naturalfeature:manus island

  • No Friend but the Mountains. The True Story of an Illegally Imprisoned Refugee

    In 2013, Kurdish journalist #Behrouz_Boochani sought asylum in Australia but was instead illegally imprisoned in the country’s most notorious detention centre on Manus Island. He has been there ever since. This book is the result.

    Behrouz Boochani spent nearly five years typing passages of this book one text at a time from a secret mobile phone in prison. Compiled and translated from Farsi, they form an incredible story of how escaping political persecution in Iran, he ended up trapped as a stateless person. This vivid, gripping portrait of his years of incarceration and exile shines devastating light on the fates of so many people as borders close around the world.

    No Friend but the Mountains is both a brave act of witness and a moving testament to the humanity of all people, in the most extreme of circumstances.
    #réfugiés #asile #migrations #Nauru #Australie #réfugiés_kurdes #Kurdistan #livre #témoignage

    Une chose m’intrigue... pourquoi la #montagne dans le titre?

    • Australia’s Shame

      Let us suppose that I am the heir of an enormous estate. Stories about my generosity abound. And let us suppose that you are a young man, ambitious but in trouble with the authorities in your native land. You make a momentous decision: you will set out on a voyage across the ocean that will bring you to my doorstep, where you will say, I am here—feed me, give me a home, let me make a new life!

      Unbeknown to you, however, I have grown tired of strangers arriving on my doorstep saying I am here, take me in—so tired, so exasperated that I say to myself: Enough! No longer will I allow my generosity to be exploited! Therefore, instead of welcoming you and taking you in, I consign you to a desert island and broadcast a message to the world: Behold the fate of those who presume upon my generosity by arriving on my doorstep unannounced!

      This is, more or less, what happened to Behrouz Boochani. Targeted by the Iranian regime for his advocacy of Kurdish independence, Boochani fled the country in 2013, found his way to Indonesia, and was rescued at the last minute from the unseaworthy boat in which he was trying to reach Australia. Instead of being given a home, he was flown to one of the prisons in the remote Pacific run by the Commonwealth of Australia, where he remains to this day.

      Boochani is not alone. Thousands of asylum-seekers have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Australians. The point of the fable of the rich man and the supplicant is the following: Is it worse to treat thousands of people with exemplary inhumanity than to treat a single man in such a way? If it is indeed worse, how much worse is it? Thousands of times? Or does the calculus of numbers falter when it comes to matters of good and evil?

      Whatever the answer, the argument against Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers can be made as trenchantly on the basis of a single case as on that of a thousand, and Boochani has provided exactly that case. Under atrocious conditions he has managed to write and publish a record of his experiences (experiences yet to be concluded), a record that will certainly leave his jailers gnashing their teeth.

      Given the fact that the foundational event of the Commonwealth of Australia was the arrival on the island continent’s east coast of a fleet of uninvited vessels captained by James Cook; given further that since the end of World War II Australia has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of them from Europe but many from Asia and Africa too, it is hard to comprehend the dogged hostility of the Australian public to the latest wave of refugees fleeing strife in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Indian subcontinent, and northeast Africa. To call their hostility racist or xenophobic explains little. Its roots lie further back in time, suggests the historian Jane Haggis:

      The sense of victimhood, of being exiled—unwelcome at home, by virtue of being a convict, an ill-paid worker or an economically precarious tenant farmer…and of having struggled too hard to earn the land…meant Australia never totally embraced the discourse of humanitarianism and of human rights that came to define one sense of the Western self during the twentieth century…. The sense of exile, of expulsion from Europe to the bottom of the world, of being victims rather than members of God’s elect, [shapes] Australia and Australians’ historic sense of themselves as a national community [and] feeds a hyper-vigilance to maintain…“First World privilege.”

      Hostility to refugees is clearly to be seen in the positions taken by both main political parties, which respond to protests against the way they treat refugees with the mantra “We will put the people smugglers out of business, we will end the drownings at sea,” refusing bluntly to address what is unique about their common policy: that people are to be punished for seeking asylum, and that the punishment will be and is meant to be as harsh as possible, visible for all the world to see.

      Poll after poll attests that a majority of Australians back stringent border controls. Fed by the right-wing media, the public has swallowed the argument that there is an orderly immigration queue that boat people could have joined but chose not to; further, that most boat people are not genuine refugees but “economic migrants”—as if fleeing persecution and seeking a better life elsewhere were mutually exclusive motives.

      Under the uniquely complex, quota-based system that Australia follows for dealing with humanitarian cases, there is indeed an orderly queue for applicants waiting to be processed in camps overseas supervised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and the system for processing these humanitarian cases does indeed function smoothly if somewhat slowly, though when we bear in mind that, by the latest count, there are 70 million persons displaced from their homes worldwide, Australia’s quota of about 12,500 humanitarian acceptances per year is modest, well short of Canada’s (28,000). As for the argument that boat people are trying to jump the queue, the fact is that—until the policy changed so that arriving by boat effectively nullified any future application for asylum—the actions of asylum-seekers who arrived on Australian shores without papers and were subsequently found to be “genuine” had no effect on the quota for acceptances from the camps. Simply stated, boat people have never been part of any queue.

      Most of those who head for Australia’s back door do so via Indonesia, where they spend as little time as they can: Indonesia routinely arrests sans-papiers and sends them back to their country of origin. At the height of the boat traffic to Australia in 2009–2011, some five thousand people a year were setting sail from ports in southern Indonesia, in leaky boats provided by smugglers. No official figures are available for deaths at sea, but Monash University’s Australian Border Deaths database estimates a total of some two thousand since the year 2000, with a spike of over four hundred in 2012.

