Refugee rights

A story of my 1516th day

Today is the 1516th day of my life in a camp called the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (MIRPC), run by the Australian Government in Papua New Guinea. We were brought here against our will to be ‘processed’ and then resettled in Australia or a third country.

My eyes open in the morning and though I am still half asleep, the nightmare I see does not allow me to sleep again. Fear fills my head as I think about what will happen after the next five days. The Australian Government will close MIRPC at any cost on the 31st of October. As this repeats in my head, I am playing with a cricket ball hung from the top of my bunk bed. I push the cricket ball and it comes back to me like pendulum. I roll over to my right side and start looking at the wall of my bunk bed that I made from empty cartons. There are many people in a single hall so everyone makes makeshift walls on his own bunk bed, for privacy and to try to keep belongings safe.

Still I am thinking: ‘What will happen after five days? What will happen if they take us to Lorengau, the small town on Manus Island?’ In the past few months, two other refugees were found dead, hanging from trees. Other refugees have been badly injured from knife and machete attacks by local people. Cultural differences, poverty and misinformation breed this violence, and my fear and depression do not allow me to sleep.

I decide to get up and brush my teeth. As I open the hall door, the sun is shining as usual and I can hardly open my eyes. Here, the sunshine reflects on the white coral ground and burns my eyes. Still I look up and see that a mentally upset and depressed person who usually sits in the hot sun by our compound gate has flowers in of his both ears, and one in his hand, that he holds up like he is waiting for someone to arrive. Or maybe he is imagining that he is in a garden somewhere.

I move on, heading to the showers. After I brush my teeth, I return to my room and sit in my bunk bed. I start looking around and wonder whether I should pack my stuff before the police come inside the compound and take us to the Lorengau Centre by force. They will use force because no one is ready and willing to go there. Everyone fears for their lives.

I don’t pack my stuff but sit there for an hour thinking about all the things circling in my head. The thoughts are growing more intense and making me more depressed, so I go outside for some fresh air. I go to the small garden I made in front of my compound. On the right side of the garden is a tree, and I sit there in its shade beside the fences. The breeze is nice. Some local kids walking by have a soccer ball that they are passing to each other, which reminds me of my childhood days and how I used to play and love cricket. As soon as I would come back from school and had lunch, or even without lunch, I would take my cricket bat and ball and go out with my cousins and friends to the school ground in our village and play until evening. I still love cricket in the same way I used to love it in my childhood.

At lunchtime I decide to go and finally eat something, because I don’t do breakfast. There is a long queue for food in front of the mess gate. I sit at the end of the queue – there are about forty people ahead of me. After my number arrives, I collect my curry and white rice. The curry tastes so bad as the meat is not cooked, so I just eat the rice.

Around 2 o’clock I join a peaceful protest walk. It is the eighty-seventh day of peaceful protest. Men are holding banners and cards with different slogans on them, like ‘Four years are enough’, ‘PNG is not safe for us’, and ‘Safety is everyone’s human right.’ The main purpose of the protest is to let people know that we don’t want to be resettled in Papua New Guinea. We are also asking for an end to this indefinite detention.

In the evening, I sit by the beach and listen some good music. This gives me peace and satisfaction like a kind of yoga. I then race off to catch dinner. Dinner starts at 6pm and finishes at 8pm, so you have to eat within these hours. If you come late, there is no meal. The queue for dinner is always double the size of lunch, because if the food runs out they do not bring more. Prison and this detention centre have the same rules, but our only crime is to come to Australia looking for safety. For that, we have been detained for the last four years.

After a thirty to thirty-five-minute wait in the queue, I have my dinner. I then go to my bed to write about a single day from the life that I am living, though it’s difficult with my limited English language grammar and vocabulary. It’s also hard to read and write here because there are about thirty people living in one room. Some are talking and some are listening to music, so it’s hard to focus.

At 12 o’clock the light will go off, and I will then take out my phone from my pocket to see what’s going on. Check my inbox. Reply to friends. Send some text messages to Amnesty International, the UNHRC and other organisations that work for human rights, asking them to please look into our matter.

I’ll then open Facebook and scroll through some posts that speak in our support, and read messages of raised voices around Australia that speak for us to be let free. I really want to thank those people who don’t have any personal agenda, but are trying to help and support us just for the sake of humanity. Humanity is above religion.


Image: Manus Island Detention Centre – Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens MPS / flickr

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