Here’s How You Can Help During The Manus Island Shutdown Crisis


Manus Island

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Right now Australia is in the midst of one of our biggest humanitarian crises in recent memory.

In April last year the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled that the Australian-sponsored detention centre on Manus Island was illegal. So Malcolm Turnbull grudgingly agreed to close the centre down — but since that decision was made there have been no viable alternatives offered for the vulnerable asylum seekers still imprisoned on Manus.

Last night, the shutdown went ahead: all food, water, electricity and security was shut off in the Manus Island detention centre, which still has over 600 men housed inside. Many of these men are already suffering from a variety of physical and mental conditions that require assistance from professionals, and the temperatures on Manus are averaging 31 degrees at the moment — tough stuff for over 600 people stranded without water.

The brutal shutdown, while asylum seekers were still housed in the centre, was meant to encourage the men to leave the centre and relocate to three other facilities around Lorengau. Right now, PNG defence forces are preparing to take over the centre, which is housed on the Lombrum Navy Base.

But here’s the rub: these other facilities are not safe for the asylum seekers as many PNG locals’ attitude toward the refugees continues to be hostile, unaccepting and violent. So it seems impossible for asylum seekers housed in the Manus detention centre to access housing, social services, medical services or jobs to support themselves.

They are also at great risk of physical harm from a community who do not want them in Lorengau and have threatened physical force against any asylum seekers who attempt to leave the Manus detention centre and relocate around Lorengau. The PNG police commissioner has already warned that they cannot guarantee the safety of the refugees and workers from the detention centre once the shutdown goes into effect. The police commissioner.

It’s an absolutely abysmal situation, and Australians have a duty to care to these asylum seekers that we are shirking by leaving them to the mercy of the PNG community. It’s a bad, bad time.

So, what can we do from here in Australia to support and protect these vulnerable men who are at great risk inside (and outside) the shutdown Manus Island centre? Here are a few ideas.

Call Your Local Member Of Parliament

The first thing to do is call your local MP to express your concern about the dangerous conditions the Manus Island refugees have been placed in. Here is a fact sheet on how to contact all senators and members of parliament. Find your local representative and give their office a call.

And don’t worry: calling your representative is not as daunting as you might think! Here are some tips:

  1. Remain calm and polite, and stay on message during the call. No matter how angry you are, the office will not respond well to volatile behaviour and you will lose your chance to express your concern.
  2. Explain that you are local voter who is concerned about the conditions of the 600+ men who are currently in the Manus Island detention centre without food, water, electricity or security. Tell your representative’s office you understand that the majority have been found to be genuine refugees, and that as such Australia has a responsibility to them.
  3. Explain that you understand the alternative accomodation provided to the refugees in PNG is not safe, as many people in the PNG community are violently against the refugees leaving the detention centre. As such, implore your member to support the push to evacuate the refugees now and bring them to Australia.

Once you’ve completed your call, share your local member’s contact details with your friends in the community, and encourage them to make the call as well.

Call Parliament House and Peter Dutton’s Office

If you’re not content just calling your local representative, you can also contact Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office. Also note: Julie Bishop is currently Australia’s Acting Prime Minister while Turnbull is out of the country (and Barnaby Joyce has been ousted).

Use the strategies outlined above if you are stuck on how to approach the phone call, or simply call and say you are “registering your concern over the conditions for refugees on Manus Island”, and your call will be logged.

The contact details for these phone calls are below.

Call the Prime Minister‘s office at Parliament House on (02) 6277 7700.

Send written correspondence to the Prime Minister at Parliament House here.

Call Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, on (02) 6277 7860.

Call Julie Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, at Parliament House on (02) 6277 750o.

Call The Opposition Leaders

In instances like this, the Federal Opposition Leader is just as useful to call as the Prime Minister. Bill Shorten and Labor currently support offshore processing, but could be mobilised to act in support of the Manus Island #EvacuateNow movement. Give Bill Shorten’s and Tanya Plibersek’s offices a ring using the contact information below.

Call Bill Shorten, the shadow federal leader, on (02) 6277 4022.

Call Tanya Plibersek, the shadow deputy leader, on (o2) 6277 4404.

Protest Outside Your Local Member’s Office

You can also protest outside your local MP’s office, if you have the capacity to do so today. Protest solo, bring together some like-minded friends or join a protest that is already happening, like the one at the Australian Border Force office in Newcastle.

Remember: it is your right to protest peacefully on Australian public property. Bring signs, food and water, and remember to remain respectful and peaceful throughout your protest.

Offer Support To Frontline Services

Right now frontline support services for refugees in Australia, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the Human Rights Law Centre, are fighting one hell of a battle. They could likely use your support or your money to assist them.

Give the ASRC or the HRLC a call, ask how you can help them, or donate to them online. The details to do this are below:

Contact the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to offer support on (o3) 9326 6066 or (03) 8537 9500. You can also donate via their online portal here.

Contact the Human Rights Law Centre to offer support on (03) 8636 4450. You can also donate via their online portal here.

Use Social Media To Express Your Concern

Social media is a wonderful way for you to vocalise your concern over the Manus Island shutdown. Call out to your friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, explaining the situation, pledging your support and suggesting ways they can help.

Share articles from Junkee, The Guardian and the ABC Online detailing the extent of the problems on Manus Island, to help your friends and family understand the severity of the issue.

Post a photo with your friends or your colleagues to let the MPs in Canberra know you are watching.

Use the hashtags #EvacuateNow, #IAmWatching, #WeAreWatching, #Manus and #BringThemHere to connect with other people fighting for the same cause. Connect to the MPs responsible at @TurnbullMalcolm, @JulieBishopMP, @PeterDutton_MP, @billshortenmp and @tanya_plibersek.

Featured image source: Nick McKim and Jenny Smith/Twitter

Matilda Dixon-Smith is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets at @mdixonsmith.