POLITICS

Manus Asylum Seekers Write Letter To Obama, U.N., Pleading For Freedom

'We are broken under Australian policy.'

16/09/2016 11:16 AM AEST | Updated 16/09/2016 11:51 AM AEST
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Reuters
Asylum-seekers look through a fence at the Manus Island detention centre.

Asylum seekers currently on Manus Island have written letters to U.S. President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Criminal Court protesting their "offshore torturing" at the hands of Australia's immigration detention regime.

There were 833 men detained in immigration detention on Manus Island, as of July 31, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Almost 360 of those have signed a letter to Obama, which outlines their complaints and claims about their treatment on Manus, which they call a "crime against humanity".

"All bad physical and mental conditions that can be imagined have happened for us," the letter to Obama, seen by The Huffington Post Australia, reads.

"Killing, suicide, dying, serious [injuries] like losing eye, serious damage in mind like severe depression, and a lot of different problems that we experienced in detention. All detainees are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of them never back to normal life forever (sic)."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been contacted for comment.

Read the letters to Obama and Ban ki-Moon below:

Manus Island detainees write letter to Obama, UN

The conditions in Australia's offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru have widespread condemnation from human rights groups and the United Nations itself in recent times, and come under legal scrutiny. A decision by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court in April ruled that Australia's detention of asylum seekers on Manus was illegal and against PNG's constitution; but almost five months on, the centre has not been closed and those asylum seekers were losing faith, they told HuffPost Australia in August.

The Manus facility was converted to an "open centre" where asylum seekers are not imprisoned but let out into the community to come and go as they please, but the centre remains open and asylum seekers still report bad conditions inside. The Supreme Court has asked Australia to provide firm timelines on when the former detainees will be resettled elsewhere.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist who has been on Manus since 2013 and one of the authors of the letter, told HuffPost Australia that Obama and Ban Ki-moon were contacted as the asylum seekers began running out of options.

Fairfax Media
The Manus Regional Processing Centre

"We are broken under Australian policy and urgently need to help and support. We are aware that Barack Obama has this power that put pressure on Australian government to make a decision for us," he said.

"We need that they think deeply about our situation and try to solve our problem. We are refugees that left our countries because of war, discrimination and injustice and Australian government has tortured us for more than three years."

Boochani said the asylum seekers have also contacted the International Criminal Court to enquire about how to lodge a case against Australia and their detention on Manus. They received a reply from the court last week.

"More than five hundred of us signed the letter asking the ICC to investigate how the Australian government has tortured us during the past three years," he said.

"They say the court has limited jurisdiction and can only hear cases under certain conditions. They say if our case meets these conditions we can submit it to them."

"I think there is enough evidence and documents available for them to make a challenge against the Australian government and especially Peter Dutton as Australian immigration minister but am also aware that it is difficult to convince the ICC to investigate a western government."

"We refugees will continue to fight this system of torture with all we have."

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