      The preventive measures undertaken by the Australian navy to head off asylum-seekers are shrouded in secrecy; therefore we do not know how many of them have persisted in embarking for Australia since a harsh new policy of interning and processing them offshore was put into practice in 2013, but there is every reason to believe that the number has fallen drastically. It would appear that when the navy intercepts a refugee vessel, it immediately transfers the occupants to a disposable boat with a minimum of fuel, tows it back into Indonesian waters, and casts it off.

      Australia’s treatment of refugees is constrained by a number of treaties. First among these is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified in 1954 though with a number of reservations. This convention confirms the right (already enunciated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948) of any victim of persecution to seek and enjoy asylum. It also binds signatories not to return asylum-seekers to the countries from which they have fled, a requirement known as non-refoulement.

      While adhering to non-refoulement, Australia has over the years exploited two lacunae in the convention, namely that it does not confer on an asylum-seeker the legal right to enter the country where asylum is sought, and that it does not oblige the country where asylum is sought to grant asylum. Successive Australian administrations have therefore taken the position—validated by Australian courts—that a person who enters Australian territorial waters without the requisite papers is in Australia illegally, whether or not that person has come to seek asylum.

      The question of asylum was repeatedly debated in the United Nations in the 1960s and 1970s. Australia voted alongside its allies the United States and the United Kingdom in favor of the right of asylum, while consistently reserving its position on the actual admission of asylum-seekers. In 1977 it spelled out that position: Australia “will wish to retain its discretion to determine ultimately who can enter Australian territory and under what conditions they remain.”

      Christmas Island, a sparsely populated island south of Java, was incorporated into Australia in 1958 despite being some nine hundred miles from the Australian mainland. It is to Christmas Island that most boat people seeking Australian asylum steer. To forestall them, the Australian parliament legislated in 2001 that for the purposes of the Refugee Convention, Christmas Island will be deemed to be not part of Australia. Once a refugee vessel has entered the waters of Christmas Island, its occupants are thus both illegally in Australia and also not yet in Australia. The Australian navy is empowered to detain such “illegal non-citizens” and remove them to a location outside Australia, where they may be held indefinitely, without recourse to judicial review.

      Because Australia does not have a bill of rights, challenges to its refugee policies on the basis of international law have tended to fail in the nation’s courts. They have succeeded only when it has been proved that provisions of the country’s Migration Act have not been met. However, such court rulings have typically been followed by appropriate adjustments to the Migration Act.

      As if this were not enough, the government legislated in 2014 to strike from the Migration Act almost all references to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The revised act states that “it is irrelevant whether Australia has any non-refoulement obligations in respect of an unlawful non-citizen,” i.e., an asylum-seeker. The legality of Australia’s asylum policy is thus, in the eyes of the government and, it would appear, of the courts as well, ironclad.

      Australia is a vast, sparsely populated continent. Since it became an independent nation in 1901, it has had to manage two contending forces: a need to increase its population and a fear that its way of life might be undermined or swamped or corroded (the metaphors are legion) if too many strangers are allowed in.

      In the early years, the latter fear expressed itself in frankly racial terms. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, the cornerstone of the policy commonly known as White Australia, was aimed in the first place at blocking immigration from Asia. A generation later the focus shifted to European Jews. When he came to power in 1933, Hitler declared that the only future for Germany’s Jews lay in emigration. But like other Western countries, Australia refused mass Jewish immigration. At an international conference held in Évian in 1938 to discuss the fate of Europe’s Jews, the leader of the Australian delegation made his country’s position clear: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.”

      The truth is that Australia did have a racial problem, and had had one ever since British colonists established themselves on the continent. The problem was that the colonists held themselves to be intrinsically (in the language of the day, racially) superior to Aboriginal Australians, and did not regard this conviction as a problem. Their unproblematic racism—a problem that was not a problem—easily extended itself to Jews, who might be white but were not the right shade of white.

      The Évian conference confirmed that the traditional countries of settlement—the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina—would continue to the end to resist large-scale Jewish immigration. By the time the doors out of Europe closed in 1939, Australia had accepted some 10,000 Jewish refugees, a respectable quota by comparison with other Western countries, but minuscule in the larger picture.

      World War II, the redrawing of boundaries that followed it, and the flight of populations left millions of Europeans displaced. The 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention of 1951 were intended to address the problem of these displaced persons (DPs). Between 1947 and 1952 Australia took in some 170,000 European refugees. At first the government gave priority to candidates who fit the physical stereotype of the white Australian, for instance people from the Baltic lands. But as the DP camps emptied, and as public opinion softened, migrants began to be accepted from Greece, Italy, Croatia, and other Southern European countries. Refugees from Communist regimes were looked on favorably: Czech dissidents fleeing the Russians in 1968; Vietnamese boat people after the fall of Saigon in 1975; Chinese students after the massacre on Tiananmen Square in 1989. Gradually a nation began to emerge that was no longer quite so Anglo-Celtic in its ethnicity.

      Since the 1990s, however, refugee policy has again hardened, and has been complicated by the rise of Islamist terrorism. On August 26, 2001, shortly before the attack on the Twin Towers, a Norwegian vessel, the Tampa, picked up 438 passengers (mostly Afghan Hazaras) from a foundering boat and anchored near Christmas Island. The Tampa was soon boarded by Australian commandos, while the Australian prime minister announced that backdoor asylum-seekers would from then on be processed not on the mainland but in offshore facilities run by Australia in yet-to-be-decided third countries. After September 11, the refugees on the Tampa suddenly became Muslim boat people, and as Muslims became suspected terrorists. From then on, in the politics of the right, asylum-seekers have been tarred with the brush of terrorism. From that date too, broad support for the doctrine of human rights began to wane, not only in Australia but in Western democracies in general—witness Guantánamo.

