Strangers in paradise – 101 East


“It’s like a prison, like Guantanamo Bay, the one America built in Cuba,” says Faisal. As he sits in a refugee detention centre on an island in the middle of the Pacific, his dream of starting a new life in Australia is fading. Many refugees fleeing war and persecution dream of starting new lives in Australia, but recently any who try to travel there by boat instead end up on shores far away in Papua New Guinea.

More than 3,500km away from Faisal, his sister Samar waits by the phone in her Sydney home. When he calls, he tells her he has no news of when he will be released. This is the life of more than 1,000 men detained behind the barbwire fences of Australia’s refugee processing centre on PNG’s remote Manus Island. Most of them are fleeing countries like Iran, Iraq, and Sri Lanka. They are detained for months or years while their claims are being processed, after which they are either sent home or to a third country.

It is difficult to gain access to the detention facility – where refugees live behind high fences and appear to be housed in shipping containers. Tensions are high. Detainees are frustrated over long waiting and processing periods. Earlier this year, frustration at the camp exploded

Pamela Curr
Refugee and Detention Rights Advocate
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

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