Scott Morrison: Release the 54 asylum seekers from PNG Bomana prison

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Prime Minister Morrison

We demand the release of the 54 asylum seekers who have committed no crime yet have  been imprisoned in the Bomana Detention Centre in Port Moresby since August 12, 2019. 

Their imprisonment violates our country’s human rights obligations as well as our common values of decency, compassion, justice and ‘a fair go’.

These men have effectively ‘disappeared’. Despite doing no wrong, all 54 men have had their phones confiscated and all contact with the outside world denied.

They cannot contact their families in their home countries. Mothers, wives, sisters, brothers ring the friends of their missing loved ones desperate for news, for answers. But their friends have no answers as they too are unable to contact their imprisoned friends. 

Both the UN and Red Cross have also been denied access to the prison or contact with the men inside. 

So have the advocates, the lawyers and the doctors who were assisting many of these men with their requests for medical transfer to Australia under the recent Medivac laws.

We know lives are in danger as most of these men are extremely ill. Three of the men had already been approved for medical transfer by the Australian Government before they were imprisoned.  Now they, as well as 33 others whose applications were in progress before their imprisonment, have been blocked from medical evacuation to Australia.  

So we know these men must be suffering unbearably, both physically and mentally. The secrecy and lack of contact only adds to our fears and grave concerns for them. 

PNG’s claim that these men, deemed to be ‘non-refugees’, are residing illegally in PNG as ‘unlawful citizens’ is both misleading and scurrilous.

You know, Mr Morrison, that these men have committed no crime. They were forcibly removed to PNG by the Australian Government and held captive in camps on Manus Island for more than 6 years. These men never chose to go to PNG. They should not be punished for being in a place they never wanted to go to in the first place. 

Moreover, the so called ‘negative’ refugee status of these men is highly contentious.

At least 23 of these men have never even submitted a claim for refugee status. No forms, no interview, no process, nothing. Their ‘negative’ status was imposed on them as punishment for their refusal to participate in what they regarded as the unlawful and questionable status resolution process implemented by PNG in 2016.  

Others, including a number of gay men, have never been able to put forward their full claims because of fears of resettlement in PNG where homosexuality is illegal. 

As the Prime Minister of Australia, you are responsible for the care and welfare of these men: your government spent $20 million of our taxes building the Bomana Detention Centre; your government contracted the Controlled Outcomes security firm to staff the prison; your government continues to fund and implement  the inhumane policies and practices which have seen these men suffer human rights abuses so horrendously for so long.

We demand that you stop neglecting and denying your role and responsibility in this needless and deliberate torture of these men, Mr Morrison. 

We demand that you stop implicating decent Australians in the destruction of innocent and valued human life.

The Australian Government has put these men’s lives at serious risk, now we demand that you act, and act urgently, to save them. 

We demand that you, Mr Morrison, as our Prime Minister, ensure that the ‘Bomana 54’

-are immediately given access to their phones so they can contact their family, doctors, lawyers,        advocates and support networks. 
-are immediately released from Bomana detention centre.  
-are given immediate access to adequate medical care. 
-have their refugee determinations properly determined and reviewed.