      The practice of offshore processing announced in 2001 was maintained until the number of boat arrivals had dwindled to such an extent that the camps could be closed. However, soon after this was done, in 2004, boats began to arrive again. Why? Because refugees had simply been biding their time, waiting for Australia to relax its guard? Or because as the civil war in Sri Lanka intensified, thousands of Tamils were fleeing for their lives? Which was the determining factor: the pull of Australia or the push of world events?

      As the number of boat arrivals grew, the authorities became more and more nervous. Australia had to be made a less attractive destination. A panel of experts recommended what it called a “circuit breaker”: the resumption of offshore processing together with an end to compassionate border control.

      Agreements were concluded in 2013 with Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the tiny island state of Nauru. The old camps would be reopened. These two countries would process the protection claims of people arriving in Australia by boat and would resettle them either on their own territory or in a third country. Australia could then argue that it was not responsible for the ultimate fate of the asylum-seekers, even though the camps would be financed and run by the Australian government through private contractors.

      Manus Island belongs to an archipelago that forms part of PNG. It lies 650 miles north of the Australian mainland; the entire archipelago has a population of about 60,000. Between 2013 and 2016, when the PNG Supreme Court ruled that imprisoning asylum-seekers had been illegal from the start, several thousand people passed through the camps on Manus. However, when in 2017 the PNG police tried to close the camps, most of the occupants—some six hundred men—refused to leave, claiming to fear for their safety. Water and electricity were cut off, and a siege commenced that is vividly described in Boochani’s book. After a month, resistance crumbled, and the detainees were moved into compounds elsewhere on the island, where they have freedom of movement though, without papers, they cannot leave PNG.

      Nauru, nearly two thousand miles from Australia, is one of the world’s smallest nation-states, with a mere 11,000 inhabitants. Since its deposits of rock phosphate gave out a decade or two ago, its economic viability has depended on money-laundering and on the largesse of foreign patrons. On Nauru, prisoners have been held in what are called “open facilities.” However, since the island is tiny (eight square miles), the advantage is slight.

      The UNHCR has been extremely critical of Australia’s offshore policies. In 2017 it concluded that PNG and Nauru were intrinsically unsuitable as resettlement homes, given “the impossibility of local integration.” In other words, Papuans and Nauruans do not want refugees living among them, and refugees do not want to live in PNG or Nauru. New Zealand has offered to take 150 of the inmates, but Australia has vetoed this offer on the grounds that former detainees might make their way from New Zealand to Australia, thereby weakening the deterrent power of Australian policy.

      The operation of the camps was shrouded from the beginning under a blanket of secrecy. Inmates were to be known not by name but by number; circulating photographs of them was forbidden. For information on life in the camps, we have to rely on prisoners like Boochani and on those Australian doctors and social workers who have defied legislation that made it a criminal offense to report what they had witnessed.

      On the basis of such evidence, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Manus and Nauru are not just processing centers but punishment camps where detainees—“clients” in the jargon of the bureaucracy—serve indeterminate or even indefinite sentences for the offense of trying to enter Australia without papers. The attitude of the Australian guards (“client service officers”), many of them veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, seems to be unremitting hostility, fueled by suspicions that among their clientele are Islamic terrorists masquerading as refugees. The local populations, Nauruan or Papuan, also seem to regard the refugees with an unfriendly eye. In 2014 the Manus camp was invaded by Papuan police and civilians who assaulted the inmates, killing one of them.

      In the first year and a half after the agreement with Nauru and PNG, over three thousand people, including hundreds of children, were consigned to offshore detention. A pediatrician visiting the island camps reported a range of troubled behavior among children there: bed-wetting, nightmares, defiant behavior, separation anxiety, withdrawal, regression in speech, mutism, stuttering. Australia’s human rights commissioner concluded that the camps were too violent and unsafe to house children. The entire practice of putting children behind razor wire was damned by a UN special rapporteur. In the face of public disquiet, the Australian authorities began to remove children and their parents to the mainland. By February 2019 the last of them had either been resettled in the US or brought to Australia on an explicitly temporary basis.

      Refugee policy was not an issue in the recent elections for the Australian federal parliament, which were won and lost on arcane issues in the tax code. News that Australian voters had returned to power the same set of jailers responsible for their misery provoked a spate of self-harm and suicide attempts among the remaining detainees. An Indian who tried to set himself alight was treated for burns, then charged with attempting suicide. Boochani reports that most of the refugees left on Manus have fallen into a state of despair and no longer leave their rooms. To date, fourteen prisoners, most of them in their twenties, have died on Nauru and Manus, some by their own hand. They died because the camps were unhealthy, dangerous, and destructive not only of their psychic stability but of their very humanity.

      For years there has been a drumbeat of protest from within Australia against the demonization of asylum-seekers. One appeal came from Tim Winton, among Australia’s most widely read writers:

      Prime Minister, turn us back from this path to brutality. Restore us to our best selves. Turn back from piling trauma upon the traumatised. It grinds innocent people to despair and self-harm and suicide. It ruins the lives of children. It shames us. And it poisons the future. Give these people back their faces, their humanity. Do not avert your gaze and don’t hide them from us.

      Not everyone shares Winton’s sentiments. After being shown a poster targeting aspiring asylum-seekers that showed a boat in rough waters with the caption “NO WAY. YOU WILL NOT MAKE AUSTRALIA HOME,” President Trump tweeted, “Much can be learned!” Australia’s practices of imprisoning refugees and turning back boats have been applauded by the European right and in some quarters mimicked.

