April 2, 2023

Two refugees on the tiny island nation of Nauru — a five-hour airplane journey from Australia within the southwestern Pacific Ocean — have sewn their lips collectively in protest in opposition to their nearly decade-long detention on the island.

Australia has used Nauru since July 2013 to detain asylum seekers who journey to Australia by boat. Some have been additionally despatched to Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island for processing, with all of them advised they might by no means be allowed to settle in Australia.

The coverage has had an excessive impact on refugees and asylum seekers held below its stipulations.

About 150 refugees and asylum seekers are at present in Nauru and PNG, with little to no data of when — or, if ever — they are going to be resettled.

The 2 protestors, Mohammad Shofiqul Islam and Mohammad Kaium, have been detained on Nauru for practically 10 years.

Mohammad Shofikul Islam spoke for them each by way of the WhatsApp messaging service from the place they’re holding their protest close to RPC1, the executive hub for refugee companies and safety in Nauru.

“We’re on starvation strike.[ing],” he wrote in a message to Al Jazeera.

“We closed our lips and we [have] Stopped consuming and consuming…we will not communicate,” Shofiqul Islam stated.

“We do not eat and do not drink till we get our medical remedy and freedom.”

The 2 males traveled individually to Australia from Bangladesh in 2013, he stated, to hunt asylum from persecution of their dwelling nation. Their boats have been intercepted by the Australian navy and so they have been finally despatched to Nauru,

Since 2015, refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru have been detained within the wider island group.

However the state of affairs is “not protected”, Shofiqul Islam stated.

“In Nauru, individuals are handled[ing] Like us we’re animals — not people,” he stated.

“Right here in Nauru, very poor medical remedy,” he continued. “And we aren’t protected right here. Individuals… right here, they do not like refugees. They hate us.

Composite image of Mohammad Shofigul Islam and Mohammad Kaiyum with their lips sewn shut.
Mohammad Kaium, left, and Mohammad Shofiqul Islam, proper, have sewn their lips collectively in protest in opposition to the ten years they’ve been detained on Nauru island by the Australian authorities [Courtesy of Mohammad Shofiqul Islam]

The abuse and neglect of detainees—in what the rights group Amnesty Worldwide described as Nauru’s “open-air jail”—have been effectively documented.

Refugees have been medically evacuated following assaults and for the remedy of persistent sickness.

Psychological well being can be a critical concern for the detainees.

Self-harm and even suicidal conduct have been reported amongst youngsters held there. The final 4 of greater than 200 youngsters those that have been as soon as detained on Nauru have been resettled to america in 2019.

Shofiqul Islam has begun the method of making use of for resettlement within the US below a 2016 resettlement association between Canberra and Washington. However he has been engaged within the course of for greater than three years already and neither Shofiqul Islam nor Kaium is aware of when they are going to be launched.

He and Kaium, who should not within the resettlement course of for the US, are determined to get off the island and finish their indefinite detention.

“We’d like medical remedy… freedom. We would like justice,” he wrote.

“Why are we in limbo for 10 years with none crime? Our hearts are damaged[n] now, we will not take anymore. Please assist us to get our freedom.

Justifying cruelty

Whilst Shofikul Islam and Kaium protest for his or her freedom and that of different refugees, the Australian authorities not too long ago signed off on laws giving it the authorized energy to proceed processing asylum claims offshore and, successfully, solidifying detentions on Nauru.

Behrouz Boochani — an award-winning creator, former refugee and political commentator — has accused the Australian Labor Social gathering of “mendacity” about its causes for using offshore processing.

Formally, the offshore detention of refugees and asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Australia is a mechanism for stopping individuals smuggling.

“However that’s simply one thing that they [use] to justify this cruelty,” Behrouz stated, explaining that each of Australia’s main political events, Labor and the centre-right Liberal Social gathering, have created concern round asylum seekers arriving by boat and have used powerful immigration insurance policies to win votes.

“They cover themselves behind nationwide safety,” he stated. “Consider me, nothing will occur in the event that they launch [the refugees on Nauru]he added.

Behrouz, who was held for six years on Manus earlier than discovering refuge in New Zealand, additionally stated there was some huge cash to be made in detaining refugees and asylum seekers. He cited a 420 million Australian-dollar ($286m) contract agreed earlier this yr between the Australian authorities and a US personal prisons operator, Administration and Coaching Company (MTC), to run “garrison and welfare” on Nauru.

A spokesperson for Australia’s Dwelling Affairs Division declined to touch upon the circumstances of Shofiqul Islam and Kaium.

They advised Al Jazeera that the federal government “stays dedicated to regional processing in Nauru” and that these detained on the island had entry to medical companies, together with for psychological well being, with “mechanisms in place” to switch these most in have to Australia or Taiwan. .

“Regional processing offers unauthorized maritime arrivals the chance to have their safety claims assessed by a regional processing nation, and if discovered to be in want of worldwide safety, help to establish a sturdy migration pathway,” the spokesperson stated. “Third nation resettlement additionally helps the Authorities’s no settlement in Australia coverage for unauthorized maritime arrivals.”

Mohammad Shofigul Islam and Mohammad Kaium, lying on the ground under some brush, have stitched their lips shut to protest their detention on the island nation of Nauru for almost a decade.  {Courtesy of Mohammad Shofiqul)
Mohammad Kaium, left, and Mohammad Shofiqul Islam, proper, lie exterior RPC1, the executive hub for refugee companies and safety in Nauru [Courtesy of Mohammad Shofiqul Islam]

There are actions in Australia’s parliament to overturn Labour’s use of Nauru to detain refugees and asylum seekers.

Earlier this month, the Australian Greens get together launched a invoice within the Senate that will see asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and in PNG instantly evacuated to Australia. The invoice would enable asylum seekers and refugees to remain in Australia quickly, with entry to medical assessments and remedy, earlier than being resettled in a 3rd nation.

Political activist and refugee advocate Ian Rintoul thinks the probability of the invoice passing is slim.

“I am unable to see Labor supporting the Greens invoice,” he stated.

“Definitely the Liberals won’t … Regardless of Labor coverage, the federal government is dedicated to sustaining offshore deterrence insurance policies.”

In the end, he stated, Australia ought to be resettling the refugees and asylum seekers it’s holding offshore. Lots of them are formally on resettlement pathways to the US, Canada or New Zealand, “however they’ve all been ready a very long time on Nauru and have no idea how for much longer they are going to be ready”, he stated.

“Of higher concern are those that do not need any third nation resettlement choice in any respect,” he continued.

“These individuals are Australia’s accountability and shouldn’t be left on Nauru indefinitely. They clearly ought to be transferred to Australia and supplied the safety they requested for in 2013.”

Almost 10 years on Nauru is already too lengthy, wrote Shofiqul Islam.

“Sufficient is sufficient,” he stated.

“Please cease torturing us, we will not take any extra.”

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