Attacks on Manus refugees is Australia’s Christmas shame, says human rights group

Australia’s name for decency and a fair go has been permanently stained by the latest sickening violence on Manus Island, Liberty Victoria said today.

Reports of attacks on refugees with metal poles and other weapons to force them to a new unfinished prison after three weeks of resistance shames the nation, said Liberty president Jessie Taylor.

“Our leaders seem deaf to the appeals by Australians of the Year, religious leaders and people going into the street,” she said.

Award-winning journalist Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee held on Manus for over three years, reported the latest affront to civilised values: the refusal by immigration officials to allow doctors from the Australian Medical Association and the highly respected international agency Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) to treat the wounded.

“MSF is known for its ability to treat people on all sides in conflicts across the globe,” Ms Taylor said. “Here, surely, is one of the few examples of it being turned away.”

In spite of verbal abuse, the refugees stayed silent, Boochani said, their long experience showing them how to avoid provoking further attacks.

Some of these rejected people have been forced into a “camp” without power or water, just a metal structure on a small hill amid a tropical forest. In a recent tweet, Boochani said, "We have some serious psychological cases in Manus, some people really need to see a psychiatrist. Paranoia and deep depression are prevalent. Some people have been addicted to psychological tablets for years and the system abandoned them without protection."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently defended Australia's human rights record by saying the country had been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. "Given that the council includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has contributed to mass starvation in Yemen, this is less than convincing," Ms Taylor said.

“As we enter the Christmas season of goodwill, surely some sense of morality will seep through for people who, as Boochani reports, “have entered another stage of suffering…living without security…abandoned, desperate, lonely.”