      At the peak of the influx of boat people, Manus housed 1,353 prisoners and Nauru 1,233. For Nauru, the camp business has been particularly lucrative. For each detainee it houses on behalf of Australia, Nauru earns about US$1,400 a year in visa fees. Holding a prisoner offshore costs Australia about US$38,000 per year. If the same prisoner were brought to the Australian mainland while his or her claim was being processed, the cost would fall to US$7,000. Persisting with the offshore camps has clearly been a point of honor with the Australians, no matter what the expense.

      In the last days of the Obama administration, it was announced that the United States would accept up to 1,250 refugees from Manus and Nauru. When President Trump took office in January 2017, the then Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, called to pay his respects and apprise the new incumbent of the agreement. President Trump was understandably baffled. Why could Australia not house the refugees itself? Turnbull replied:

      The only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here.

      As Turnbull artlessly reveals, there is something arbitrary in welcoming people who have papers while treating people without papers not only badly but with spectacular heartlessness. Commentators have pointed to the contrived quality of the distinction and hinted at a motive behind it: that the sans-papiers are being offered up to the xenophobes and nativists to vent their rage on, while government and business are left free to run an orderly system of importing skilled migrants.

      With evident reluctance, President Trump has honored the deal made by the Obama administration. As of April 2019, over five hundred refugees had been resettled in the US, with further departures expected, while 265 applications had been rejected on character grounds. According to Boochani’s recent count, there are still 370 asylum-seekers on Manus, seventy of whom had been accepted by the US and are ready to leave. Sixty men on Nauru have been accepted, leaving about two hundred on the island. The prisoners rejected by the US provide Australia with a legal headache. It cannot send them back to their countries of origin without violating its non-refoulement obligations, yet if no third country will accept them, they will find themselves in indefinite detention, in violation of international human rights law.

      As a youngster, Behrouz Boochani tells us, he wanted to join the Kurdish guerrillas in their war of liberation but was not brave enough to take the final step: “To this very day I don’t know if I have a peace-loving spirit or if I was just frightened.” Instead he turned to a career in writing.

      About the journalism that got him into trouble with the authorities and his subsequent flight from Iran he has little to say. At Tehran airport he masquerades as a casual tourist, carrying nothing but a few changes of clothes and a book of poetry. In Indonesia he spends a miserable forty days hiding from the police, waiting for a place on a boat. The boat that he boards is barely seaworthy: he and his fellow fugitives spend most of their time bailing out water. They are picked up by an Indonesian fishing vessel, transferred to a British freighter, then finally arrested by the Australian navy and flown to Manus Island.

      Boochani understands at once that he and his companions have become hostages, to be used “to strike fear into others, to scare people so they won’t come to Australia.” His first impression of his new home is that it is “beautiful…nothing like the island hell that [the Australians] tried to scare us with.” Then, as he steps off the plane, he is hit by the suffocating humidity and stifling heat. Mosquitoes buzz everywhere.

      No Friend But the Mountains provides a wholly engrossing account of the first four years that Boochani spent on Manus, up to the time when the prison camp was closed and the prisoners resettled elsewhere on the island. Just as absorbing is his analysis of the system that reigns in the camp, a system imposed by the Australian authorities but autonomous in the sense that it holds the jailers as well as the prisoners in its grip.

      The aim of the system is to break the will of the prisoners and make them accept refoulement. It works by fostering animosities among them, eroding solidarity and leaving them feeling isolated. The simplest of means are used to create paranoia. The electricity running the fans that provide relief from the insufferable heat is switched on and off for no reason. There is drinking water, but it is always lukewarm. Occasionally chilled fruit juice appears, but according to no detectable schedule. With nothing else to do, prisoners become obsessed with finding patterns in these random events: “A twisted system governs the prison, a deranged logic that confines the mind of the prisoner, an extremely oppressive form of governance that the prisoner internalises.”

      New rules and regulations are introduced from week to week, for which no one will accept responsibility: “No person who is a part of the system can ever provide an answer—neither the officers nor the other employees…. All they can say is, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just following orders.’” The daily routine includes four body-checks. The eyes of the Australian guards who carry out the searches are “cold, barbaric, hateful.”

      Boochani’s fellow prisoners come from all over the world: Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Iraq, Kurdistan. Having to live in close proximity with strangers becomes a torment. He withdraws further and further into himself.

      Moral standards deteriorate on all sides. Now and then the mango trees that surround the camp drop their fruit within the perimeter. Even Kurds, normally renowned for their hospitality, pounce on the fruit and devour it without sharing.

      The toilets become a place of refuge where a prisoner can be by himself and scream his lungs out. But they also become a place of self-harm and suicide. Boochani records a terrifying episode as the prisoners witness guards removing the body of a man who had slit his wrists with a razor. Among the onlookers he detects a pulsating excitement: “Their responses reveal an attraction to the thrills of a night of blood…. The scene is like a festival: a festival of blood, a festival of the dead.” For some prisoners, self-harm becomes “a kind of cultural practice,” a way of gaining respect. “The faces of those who have self-harmed show peace, a profound peace akin to ecstasy, akin to euphoria.”

      Boochani’s narrative reaches a climax when in October 2017 the PNG authorities try to close down the prison camp. Two weeks of nonviolent protest culminate in bloody warfare. Boochani is thrilled by the militancy of his comrades: “For the first time the prisoners did not feel oppressed by the fences. For the first time the rules and regulations meant nothing…. A bond of brotherhood emerged among the prisoners in this fierce movement, performed in the theatre of war for all to see.”

