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You Think Trump Is A Nightmare? He Has Destroyed Our Dream For Freedom

Refugee on Manus Island says uncertainty over the US resettlement deal has been mental torture.
Asylum-seekers at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea
Asylum-seekers at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea

Let me say explicitly that Donald Trump is like a nightmare for many people around the world, but for refugees in Manus and Nauru he has become a nightmare that is our everyday reality.

He first compared us to terrorists who bombed Boston, and then in his Tweet called us illegal immigrants. But the most important thing was that he destroyed our dream of freedom by saying the plan to resettle us in the US was a "dumb deal".

We in Manus prison thought that America was a country with the power to stop this cruel Australian policy of official hostage taking. In other words we thought America held out hope for our situation and a way out from breaking under Australia's iron hand.

I remember that about three years ago we wrote a letter to Obama asking him to take us from this prison or put pressure on Australia to free us, and a lot of us signed it. We did not get any answer but after that we wrote to him several more times. We always felt that Obama would help us one day.

In September 2016 there was a big meeting on the margins of the United Nations general assembly where Obama invited political leaders like the Australian Prime Minister to discuss solutions to the migrant crisis. It was a good opportunity for us to ask for help again.

We wrote another letter to Obama, and I remember the refugees in Manus prison were following the meeting closely and thought something would come of it. It wasn't immediate, but one day in November we woke up to great news that was like a dream for us.

The Australian Prime Minister announced officially that the refugees from Manus and Nauru would go to America. I remember the refugees were so happy with this news, but they were scared to show their happiness because we have had so many experiences where we felt close to freedom only to be disappointed.

With worry the refugees asked me, "Do you think it's serious or is it a game again?" I really did not know what I could say, but I tried to give them hope and said, "Yes, it looks serious brother and it's not a game."

Since the announcement of the deal our lives have been full of different kinds of stress and worry. We knew the deal might depend on the US election so again we followed the American news closely. Every day people were discussing who would win.

After the election we were so uncertain what would happen. We didn't know if Donald Trump would accept us, or even if Obama might take us immediately before he left office. But no news came and we had to wait for January 20th to see what Trump would do.

In this long period we were put under so much pressure by Australian immigration. They refused to give us any details about the deal but told us, "If you want to go to America you must first sign a form to accept resettlement in PNG and move to the transit centre at East Lorengau camp."

But we had no way to know what would happen to us and whether we would be signing only to be left in PNG. Also they told us that only people with positive refugee status could go to America and that others would be deported or exiled to Nauru for 20 years.

So the uncertainty around this deal became so damaging to all the refugees and asylum seekers who have already suffered at the hands of successive Australian governments. During the last few months the Australian government was saying they were confident about the deal and one hundred percent sure it would happen.

When Donald Trump Tweeted that the deal is 'dumb' the refugees collapsed. They have felt deeply sad, but at the same time some relief because the uncertainty about the deal was another mental torture. Now, though, we have more uncertainty and every day the news changes. At this moment that I'm writing, people are still thinking about the deal and their future.

There are still so many questions. Our biggest one is what will happen to us? How many more years will we be in this prison? And will Donald Trump change his mind again?

Translated by Dr Nina Jackson

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