Ravi’s search for freedom

Ravi’s Story: After the Fire

By Jill Horton

“We are being treated much worse than criminals, even though we haven’t committed any crime”

Ravi grew up as a Sikh in a village in the Punjab state of India. His father had a senior post in the army. In the Punjab where he grew up, Sikhs and Sikh activists are subject to attacks, threats, harassment, persecution and abuse by pro-government groups and extreme religious factions. Ravi was working in construction and as an electrician.  His uncle was a leader in the Khalistan movement which is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state. He was subject to persecution, arrest, imprisonment and torture.

In 2013, when visiting Ravi’s uncle’s house, eight militant Hindu men who dressed like police forcefully entered his uncle’s courtyard and tried to force his uncle to abandon his Sikh and Khalistani allegiance. When he refused, they grabbed wires and electrocuted Ravi’s uncle in front of him and he died. They chased Ravi but he escaped and fled India as there was nowhere safe for him to hide. He fled to Malaysia.  “I was ill-advised by the agent. I was sent to Malaysia and I was told I would be able to enter Australia from there. A Pakistani man took $15,000 US from me, took away my passport and sent me to Indonesia – from where I took the boat to Christmas Island”.

Ravi’s 8 Year Long Journey Begins

19 July 2013 was the start of offshore processing. If Ravi arrived 5 days earlier he would have never been sent offshore. “I reached Christmas Island on 23 July and stayed there for five months.” “Later in the year, we were forcibly moved to Manus Island, with our hands tied by a wire. We have been here (in PNG) ever since.” Ravi remained for 6.5 years under deliberate, degrading, harsh torturous conditions on Manus so that he would give up and return to India. He would be facing death in India; instead he is suffering a slow death in PNG.

“I sought asylum in Australia in 2013 but instead, I was forcefully & illegally trafficked to Manus Island”

“I was subjected to many kinds of torture & mistreatment from Australia in Manus Island, for example, white torture, dangerous & fatal environment, very low quality food & extremely low hygiene measures”

“We’ve been attacked inside the detention centre many times – in 2014, in 2015 and even 2017.”

“Our lives are in danger.”

Violent Closure of Manus RPC Nov 2017

Ravi has pleaded with the Australian government for nearly 8 years to finally resettle him elsewhere, saying “Enough is enough!”

Jill went to Manus in 2017 and met Ravi and had lunch with him and they have been friends with him ever since.

Ravi did not engage in the PNG asylum process as he never claimed asylum in PNG and was issued removal notice from PNG and deemed a non-refugee. After May 2019 election, there were nearly 100 cases of self-harm on Manus Island. In June 2019, he was refused treatment and due to constant pain from untreated back and shoulder pain, struggling to walk, uncertainty of his future and depression he locked himself in his shipping container room and started a blaze that engulfed two other rooms to end his life of suffering. He suffered burns to his face and hand and spent a night in police custody. The Manus Police commander wanted to charge Ravi with arson and attempted suicide because suicide is illegal in PNG but this never occurred. He was evacuated to Port Moresby for burns treatment where he remains today in one of the most unsafe cities in the world with no certainty for his future and still suffering without proper medical treatment. The mental health Indian doctor in the PNG hospital called Ravi a “criminal” and told him to go home as he’s not a refugee.

Ravi’s Container on Fire 2019

8 YEARS of MISTREATMENT. Let’s END THIS for Ravi.

Ravi “kept asking for medical treatment for his back and shoulder pain for four… five months now but they would just keep giving him painkillers and not proper treatment,”

Due to years of an extremely punitive and cruel policy in which the Australian Government deliberately and consistently denied Ravi essential and critical medical care for his burn injuries, back and shoulder pain, declining mental health and suicidal feelings. Ravi’s medevac was finally approved including full security checks in July 2019. The Australian government blocked his transfer and he has been trapped in PNG nearly 8 years. Ravi has waited nearly 2 years for medevac and proper treatment. This is wilful neglect.

Ravi fled at 25 and his best years have been stolen from him.

“After suffering multiple assaults by Australian staff, they rejected my asylum case & put more pressure on me to go back to India despite my situation in there is getting worse even by now, so in 2019 I attempted suicide by torching my room but my friends saved me from the blaze”

Still No Freedom for Ravi after 8 years

 “Since then I have been brought to Port Moresby & left aside with nothing. Australia does not allow any other countries to take me, there’s no future for me in this part of the world since I’m still in Australia’s inhumane chains”

‘We don’t expect anything from the Australian government – we only want to be resettled into a safe country. We just need a safe passage to a safer place.”

“Everything is very unclear. I had received a ‘negative’ assessment”

“We really don’t know what to do. We every day are standing by each other.”

“My advice is – please never take a boat to come to Australia. Otherwise, all of your years of youth will be wasted in camps – and for nothing.”