      A prefatory note to the book informs us that strict measures have been taken to conceal the identities of detainees. The characters “are not individuals who are disguised…. Their identities are entirely manufactured. They are composite characters.” Boochani’s wish to protect his fellow detainees from reprisal is understandable, but it is nonetheless a pity that we are given no reliable facts about them. Was Boochani an exception, for example, in having a university education? And what led these people to undertake the perilous voyage to Australia, of all places?

      Boochani is clearly a loner. Oppressed by the meaningless clamor of prison life, he longs “to isolate [himself] and create that which is poetic and visionary.” He flirts with the idea of himself as a poet-prophet, but it is not clear what he might be prophesying. By his own confession, he is not a brave man, yet it is clear that in those desperate days at sea he behaved with great courage. His motive for seeking asylum in Australia remains unexplored. As autobiography, No Friend is not the summing up of a life but a work in progress, the absorbing record of a life-transforming episode whose effects on his inner self the writer is still trying to plumb.

      It is significant that the medium Boochani chooses for his story is a mixed one: analytic prose on the one hand, traditional Kurdish folk-ballad on the other. He writes:

      The amazement and horror felt during the nights on Manus has the power to thrust everyone back into their long distant pasts. These nights uncover many years of tears deep in our hearts and open old wounds…they draw out the bitter truth; they force the prisoners to self-prosecute. Prisoners are driven to crying tears of bitter sorrow.

      Getting No Friend But the Mountains off the island and into the hands of readers in Australia was an achievement in itself. The text was typed in Farsi on a cell phone that Boochani kept hidden in his mattress, and then surreptitiously dispatched, one text message at a time, to a collaborator in the outside world.

      Boochani’s translator, Omid Tofighian, provides an afterword containing useful information about the genesis of the book and Boochani’s place in the Iranian and Kurdish literary traditions. It is as though, to save himself from the madness of the camp, Boochani had to draw upon not only his innate creativity, not only his immersion in Kafka and Beckett, but also submerged memories of “the cold mountains of Kurdistan” and the songs of resistance sung there. (Here the title of the book becomes relevant.)

      If we approach No Friend as if it were a conventional refugee narrative or refugee memoir, Tofighian tells us, we misread it profoundly:

      In contrast to the thriving “refugee industry” that promotes stories to provide exposure and information and attempts to create empathy…Behrouz recounts stories in order to produce new knowledge and to construct a philosophy that unpacks and exposes systematic torture and the border-industrial complex. His intention has always been to hold a mirror up to the system, dismantle it, and produce a historical record to honour those who have been killed and everyone who is still suffering.

      As for Tofighian’s own contribution, “translation [is] for me…a duty to history and a strategy for positioning the issue of indefinite detention of refugees deep within Australia’s collective memory.”

      Tofighian contrasts the greater island of Australia with the lesser island of Manus:

      One island kills vision, creativity and knowledge—it imprisons thought. The other island fosters vision, creativity and knowledge—it is a land where the mind is free. The first island is the settler-colonial state called Australia, and the prisoners are the settlers. The second island contains Manus Prison, and knowledge resides there with the incarcerated refugees.

      This is a bold and persuasive claim: that through their experience on the island the prisoners have absorbed an understanding of how power works in the world, whereas their jailers remain locked in complacent ignorance. The claim rests on an extended conception of what knowledge can consist in: knowledge can be absorbed directly into the suffering body and thence transfigure the self. The prisoners know more than the jailers do, even if they do not have words for what they know. As Boochani puts it, the prisoners

      have modified their perception and understanding of life, transformed their interpretation of existence…. They have changed so much—they have transfigured into different beings…. This has occurred for everyone…. They have become distinctly creative humans, they have unprecedented creative capacities…. This is incredible, it is phenomenal to witness.

      Tofighian’s afterword upends the image of the translator as the humble, invisible helpmeet of the author. Not only does he present himself, along with two other Iranian colleagues, as a full collaborator in the project, but he also—somewhat hectoringly—gives instructions on how to approach the book: not as an affecting record of suffering and tribulation but as a “decolonial intervention,” “a decolonial text, representing a decolonial way of thinking and doing,” written to spur us “to resist the colonial mindset that is driving Australia’s detention regime.” Boochani supports this mode of reading when he identifies himself less as a writer than as a political scientist who has chosen to employ the language of literature.

      The question is, how novel and how valuable is Boochani’s analysis of what he calls the “intersecting social systems of domination and oppression” that reinforce each other in the prison? That people who run prisons try to break down the solidarity of prison populations by encouraging mistrust of all by all and diverting the inmates’ attention to trivia is hardly news. What has not been done before, claims Tofighian, is to connect the warped psychic regime of the prison with “Australian colonial history and fundamental factors plaguing contemporary Australian society, culture and politics.”

      This is, to my mind, an empty claim. The book contains no analysis at all of contemporary Australia, a country that Boochani—and who can blame him?—wishes never to set foot in. No doubt the Australian guards at the camp detested the prisoners and wished them ill; but that is true of many prison guards vis-à-vis many prisoners. What is more of a mystery is why so many Australians wish refugees ill. To answer this question one needs to know a great deal more about Australian history, the tensions within Australian society, and the maneuverings of Australia’s political parties than Boochani, isolated on his island, has been able to inquire into.

      In May 1994, during the first session of the parliament of the newly liberated South Africa, Nelson Mandela read into the record a poem written in 1960 by the Afrikaans writer Ingrid Jonker (1933–1965). The poem mourns the death of a child shot by police during a protest meeting and foretells his resurrection. Mandela read the poem as a gesture of reconciliation with white Afrikaners, who were dubious about how welcome they would be in the new South Africa. “She was both an Afrikaner and an African,” Mandela said of Jonker.

