All we want is a life we can create in safety

By Imran Mohammad

Somewhere in our hearts, we had hoped that we would be moved to safety by the end of October this year when this prison — Manus RPC Concentration Camp — was closed down. However, these hopes were dashed when another devastating announcement was made on 15 May by Papua New Guinea Immigration, which has ruined the lives of refugees and asylum seekers once again.

According to the announcement, PNG — with Australia’s support — will close the centre on 31 October 2017. Foxtrot compound will be the first to close, starting with N block on 28 May, but by 30 June the whole Foxtrot compound will be evacuated and the area will be locked. No-one will be permitted to enter and the electricity will be turned off.

Choices for refugees are to move to accommodation in the PNG community, temporarily relocate to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre, return home voluntarily with reintegration assistance or move to a third country where they have the right to reside.

The statement was read to us by PNG immigration officials… Most of us had no idea what they were saying as there were no interpreters, nor was there anyone from the Australian Immigration Department. None of us slept the following night as everything is going to be destroyed again.

Non-refugees will have to return home voluntarily with reintegration assistance, be moved from the country by the Government of PNG without any reintegration assistance, or temporarily move to another compound.

In coming months, other compounds will also be closed and demolished.

The statement was read to us by PNG immigration officials. Even though it wasn’t a game, it felt like they were play-acting. It was very easy for them to bring some papers and read them out, but such an announcement will completely demolish our lives and leave us in limbo with nothing. Most of us had no idea what they were saying as there were no interpreters, nor was there anyone from the Australian Immigration Department. None of us slept the following night as everything is going to be destroyed again.

We have been imprisoned for almost four years and we have deteriorated physically and mentally. However, now we are expected to live a normal life in the community in PNG with no chance of healing and with no help or support.

We respect people, but in return we have been robbed, beaten up, assaulted and, more importantly, lives have been lost — it is the refugees and asylum seekers who remain the victims. We will never be able to build a normal life in PNG, as we are being introduced as criminals by the Australian government and so there will be no respect for us.

Many Australians have visited Manus Island and, having seen it with their own eyes, their reaction is that it is not a safe place to stay. They have seen how traumatised we are. When we go into town, we are desperate to get back to the prison centre. One day, one of the security guards asked me why. He just couldn’t understand our situation — that although we are  completely sick of  this hellhole, it is the only place where we know we are not going to be attacked.

When we go into town, we are desperate to get back to the prison centre. One day, one of the security guards asked me why. He just couldn’t understand our situation — that although we are  completely sick of  this hellhole, it is the only place where we know we are not going to be attacked.

Not long ago, Australian security guards and PNG police officers would search our rooms every few months. We were moved out at 6am and placed in the heat of the sun until the search was over. We were escorted by security guards to use the toilet, the door of which we were not allowed to lock. Our belongings were stolen or confiscated because they thought it was contraband, when in fact it was not. We can never question those in charge — if we do, we are put in prison straight away. This is life on Manus Island.

We anticipate there will be more violence in the coming months, as thousands of locals who work here will lose their jobs. They have been working here for almost four years and have got the taste of money — their lifestyle has changed dramatically. They will lose everything overnight and go back to their old lives. Just think how desperate they will be and what will happen to their families. Furthermore, they won’t want us here if they are not making money from us.

Our prison centre will be closed down by 31 October 2017, but we don’t know how many years we are going to be kept in the Transit Centre. We don’t know what will happen if we are forced to move to other places in PNG.

We know now that there is no place for us in this world. If  there was, we would  have  been resettled somewhere, not suffered as we have done in this prison.

We know now that there is no place for us in this world. If there was, we would have been resettled somewhere, not suffered as we have done in this prison.

We don’t expect any hope from the Australian and PNG governments. We have always felt that we would never leave this island alive and it has become apparent that the abuse and torture implemented by both countries is unending. All we want to say to both governments is we would rather die than suffer to such an extent.

All we want is a life that we can create in safety — that’s all we create. And I beg you today on behalf of all the refugees and asylum seekers, please open your heart, show some kindness and compassion and humanity.

 


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"My name is Imran Mohammad and I am 23 years old. I was born in Myanmar, where I didn't receive any of my human rights. I have been locked up in Manus Island offshore prison, behind tall wire fences, for over 4 years. My future plans are to set up an organisation that will work for refugees. It will build shelters in places where nothing exists to protect women from being raped, save older people and children from dying. For now, I have my passion to write and this will keep me strong."
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