“The offshore dumping of Refugees in impoverished Pacific communities has become an irretrievable disaster necessitating urgent action by Australia. No new direction in refugee policy can be complete without a change to the current offshore policy which has been an unmitigated disaster to both the refugees and to their unwilling hosts in the communities of the Pacific Islands.” – Pamela Curr
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” – George Orwell
Lots of memories surface this week as the Australian government announces its withdrawal from the Illegal Offshore camps in PNG leaving refugees behind.
Some things cant be forgotten.
I checked my 2013 diary where reports and conversations are recorded.
There it is. At 8am on 1st of December in 2013, the PNG police and camp guards enacted a raid on the Manus Camp. They claimed to be searching for “suspect contraband”. I remembered the phone call from a totally shocked man in the camp as he told me that they stormed into the tents and huts and went through all their personal possessions and destroyed any Koran they found. They methodically tore up family photos.
These men had been forcibly flown from Christmas Island with only one small bag. He told me “We have nothing but the pictures of our wives and children to keep us from going crazy in this place”. The disrespect to their treasured Koran was a terrible blow to the men.
A second raid followed sixteen days later. Staff, including Salvation Army workers, who were responsible for welfare in the camp at this time, were told that they must participate in the searching of the men’s bags. Most chilling was the report from one worker who questioned the searches and destruction of personal mementos.
A senior security guard said that to control the men, you had to break them first. He said that it was easier to break family men. This was the beginning of a cruel regime which the men have survived even as twelve men amongst them have died through violence and neglect.
It got worse as the years wore on.