      There is an aspect of Jonker’s poem that few of the parliamentarians listening to Mandela, or indeed Mandela himself, chose to take seriously. The poem ends with the lines: “The child, become a man, treks through the whole of Africa. The child, become a giant, travels across the entire world, without a pass.” The pass to which Jonker refers is the hated internal passport that black Africans were required to carry, without which apartheid as an administrative system would have collapsed. The meeting at which the child was killed was held to protest against having to carry passes; now, in 1994, the reborn child strides unstoppably across the world, disdaining a pass. Not only does Jonker’s poem look forward to the defeat of apartheid; it also looks forward to a day when the borders of the nation-state will crumble before the march of a free people.

      The new government headed by Mandela never for a minute considered abolishing or even questioning the nation’s borders, as defined years earlier by the erstwhile colonial power, Britain. Liberated or not, any child who treks through Africa without a pass will be stopped when he arrives at the South African frontier.

      Despite its teetering economy, South Africa remains attractive to migrants. Of the 58 million people residing within its borders, some three million are immigrants of various degrees of legality, half of them from Zimbabwe. To obtain a visa that entitles him or her to work in South Africa, a Zimbabwean needs a passport, a letter from an employer, an address in South Africa, and proof of funds. Most find these requirements impossible to meet. As for getting accepted as a refugee, this is complicated by the reluctance of the South African government to concede that political repression exists in Zimbabwe. Thus, papers or no papers, Zimbabweans have for years been crossing South Africa’s inadequately monitored northern border unannounced, at a rate of some seven hundred a day.

      Immigration is a burning issue in South Africa. Politicians blame foreign migrants for high crime rates, for overrunning the cities, for exploiting the social welfare system, for taking jobs from the locals. In 2008 there were outbursts of mass violence against foreigners that left scores dead. The South African authorities have responded to the challenge of undocumented migration with sporadic roundups and mass deportations. The exercise has been largely futile. Most of those expelled promptly turn around and come back.

      I mention the case of South Africa, not untypical in the postcolonial world, to illustrate what can happen when—unlike Australia—a country lacks the will and/or the means to close its borders to less affluent neighbors. Zimbabweans and other African migrants who find their way to South Africa reside there only precariously. They are at the receiving end of resentment and sometimes of violence from the locals. They are ill advised to appeal to the police for protection. On the other hand, they have yet to find themselves dispatched to a godforsaken island as punishment for entering the country through the back door.

      Cross-border migration is a fact of life in today’s world, and numbers will only increase as the earth heats up, former pastures turn to desert, and islands are swallowed by the sea. There are messy but humane—or at least human—ways of reacting to this world-historical phenomenon, just as there are neat but inhuman ways.

      Et un peu plus sur le lien avec la montagne...

      It is as though, to save himself from the madness of the camp, Boochani had to draw upon not only his innate creativity, not only his immersion in Kafka and Beckett, but also submerged memories of “the cold mountains of Kurdistan” and the songs of resistance sung there. (Here the title of the book becomes relevant.)

    • Behrouz Boochani. La nostra resistenza pacifica è più forte della vostra violenza di Stato

      Behrouz Boochani è tornato in libertà nel corso di questa intervista. Lo scrittore curdo è stato tenuto prigioniero per sei anni in Papua Nuova Guinea dal governo australiano.

      La sua resistenza pacifica ha vinto. Dopo oltre sei anni di prigionia, traumi e torture, lo scrittore curdo Behrouz Boochani è libero. La splendida notizia è arrivata mentre questa intervista era in corso di svolgimento. Fino al 12 novembre, infatti, l’autore era confinato in uno dei luoghi più remoti al mondo, la Papua Nuova Guinea, dove l’Australia ha imprigionato migliaia di richiedenti asilo per quasi vent’anni. Ora Boochani si trova in Nuova Zelanda e a breve, probabilmente, partirà per il Nordamerica. “Lo scorso settembre è stato liberato il centro di detenzione di Manus Island e siamo stati trasferiti in alcuni appartamenti della capitale di Papua, Port Moresby. Entro fine novembre altri di noi dovrebbero essere liberati, ma 46 persone restano in carcere in condizioni durissime. Siamo molto preoccupati”, aveva affermato pochi giorni prima della liberazione.

      Questi sei anni di prigionia Behrouz Boochani li ha raccontati in un libro che è diventato un caso letterario internazionale. Nessun amico se non le montagne, uscito nel 2018 in inglese e pubblicato quest’anno in Italia da add editore, si è diffuso nel mondo come un grido inaspettato. Ha rivelato il dolore dei profughi lungo la rotta asiatica verso l’Australia. Ha scavato nelle storie di chi con lui si è nascosto nella foresta indonesiana e ha sfidato l’oceano sulle barche dei trafficanti, finendo in carceri finanziate dal governo di Canberra. Ha evocato la disperazione della sua gente, ovvero i perseguitati curdi in Iran. Ha ricordato come nel 2013 lui, giornalista e regista di 30 anni, sia stato costretto a scappare dal suo Paese, dopo che le Guardie della rivoluzione islamica (i pasdaran) avevano fatto irruzione nella sede di “Werya”, la rivista curda che aveva fondato. Quel giorno undici suoi colleghi furono arrestati.
      “Se i governi non rispettano i migranti, mettono a rischio le democrazie”

