People trapped offshore are suffering. We must get them to Safety

People Still Detained in PNG/Nauru


In October 2019 I travelled to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea with Amnesty International to meet with refugees and people seeking asylum sent to Manus Island more than seven years ago by the Australian Government.

We found people trapped indefinitely by Australia’s offshore detention regime who are suffering terribly. They have been left without hope for seven years and are destitute physically and emotionally.

They’ve lost friends, family, and are tired from hanging on. They desperately need our help.

They are not allowed to work legally, they can’t access education, play the sports they love, access health care or plan for their futures. Many live with trauma and illness every day because of their treatment in detention.

But this isn’t just happening offshore. It’s happening right here in our cities. In March I went to visit the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne. This is not a hotel as you and I know them. A whole floor of the Mantra has been transformed into what is referred to as an Alternative Place of Detention (APOD). Many of those who had been Medevaced to Australia to receive urgent medical treatment are now being held in locations like this around Australia. Yet what was meant to be a refuge has become just another nightmare. Locked in their rooms for 19 hours a day, for months on end, they have nearly no access to the outside world, yet alone the proper treatment they were brought to Australia to receive. They’ve gone from one form of detention to another, and simply traded barbed wire for keycards.

It’s time to call ‘Game Over’ and get these people to safety so they can rebuild their lives.

Game over

As a public figure within Australia, I feel a responsibility to those who are part of my sporting community, and that’s why I’m lending my support to get all people to safety.

Football is built on the backs of migrants and refugees and we can’t turn our back on those who are part of our family, however difficult it might be.

The guys had their own league on Manus Island, and football played a big role in keeping them sane. It was their respite, their sanctuary amid the suffering.

They showed me photos and videos of the games, the goals, we shared our love of the game and became friends.

Samad, a passionate cricketer used to bowl in the middle of the night, just to be free for a moment. Ezatullah hasn’t given up on his dreams of becoming a great kickboxer.

I met cricketers, kickboxers and played football with refugees in Port Moresby, a moment when they were free for just an hour playing the game they love.

I was deeply touched by them all. This is the incredible power of sport. But it also comes with the responsibility to stand up and help others when the need arises.

That’s why I’m asking all Australians to raise their voices for the immediate resettlement of the remaining asylum seekers and refugees in detention offshore.

We have to find a better way to control immigration without hurting innocent people, and I know we can. But it has to start with saving these people who are in deep pain.

We’re all responsible for shaping the Australia we wish to live in, and the way we treat others.

Let’s call Game Over on offshore detention and get all those left behind to safety. Now.

Craig Foster