Australians of the Year call for end to Manus crisis

manus refugeesA dozen former Australians of the Year have called on political leaders to immediately address the ‘human disaster’ unfolding on Manus Island, as police and military begin to forcibly remove over 400 men from a detention centre.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, 12 former Australians of the Year warned that refugees could die in coming days if they do not receive medical treatment.

They urged the government to accept the Australian Medical Association’s offer to provide medication and health care services to the Manus Island refugees.

“We believe that it is time to stop the unacceptable and internationally criticised treatment of the refugees on Manus Island who, though innocent of any crime, have been incarcerated and now abandoned there,” the letter said.

“We cannot see any good for Australia to pursue this policy in connection with Manus Island. We believe the Australian government is the one that needs to act in this matter and not the government of Papua New Guinea.”

The signatories include renowned psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry, who has been in touch with medical professionals currently denied access to the detention centre.

Other signatories include surgeon Dr Fiona Wood, Aboriginal advocate Prof Mick Dodson, domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery and distinguished research biologist Sir Gustav Nossal.

The letter comes as PNG police have entered the Manus Island detention centre to force out the men still at the facility.

Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani is currently tweeting live updates from inside the detention centre. He said hundreds of local police stormed the centre on Thursday morning to break down shelters and destroy water tanks.

“We are blockading right now. So many police and immigration officers are around us at this moment,” he tweeted.

“They destroyed everything and our belongings and right now are shouting at us to leave the prison camp. I am tweeting from a toilet right now.”

Another refugee, Walid Zazai, said police have become increasingly aggressive and threatened to kill the refugees.

“They are so angry, and telling us to leave our land,” he tweeted.

“First they said move to town, now more angry and telling us leave our land otherwise we will kill you.

“Police commissioner Yapu said: ‘It’s an Order from Australian and PNG governments to move you out’.”

The former Australians of the Year warned that Australia’s international reputation on human rights is deteriorating because of its inhumane refugee policies. They condemned both major political parties for failing to meet the most basic obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention.

“The irony of Australia’s recent appointment to the UN Council for Human Rights is palpable. Do we now condemn our own actions?” the letter said.

“This is not who we are as Australians or indeed as human beings.”

Refugee supporters are urged to call the offices of Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Bill Shorten and Tanya Pliberseck and ask them to immediately bring the refugees to Australia. 

Malcolm Turnbull: (02) 6277 7700

 Julie Bishop: (02) 6277 7500

Bill Shorten: (02) 6277 4022

Tanya Pliberseck: (02) 6277 4404


Image: Samad Abdul/Twitter

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