      Con la sua opera letteraria pluripremiata, inviata di nascosto al letterato di Sidney Omid Tofighian che l’ha tradotta dalla lingua farsi, Behrouz Boochani ha tolto ogni alibi agli indifferenti. Per quasi vent’anni la comunità internazionale si è mostrata inerte davanti a ciò che stava accadendo al largo delle coste australiane. Dal 2001 un modello migratorio, basato sul respingimento in mare e sulla detenzione in centri offshore, ha fatto deportare, incarcerare, affamare e torturare migliaia di innocenti. Bambini, donne e uomini scappavano da miseria, abusi e guerre. Provenivano da Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Siria, Sri Lanka, Myanmar Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal. I lager della vergogna – che ricordano quelli dove sono rinchiusi i migranti in Libia – sono stati creati su tre isole dell’oceano Pacifico: l’australiana Christmas Island, Manus nella Papua Nuova Guinea e Nauru, una piccola repubblica sulla linea dell’equatore. La maggior parte di essi è stata chiusa grazie alle proteste della società civile australiana. L’anno scorso tutti i bambini sono stati trasferiti con i loro famigliari sulla “terraferma”. Però, non è chiaro che cosa accadrà ai nuovi boat people in arrivo e alle 400 persone rimaste a Nauru e Port Moresby.

      In 18 anni non sono stati sufficienti i servizi giornalistici che parlavano dei suicidi fra i detenuti, delle labbra cucite come atto di protesta e dei minori che per la “sindrome da rassegnazione” si spegnevano, smettendo di mangiare e bere. Serviva qualcosa in più. Come un Silvio Pellico degli anni Duemila, Boochani è riuscito a scatenare un domino virtuoso.

      Quell’urlo di oltre 400 pagine, che supera i confini di genere e si legge col fiato corto, è una mano tesa a noi lettori. Anche gli abitanti dei Paesi più liberi e ricchi hanno bisogno d’aiuto. Come spiega a LifeGate l’intellettuale curdo, “le politiche disumane contro i migranti sono un esercizio di dittatura. I governi che non rispettano i diritti dei migranti, potrebbero scagliarsi contro tutti noi. Le nostre democrazie sono in pericolo”. Quest’intervista è stata raccolta nell’arco di diverse settimane per mezzo di Whatsapp, lo strumento con cui Boochani ha scritto il suo libro e ha comunicato con il docente di origine iraniana Omid Tofighian. Nelle risposte che seguono, l’autore si sofferma su quanto sta accadendo ai curdi in Siria e spiega perché ha scelto la resistenza pacifica. Sulla gestione del suo personale trauma, dice di non avere una risposta. Però, un obiettivo gli è chiaro: “Nelle mie nuove opere affronterò argomenti diversi. Non posso ridurmi a questa terribile esperienza”. Nessuno dovrebbe. Questa l’intervista completa.

      Che cosa pensa della recente offensiva militare turca contro i curdi in Siria?
      Ciò che sta accadendo nel nord della Siria non è soltanto un attacco contro i curdi, ma alla democrazia e ai suoi valori. I curdi hanno stabilito il sistema democratico più avanzato nella storia del Medio Oriente; un sistema che si basa sull’uguaglianza. Ora siamo difronte a un esercito fascista che assieme a gruppi terroristici colpisce i curdi che credono nella democrazia. Penso che la più grande minaccia globale sia il terrorismo di Stato e il fatto che i governi si accordino per supportarsi a vicenda nel violare i diritti umani. Oggigiorno li vediamo nascondersi dietro a concetti belli, quali pace, umanità e morale. Ecco perché quello turco (guidato dal presidente Erdogan, ndr.) ha nominato le sue operazioni di genocidio dei curdi ‘Primavera di pace’, una beffa. Ed è esattamente quello che sta facendo anche l’Australia: i suoi politici dicono che stanno salvando vite nell’oceano, ma in realtà stanno facendo torturare persone innocenti in prigioni remote, nascondendo loro stessi dietro una falsa morale.

      Era solo un bambino quando la sua famiglia cercò di scappare dalla guerra fra Iran e Iraq (1980-’88). Che cosa ricorda di quel periodo?
      Sono nato nel 1983 nella provincia di Ilam, che è una zona curda nell’ovest dell’Iran. La guerra arrivò anche lì, come racconto nel mio libro che però è simbolico. Non ho voluto scrivere un’autobiografia con dettagli veri sui miei famigliari e gli abitanti di Ilam, ma ho rappresentato molte storie tragiche accadute in quella regione. I curdi furono sfollati e persero tutto. Ho cercato di descrivere come la guerra distrugga ogni cosa e sia orribile.

      Che cosa significa essere curdo per lei?
      Essere curdo e vivere da curdo per me è la cosa più dura di questo mondo perché sei continuamente testimone della sofferenza della tua gente. Superpotenze e governi non democratici stanno cercando di privarci della nostra identità e dei nostri diritti. Come artista, ho il dovere di lottare per l’identità curda non solo perché appartengo a questa popolazione, ma in quanto essere umano che comprende profondamente tale ingiustizia o colonialismo. Per questo motivo potete ritrovare elementi culturali curdi in tutti i miei film e nel mio libro.

      I rifugiati nei centri di detenzione hanno sofferto per abusi fisici e psicologici, tra cui la “sindrome da rassegnazione” che porta gli ammalati, tra i quali anche bambini, a spegnersi fino alla morte. Al momento i prigionieri ricevono qualche assistenza medica?
      Finora 8 persone sono morte a Manus Island e 5 a Nauru. La maggior parte di loro per negligenza sanitaria e i restanti a causa delle violenze inflitte dalle guardie. Tutti questi decessi provano che questo sistema utilizza la malattia come un mezzo per torturare gli individui. Vorrei, inoltre, ricordare le tante persone danneggiate fisicamente e mentalmente. Abbiamo vissuto nell’assenza di cure e mezzi. Gli ammalati stanno ancora lottando contro questa mancanza. Fortunatamente, otto mesi fa il parlamento australiano ha approvato la “legge Medevac”, che ci sta aiutando molto. In base a essa, chiunque non riceva un trattamento medico in Papua Nuova Guinea e a Nauru deve essere trasferito in Australia. Finora 217 persone sono state portate sulla terraferma e altre dovrebbero partire entro il mese di novembre. Speriamo.

