Manus detainees need our support

Message from Airey’s Inlet RAR


Members of RAR may think that the recent decision by the PNG Supreme Court to declare detention of asylum seekers to be in breach of the PNG Constitution would bring relief to detainees. The opposite could well be the case if the reaction of an asylum seeker in frequent contact with a RAR member is indicative of the situation.

A member of Aireys Inlet RAR (AIRAR) has been corresponding since late 2014 with a young man detained on Manus Island. The initial letter by this man was both informative and shocking. In an outpouring of relief at someone even acknowledging his existence he wrote an 18 page letter, which told a not untypical story of a 16 year old Rohingyan boy forced to flee from his beloved family in Myanmar to avoid ongoing persecution, even death.

Over the next 4 years he travelled by sea to Malaysia, Indonesia and Christmas Island, often in dangerous situations and held in detention camps. Along the way he learned English and gained recognition as a refugee from the UNHCR however this did not prevent the Australian Government transferring him to indefinite detention on Manus Island. He was an unfortunate participant in the ugly situation in Mike compound in which an Iranian was beaten to death and many others injured.

It is now seven years since he fled Myanmar and he is in his third year of detention at Manus. In correspondence he has displayed remarkable resilience until now, priding himself on his ability to cope, whereas many around him have succumbed to severe depression because of the environment and a lack of a discernible future.

Unfortunately following the Supreme Court decision and the Australian Government’s attempt to wash its hands of the situation his correspondence changed dramatically, expressing extreme anxiety regarding his future given local hostility to detainees.

At this time our AIRAR correspondent attempted to concentrate on being positive but realistic re this man’s circumstances, in particular emphasising what many organisations including RAR are doing to try to change things, and offering our support and best wishes in this situation. The fact that others are aware of his situation and are trying to do something about it appeared to be helpful, as recent correspondence is again positive.

Our AIRAR committee at its most recent meeting felt that it was important that other RAR members who may have corresponded with Manus detainees were aware of the uncertainty facing these young men , and endorsed the suggestion that RAR people who have corresponded with Manus detainees send a bright postcard along the lines suggested above.

People who have not received replies to previous correspondence could consider this approach as it may bring some pleasure without being too demanding of a detainee who may have poor English writing skills.

Laurie Mason

Publicity coordinator Aireys Inlet RAR

Manus Island detainees need our support