the attack we again asked for protection from authorities but they assured us we were safe but then they killed and injured us.
This incident left one dead and 150 injured, but considering the severity of the injuries some still may result in loss of life. Two people are blinded and one person had his eye removed.
The ones that were not physically injured are suffering from horrific post traumatic stress symptoms. They can’t sleep and when they do eventually sleep, they jump up screaming due to fear of another attack. Even now, days after the attack there is a strong possibility of another one as the locals stand behind the fence and make gestures to the effect they will cut our throats and kill us.
We heard that Australian authorities in order to hide the truth told people that we attempted to escape and left the perimeter. The only running that took place here was running away from bullets and killings and the only fence that was pushed down was the weak fence which separates the two compounds Mike and Foxtrot. Yes, we ran from one to the other to search for cover and to hide.
We attach the photos we have to prove to Australia and the world that people were attacked in their beds and their heads were cut open. The blood on closets, pillows and walls, the sample of bullet shells and position of them are kept by us as evidence to prove what we say is true and that Australian authorities lie.
But this is not the first time Australian authorities lie and hide the truth. Five months ago when the United Nations representative, from Human Rights Commission and Red Cross inspected the camp, they all reported the conditions of Manus Island camp are inadequate and major list of defects and problems were reported to Australian authorities. However, they didn’t pay any attention to these reports and the situation just got worse.
The people of Australia have a right to be angry considering the money spent on these camps, but the standards in these camps is clear proof that these amounts are not spent here and Australians have a right to demand investigation into the money being spent by Immigration and who is getting rich on it.
To date no action has been taken into what took place here. It is like they hope time will pass and people will forget and everything will go back to how it was. Only once someone in personal attire arrived in camp and questioned detainees about the events of 16- 17 February, but when we were asked for identification he declined and said ‘I haven’t brought my identification on me, I will return tomorrow with a proper ID to conduct the interview.’
The next day the detainees’ representatives were ready to meet with him but he refused to show identification and so the representatives declined the interview and returned to the camp.
From 17 February to date no contractors have come for cleaning, canteen or other services. Just today (11 March) 2-3 PNG people began working in the store/ canteen. (These guys are identified as the people who attacked and injured us on that night). This brings great concern, fear and instability to the camp. It is clear to us that Australian authorities by allowing these people into the camp where our brothers got killed and attacked defencelessly are just wishing to create more violence and fear in us.
The detainees used to have such a close and friendly relationship with local staff that Australian contractors were always surprised at how close this relationship was building. But after the events of 17 February everything changed for the worse.
The best example of this is last Christmas day. All detainees decided to celebrate this day which is the same as our New Year (Norooz) where we help less fortunate and try to make this day a special one for the locals for them to remember. All the detainees gathered all they had in their rooms – shampoo, cigarettes, biscuits, Gillette etc. We wrapped them up and placed them on a big table in the middle of the camp and put our gifts for the locals on the table to show our gratitude.
The Australian authorities to ensure that we don’t even have PNG on our side organised the bloody event of 17th Feb to make it clear to us that we have nowhere to go or stay. However we all believe that Australian authorities didn’t expect such violence on 16-17th February; they wouldn’t think the situation would get out of control and spoil their plan of fear tactic. They thought it would be a scare tactic and didn’t participate; PNG lack of awareness of the situation created a massacre.
We leave this report here and leave the audience to be the judge.
B: Thank you for this report, now can I ask you couple of questions?
Why do you think the PNG people and others attach you in first place?
A: Everyone has a different view but when we all gathered together and put our heads together we decided that our voice and call for ‘Freedom, freedom’ began to worry the Australian authorities and they could not personally attack the voice of freedom; however, they used PNG and G4S to help to shut us down.
They must have said to the locals that these people talking about freedom might escape from detention and they will attack you and your family and rape your women. So these people got worried and that is what brought the massacre.
But I assure you it was never our intention to escape. Yes the internal fence between two camps I mentioned earlier came down but detainees never touched the external one, which leads to the bush or ocean.
B: What fence came down?
A: The fence separating Foxtrot and Mike. It is a weak wire fence. This occurred when we were running for safety from one to the other.
B: Is this person Australian or PNG?
A: He is of PNG origin, a local. Everyone is unhappy with him. The detainees saw him a few days ago behind the external fence making gestures that we will cut your throat and kill you.
There has been no security and until today we take shifts to watch over ourselves. We have people stand shift while others rest – one group does the night shift, another group does the day shift to ensure we don’t get attacked again.
Also we have taken over the cleaning and other welfare work among ourselves, as we don’t wish the locals to return to the camp and service us. We have no problem to do it all ourselves but security and Australian authorities don’t wish this to continue and just today they brought back 3 PNG people who attacked us to work in the store/canteen.
Trying to avoid shopping from the canteen however is pointless as we need to buy the necessities and sooner or later there will come a time when we have to face these people. Soon Australia authorities will bring more PNG people in for cleaning, cooking etc. and we can’t do anything to protect ourselves.
This will eventually result in violence. Please put yourselves in our situation. Someone who last week beat you to death, today you have to face; unavoidable that this is a disaster. The authorities either don’t comprehend or they have some further plan for us.
B: Do you mean that the ones who are working in the camp were involved in the attack?
A- One hundred per cent! One hundred per cent! Of course! One of the boys that I don’t wish to name was badly injured in the attack, so one Australian guard threw him over his shoulder to take him to the ambulance. On his way out a PNG guard hit the detainee’s head with a wooden pole; as he lifted his head up to look the PNG guard recognised him as a friend who had been giving him his cigarettes every day. He was shocked and said ‘Sorry, sorry my friend.’ This story has become one of the jokes currently in the camp – ‘Sorry, sorry my friend.’
They are all locals who are employed and work here, and yes many were on shift in full uniform and many off shift and in personal clothes. At one point it was a G4S PNG guard in full uniform but wearing thongs, as he didn’t get a chance to put his boots on.
B: What kind of weapons did they use?
A: I was in Foxtrot. Mike compound was hit badly with weapons. The Mike detainees describe the weapons as metal / timber poles, sharp knifes used to cut the coconuts into half, (machetes) baseball bats, BB guns and rifles any sharp objects, rock etc. (we are holding some as evidence)
B: Has anyone been injured by machetes or they were used for scare tactics?
A: Yes. If you look at the closets door when they hit us with machetes, one detainee in Foxtrot was cut so badly all around his neck like they meant to cut his head off.
A: Maybe in future interviews we can send more photos and information -anything, which can help.
B: Yes, please send anything you can via the internet. I will send and distribute your message to Australia and the world for everyone to hear.
A: Please on behalf of all detainees in this place regardless of colour Nationality, Farsi, Arab, Tamil, and Kurdish etc.
‘We are all human being, we are all refugees who came to ask for your protection; all we have is hope, hope for everyone outside this place in Australia or anywhere in the world – HELP US.’
B: Thank you we keep in touch again, can you repeat again what day it is?
A: Today is 11 March 2014
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