Former Manus Island detainee tells UN 'human beings are being destroyed'


Since Abdul Aziz Muhamat left Manus Island for the last time, he has climbed a mountain in his new home of Switzerland, and then returned to advocating for the resettlement of the hundreds of men and women he left behind.

The Sudanese refugee spent more than six years in Australia’s offshore processing and detention system in Papua New Guinea, before he was granted residency in the European nation earlier this month.

“I feel excited to at least have a place I can a call home, but it’s hard to have that sort of excitement when you have people still in that place,” he tells Guardian Australia.


Muhamat says he is shocked to find little awareness among the public of the long-running issues on Manus and Nauru. “People are thinking we’re living in a five-star hotel,” he says.

On Wednesday he stood before the UN human rights council’s 41st session to say it was instead a humanitarian crisis which required urgent action.

“Many hundreds are still being detained. And they are being completely destroyed, physically and mentally. Twelve people have died,” he said, speaking on behalf of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre.

“We don’t have time. Not a day, not a week, not a month. People are attempting suicide every hour.”

In Papua New Guinea especially, where only single men were sent by the Australian government, a mental health crisis worsened after the recent Australian election. Around 100 men are believed to have attempted suicide or self-harmed, and the local authorities are struggling to respond.

“We urge your mandates and the council to continue to hold the Australian government to account for this breach of human rights,” he said.

READ  Brexiteer opens door on SECOND REFERENDUM but only with THIS condition

Muhamat told the council politicians in Australia and internationally were demonising refugees to further their own political agenda.

Edwina MacDonald, an HRLC legal director in Geneva to monitor Australia on the human rights council, said no government could truly stand for human rights while “choosing to severely damage the lives of innocent people”.

“The Australian government continues to act with breathtaking hypocrisy, claiming to support human rights at the UN while indefinitely imprisoning men and women in offshore detention camps,” she said.

Earlier this week Human Rights Watch wrote to Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, urging her to lead a more active presence on the human rights council. The organisation said Australia’s reputation was damaged by its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, but it could use the remaining half of its term on the council to take specific and public action against human rights-abusing nations.

Muhamat’s statement followed another call from the UN’s special rapporteurs on migrant rights, torture and mental health for the Australian government to provide immediate healthcare to people on Manus and Nauru and to transfer those requiring urgent care to Australia.

The Australian government, which pays for contractors to provide physical and mental health in both countries, denied the assertion.

The special rapporteurs responded that “many migrants suffer from deteriorating physical and mental health, which seem to have been the result of a lack of appropriate healthcare, exacerbated by the indefinite and prolonged confinement”.

Muhamat lodged a claim for asylum in Switzerland in February, when he was given permission to travel from Manus Island to Geneva and receive a human rights award. His claim was approved in June.

READ  Labour blasted for 'UNDERMINING' anti-Semitism fight as Corbyn faces fresh controversy

“I’m very lucky to the Swiss government for their hospitality and for giving me one more chance, a chance that Australia failed to give me,” he says.

“This is an amazing country and I’m so lucky, and I hope to contribute to the community and to return the favour.”



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here