The men being held on Manus island are in crisis.
These innocent people deserve safety and a fair legal hearing. Australia has made a conscious choice to make them suffer for no good reason. It is, if you'll excuse my French, bullshit.
Please, if you can, support the vital work of Anne and Dr Merrick and help these victims of our cruel refugee policies. It's the least we can do.
Comedian, writer, broadcaster, philanthropist*
“I don't care about the money being offered …even if they offer $1 million, I can't go back home because I'll be dead." (1)
Last month, PNG immigration announced that the Manus detention camp will officially close, with some parts of the camp being demolished by the end of May.
After 4 years of appalling conditions, hopelessness and fear, the Australian government is trying one last desperate tactic to force these men to ‘settle’ in PNG or return to their home countries.
According to the International Conventions on Human Rights that Australia is a signatory to, it is illegal for Australia to refuse to process their refugee claims in Australia, or to force them to accept settlement in PNG when they did not apply for asylum there. It is also illegal to commit ‘refoulement’ by forcing people seeking asylum back to countries where their lives and safety are endangered.
As reported in the Guardian, there has been a deliberate campaign to make life in the camps as difficult as possible, in order to:
"coerce people to accept resettlement in PNG or abandon their claims for protection, despite camp managers acknowledging refugees would face violence and danger in the community, were suffering severe mental health issues and had been institutionalised during four years in detention" (2)
The situation is bad enough for those whose claims for refugee status have been approved, as they await news of whether they will be accepted into the U.S. or are transferred elsewhere (most likely to Nauru).
For the almost 200 men whose refugee status has been classified as negative, the situation is even more dire:
"The remaining men whose claims have been rejected have been told they should agree to return to their countries of origin before the end of August, when a $20,000 cash incentive from the Australian Government will cease."
Many of the men who have been refused refugee status cannot go back to their home countries, or will be returning to great danger. Many are scared that if they don’t take the government’s bribe, they will end up being deported anyway, without any money as has already happened to some detainees. (3)
Many of these mens’ claims have been unfairly assessed, lacking correct evidence, or based on incomplete statements. Many of the men did not want to take part in the assessment procedure when it became clear that it was not being carried out by UNHCR but by PNG immigration, for settlement in PNG and not Australia, where they all originally sought asylum. The UNHCR has itself expressed concern over how these claims have been handled. (4)
There is an urgent need to mount a legal challenge to have the refugee claims of these men challenged and re-assessed.
How Can We Help?
We urgently need funding so that a legal firm in PNG can commence proceedings challenging the negative determinations.
In most cases, each claim has to be re-assessed and challenged individually.
We have managed to secure the services of a reputable legal firm experienced in Human Rights issues, with lawyers trained in both PNG and Australia. We have worked with this firm in the past in securing successful outcomes in other cases involving detainees on Manus.
The cases will involve considerable work, and we need to send a substantial deposit to the lawyers as quickly as possible. This deposit will enable the firm to begin work immediately on the most urgent cases. (NOTE: this amount is not the cost to represent each man.)
On a recent visit to Manus, Anne Moon was able to talk to the men about the need to mount a case and begin the work of collecting and compiling all the documentation needed. This has been difficult as many of the men were too despondent to be involved in any legal challenge, or suspicious that anyone asking for evidence was working for immigration.
She was also able to have lengthy meetings with the lawyer who agreed to take on the case and has already begun assessing the evidence without upfront payment.
Please Donate and Share Widely
All the funds raised through this campaign will go directly towards the legal fees. As soon as we have enough to fund one case the lawyers can begin work in earnest.
These men deserve a chance to find safety after the horrors of the last 4 years: that safety does not lie in PNG or in the countries they fled from.
Our government intends to abandon them. We cannot.
Who We are
Anne Moon is a long-term campaigner for Human Rights and a refugee advocate who has supported and worked with the men on Manus for over three years. She is in personal contact with many men in the camp, and has made 2 trips to PNG to provide emotional as well as practical support in the form of help with medical and legal documents. On her most recent trip she collected much of the documentation and evidence needed for the legal cases.
Dr Helen Merrick is an academic and member of RAR South-eastern Tasmania. She assists Anne with organising files, evidence and raising funds for this and other causes in support of refugee rights. She worked for a number of Western Australian universities for 20 years in Media and Culutral studies before moving to Tasmania and focussing on community and voluntary work.
* Tom Ballard has generously supported this and many other campagins to support refugee rights in Australia and organisations like ASRC and Refugee Legal. For more information see his website: tomballard.com.au
You can listen to his interviews with numerous refugee rights advocates, lawyers and activists here: tomballard.com.au/podcast
We understand that many people are already donating to other urgent campaigns, such as legal support for processing the 'legacy caseload' before the new October deadline, or phone credit for Manus and Nauru or other emergency funds.
The work of this campaign is to enable the large and important legal challenge required to overturn negative determinations for as many 'negatively' assessed men on Manus as possible. We are in contact with other groups working in the same area and will make every effort to ensure we do not double up on effort and money being spent.