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What It's Like In Solitary Confinement On Manus Island

The captive refugees in Manus prison have witnessed too much violence and torture.

23/08/2016 6:04 AM AEST | Updated August 23, 2016 06:04
Stringer/ Reuters
The Manus prison has secret corners with solitary confinements.

For those people who follow the changes of Manus prison, Oscar, Mike, Delta and Fox are familiar names -- four prisons in the heart of a bigger prison that has accommodated nearly 1000 male refugees for more than three years.

Given that these prisons are controlled under high-security conditions, the four prisons have been completely separated from each other for about three years, and captive refugees have not been able to know what is going on in the prisons next to them.

Each of the Manus quadrangle prisons has different architecture, shapes and facilities. The 300 refugees incarcerated in Oscar prison sleep under tents divided into groups of 40 or 50 people. Delta is the smallest and most suffocating prison among the others. Refugees live in claustrophobic rooms with no windows at all. Fox is the largest and the hottest one -- dirty and dusty ground and hot rooms. Sleeping in them is torture. Finally, Mike prison, the two-story prison with adjoining whitewashed rooms. Over these three years it is the white colour that has become the main factor of torture.

But the Manus prison also has secret corners with solitary confinements. In those rooms, many captive refugees have been harassed and tortured for many days by Wilson security and Broadspectrum.

In the first few months, G4S, which was responsible for the security of the prison, placed refugees in Bravo solitary confinement in order to punish them. Bravo solitary confinement was located in the northeast of the prison attached to the fences near the ocean. It consisted of two rooms in which many people were persecuted. For about five months, Bravo was the most horrendous part of the prison, and whenever someone was sent there, no one would hear about him for several days. Kept under difficult conditions, with no cigarettes and not enough food, if the captive refugee complained about his condition, he would be threatened verbally or harassed physically. For instance, two Iraqi refugees were persecuted for a week until, at last, they were left in the small medical centre of the prison, covered in blood. Afterward, one of them immediately returned to his country.

Chauka was another solitary confinement. At the moment, Chauka solitary confinement is not operating, however its name still causes fearful shaking of refugees.

Many refugees have spent some nights in Chauka during the past three years. Chauka was a combination of eight windowless, white rooms. The length of each room was eight times larger than its breadth with an ever-open door in the middle of the rooms. The behaviours and movements of every person in Chauka were under surveillance by four cameras installed in the rooms. The rooms were attached to one another and prisoners were not abandoned as the cameras were on constantly. They were not able to put themselves at ease even for a second without being watched.

Next to each dirty toilet the officers were present to observe the behavior of prisoners. Chauka was a separate part of the main prison with its own regulations. The most bad-tempered officers worked there and they formulated rules for prisoners. If you ask people who spent one or more nights at Chuaka, undoubtedly they will describe them as their most torturous nights in Manus prison. Under intolerable torture and pressure, they were beaten by officers.

The Green Zone, which used to be another solitary confinement, is placed between Fox and Mike prisons. The Green Zone was the most violent place for a few months. It consisted of four rooms that were used for two different purposes. One of the rooms was used for keeping those who had contagious illnesses such as diarrhoea and the others were used for punishing any person that the prison system dictated. The Green Zone has the longest story among the history of Manus solitary confinements, as it has been used for punishing people for more than two years.

The Green Zone is now called SAA and the domain and severity of its violence is reduced. People with physical or severe mental issues are kept there. During the past two years, groans and shouts of prisoners who hit themselves against the walls of The Green Zone, due to the pressure of feeling lonely and isolated, have been heard by many who live in Fox or Mike compounds.

Fixed in their minds are the yells and moans of those persecuted there over the years. It is the most recognised and famous solitary confinement as it is located inside the prison. Once, a Pakistani man who had lost his family was left alone there for twelve days without psychological support -- instead, he was forced to suffer the mental torture of being kept in The Green Zone.

In recent months, some rooms have been built in the medical centre located in the prison to place people who resist the violent system that operates the prison. Those rooms are called MAA solitary confinements. MAA is created inside the mass of a huge number of multilayer fences, which causes a person to experience absolute hopelessness. This solitary confinement was under the control of Wilson Security, but after the Supreme Court decision on the unconstitutionality of Manus prison, it was handed over to the local police. Now, it is the duty of the local police to retain those refugees who are supposed to be punished. In one case, an Iranian refugee who once seriously suffered mental instability was injured as a result of punches and kicks by local police. Another refugee was taken and incarcerated in the local prison, spending 35 days locked up there.

The captive refugees in Manus prison have witnessed too much violence and torture, but for them, the taste and intensity of violence and torture in the horrendous solitary confinements of Bravo, Chauka, The Green Zone and MAA have been much more profound and impactful. If one day there is an independent and comprehensive investigation conducted on Manus prison, the existence of these solitary confinements and their bitter incidents need a separate and independent research.

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