Six years waiting for freedom: a response to the Federal Election from Manus Island

This is the third election we have witnessed since this inhuman offshore immigration detention policy, Pacific Solution 2, was imposed on us. We have sacrificed six years of our lives to ‘protect the Australian borders’. Six years. For six years we have been, and continue to be, incarcerated for no crime. For six years we have been indefinitely detained and subject to the Australian government’s systematic torture. We are people who, through no fault of our own, have become refugees and sought protection – a legal act under international conventions that Australia is a signatory to.

We anticipated that the Labor Party would be victorious in the 2019 election and with this had a little hope. Labor had pledged that to accept New Zealand’s long-standing resettlement offer. This would mean they would resettle 150 refugees. We expected that a new Labor government would take necessary actions to put an end to our miserable situation as soon as possible.

Every man on Manus was watching the news once the vote counting started on Saturday evening. We had been waiting for this day with anxiety and hope. It was a big shock that the current government was re-elected.

Since Saturday night there have been twelve men who have made serious suicide attempts. They have lost their hope and no longer want to sustain their lives. People are hanging themselves, setting themselves on fire, overdosing on tablets and cutting themselves to get rid of their long-standing pain and agony. These attempted suicides are a clear reflection of the desperation and hopelessness that pervades and is overwhelming all the refugees here.

It’s impossible for us to imagine or think about another three years here after these past six years. We are worried about our future and how long we’ll have to wait before we are set free. We think that we will be forgotten and abandoned on Manus forever. No one seems to be mentally motivated or strong enough to go through with their day. They keep themselves away from their friends and want to be alone. No one is talking to each other or spending time with others. We are no longer capable of even this.

Already our mental and physical health had deteriorated as a result of the systematic torture of indefinite detention – the lack of medical support, the fear, the exhaustion, the lack of good food, the isolation, the daily violences. Three out of four men among us are seriously mentally affected. Most of the men are desperately waiting for proper medical treatment. With the events of Saturday night, our health has deteriorated even further. How much more can we survive?

Now the government is trying its best to stop the Medivac Bill which allows severely sick men and women from Manus and Nauru to be taken to Australia for appropriate treatment. Medical care is a fundamental right of all human beings. Preventing someone from receiving appropriate treatment is a crime against humanity.

It is difficult to believe that Australian politicians are happy to represent a policy that directly reflects a lack of humane accountability in their country. This must make every reasonable Australian ashamed.

We have no hope and we do not know what is going to happen to us or to our future. We also have no choice but to remain as calm as possible and keep our dignity as we plead with Australia’s politicians and people to show some compassion and empathise with our pain and long-standing suffering.

We are not desperate to come to Australia. We are in no way political nor do we support any political party in particular. We are just refugees asking politicians to understand our daily reality and assist us in finding a permanent solution to our miserable situation. We just need a safe country where we can start our lives and live peacefully.

Six years. For six years we have been desperately waiting for our freedom.


Read more perspectives on the 2019 Federal Election 

Image: Inside the Manus Island detention centre in 2012, DIAC Images, Wikimedia commons


Shamindan Kanapathi

Shamindan Kanapathi is a 27 years young Sri Lankan Tamil man and refugee. He has been detained by Australia on Manus for six years. Over a number of years he has been reporting from within the prison camp through social media. In Sri Lanka he was a marketing executive and student. He says: ‘My hopes have been that some day I will be free, will see my family again, be able to help to raise the voices of those who are not heard, to care for those who are not cared for and pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian.’

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

Contribute to the conversation

  1. Thank you for writing this and sharing. I send you hope and think of you all there waiting. I want the world to wake up and stop this for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *