24 October 20164 March 2021 Violence / Refugee rights To the Australian people, from Manus prison Behrouz Boochani To the Australian people, In the heart of the dark nights, I yell out through the mass of metallic and hard fences. Surrounded by agony and torture, I yell out right next to the tropical birds, thousands of kilometres further away from the people’s world, in the heart of a remote island located in the corner of the vastest ocean. In the name of humanity and freedom, I yell out; in the name of all the values, values that connect human dignity with peace. I yell out, a yell from the hell where people are tortured and systematically humiliated. A yell having the quality of those flower-like ambitions even when petals are being plucked cruelly, and a yell having the quality of a heart that has been crushed under the steel boots of politicians. Here is the hellhole Manus prison. Protecting the borders and saving lives from the dangerous sea journey are the excuses for this brutal policy. After 40 months of implementing this policy, now it is time to impartially evaluate how it has been applied. During this long period, the Australian government has been accused of human rights violations again and again by most of the credible international human rights organisations. So far two people have lost their lives in Manus prison, and another died outside these fences when he was so tired from seeking justice. Two more people have lost their lives on Nauru. We have seen more evidence of rape and violence against women and children. And more evidence of the suffering inflicted on people held in Christmas Island and onshore detention. At the same time, we have seen the cruel agony of those people living precariously in Australia on temporary protection and bridging visas who, like us, have no security for their future. With the continuance of this policy, every day new cases of violence, abuse and unbearable suffering are added to the list. Unfortunately, the government still insists on pursuing this policy, accusing the people who speak out against it of exaggerating and inventing the damning evidence. But the government is lying. And now we can see their plan clearly: they do not care that we on Manus and Nauru are refugees. They only want us to take their bribes and go back to certain danger, death and persecution. In response to overwhelming evidence of abuse, their only answer is ‘take our money, and go back to your country of origin’. After 40 months – more than three years – no-one has been settled on Manus Island. The few in Port Moresby are struggling to survive. Now several more of us have been attacked by local people who do not want us here. Therefore we can only say that we are official hostages. Saving people’s lives at sea is being used as a cover to implement this grossly inhumane and immoral policy. Turnbull and Dutton claim they are on the side of compassion. But this policy has not had any achievement; it has just caused intense suffering and extreme agony for asylum seekers in detention, while pushing other vulnerable people into harms’ way elsewhere and damaging the reputation of Australia in worldwide public opinion. True compassion comes not just when it suits political ends, but when it involves perspective-taking: recognising our shared humanity and imagining what you would have done in another’s shoes. Now, more than ever, it is time for Australian people to yell loudly at the government to urge it to confess that the policy of Nauru and Manus resettlement has reached a dead end, and to urge the government to bring an end to this cruel policy as soon as possible. Behrouz Boochani, journalist and human rights defender Manus prison, October 2016 Behrouz Boochani Behrouz Boochani is Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Sciences at University of New South Wales (Australia) and writer in residence at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand). He is an author and journalist who was incarcerated as a political prisoner by the Australian government on Manus Island and then held in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea). In November 2019 he escaped to New Zealand where he was granted asylum in 2020. His book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison (Picador 2018) has won numerous awards including the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature. He is also non-resident Visiting Scholar at the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC), University of Sydney; Visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London; member of Border Criminologies, University of Oxford; Honorary (Principal Fellow) within Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne; Honorary Member of PEN International; and winner of an Amnesty International Australia 2017 Media Award, the Diaspora Symposium Social Justice Award, the Liberty Victoria 2018 Empty Chair Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya award for journalism. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time; collaborator on Nazanin Sahamizadeh’s play Manus; and associate producer for Hoda Afshar's video installation Remain (2018). More by Behrouz Boochani Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 9 March 20222 June 2022 Refugee rights Chauka’s voice: resistance in the art of Behrouz Boochani Rebecca Hill Behrouz Boochani’s novel No Friend But the Mountains (2018) and his collaborative film with Arash Sarvesanti, Chauka Please Tell Us the Time (2019) are vivid and poetic descriptions of Australia’s offshore immigration detention industry. Much more than descriptions of this murderous system, these works constitute artistic and philosophical resistance to the system—a system that Boochani calls Manus Prison Theory. 2 First published in Overland Issue 228 23 February 20224 April 2022 Refugee rights The Strengthening the Character Test Bill is bad policy passed thanks to worse politics Jana Favero It should not come as a surprise that the demonisation of migrants and refugees is again weaponised in the hope of winning votes. This trend started twenty-one years ago with the Tampa and, despite the ‘never again’ promises, we are seeing the same cut-and-paste border security and fear narrative play out again. What has changed, however, is community sentiment.