      Lei come sta? Come sta elaborando il dolore provato in questi ultimi 6 anni di migrazione, naufragi e prigionia?
      Il mio corpo è danneggiato. Io, come tutti gli altri rifugiati, sono stato testimone di cose terribili. Ho visto amici morire, altre persone ferirsi e tentare il suicidio. Molte sono state separate dai famigliari e dai loro bambini. Ho assistito a così tanta umiliazione e a così tanti traumi…Di certo tutte queste immagini sono dentro di me. Questa dura esperienza è diventata una parte di me. E’ difficile portarne il peso e al tempo stesso rimanere forte e positivo. Non sono sicuro di essere capace di elaborare tutto quanto. Ho combattuto per restare vivo e anche per far conoscere questo sistema. Ma non so se ho una vera risposta alla sua domanda.

      Adesso in quali condizioni vivono i rifugiati?
      Due mesi fa hanno chiuso il centro di detenzione di Manus Island e hanno trasferito ogni prigioniero – me compreso – a Port Moresby, capitale della Papua Nuova Guinea. Due anni fa a Manus c’erano 800 rifugiati, ora in questa pericolosa città circa 250. Non è sicura per chi viene da fuori. Almeno 46 individui sono stati incarcerati e si trovano in condizioni durissime. Sono preoccupato per loro perché il governo australiano non li ritiene dei rifugiati.

      La destra e l’estrema destra italiana, il cui leader più popolare è Matteo Salvini, vuole emulare il modello migratorio australiano nel mare Mediterraneo. Vorrebbe dire qualcosa ai nostri politici?
      Solo una cosa. Non guardate l’Australia come un modello. Non lasciate che il vostro governo la imiti. E non dico questo solo per i rifugiati, ma per la vostra gente e la vostra democrazia. Camberra ha compiuto tutti questi crimini per anni. Gli australiani glielo hanno permesso e adesso la loro società sta fronteggiando una sorta di dittatura. La democrazia australiana è a pezzi. Dopo aver sperimentato la dittatura a Manus, i governanti trattano gli australiani come i rifugiati. L’Australia al momento ha perso i suoi valori.

      Crede ancora nella “resistenza pacifica”? Anche per i curdi?
      Sì, sempre, anche per i curdi. Ciò, però, non significa che quando un governo fascista – come quello della Turchia – attacca la tua terra e la tua popolazione, tu non reagisci. Quella curda è sempre stata una resistenza pacifica per creare un sistema democratico in Medio Oriente. La nostra resistenza non violenta a Manus, per esempio, ha fatto vergognare l’Australia e ora ognuno condanna i suoi governi, chi li ha sostenuti, non noi. Abbiamo sfidato l’Australia in così tanti modi che alla fine l’abbiamo educata.

      Quali sono le sue speranze e i suoi obiettivi per il futuro?
      Dopo aver scritto per tanti anni in prigionia a Manus, sono arrivato a condividere le mie composizioni in un contesto internazionale. Di certo, però, d’ora in poi racconterò storie diverse e anche i miei prossimi lavori artistici tratteranno altri argomenti. Non riduco me stesso soltanto a questa esperienza.

  • When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.)

    I first saw the photograph some years ago, online. Later, I tracked it down to its original source: “In Afric’s Forest and Jungle: Or Six Years Among the Yorubans,” a memoir published in 1899 by the Rev. R.H. Stone. It shows a crowd in what is now Nigeria, but what was then Yorubaland under British colonial influence. The caption below the photograph reads: “A king of Ejayboo. Governor of Lagos on right. For years the rulers of this fierce tribe made the profession of Christianity a capital crime.” This description is familiar in tone from anthropological literature of the period, though the photograph is hard to date precisely. “Ejayboo” is what we would nowadays spell as “Ijebu,” a subgroup of Yoruba. That catches my attention: I am Yoruba and also Ijebu. This picture is a time capsule from a world to which I am connected but had not seen before, a world by colonial encounter.

    By the middle of the 19th century, through treaties and threats of force, the British had wrested control of the coastal city Lagos from its king. They then turned their efforts to improving access to the goods and services in the Yoruba hinterland. The Yoruba were already by that time a populous and diverse ethnic group, full of rivalrous kingdoms large and small, some friendly to the British, others less so.

    Stone, a Virginian sent by the Southern Baptist Convention, lived among them — lived among us — for two spells, in 1859-63 and 1867-69, before, during and after the American Civil War. He had this to say about Yoruba people: “They are reasonable, brave and patriotic, and are capable of a very high degree of intellectual culture.” It is praise, but must be understood in the context of a statement he makes earlier in his book about living “among the barbarous people” of that part of the world. In any case, the Ijebu in the mid-19th century were largely wealthy traders and farmers who did not want to give the British right of way to the interior of the country; only through diplomacy, subterfuge and violence were they finally overcome.

    This photograph was made in the aftermath. The white governor of Lagos — based on the plausible dates, it is probably John Hawley Glover — sits under an enormous umbrella. On one side of him is another high-ranking colonial officer. On the other side is the Ijebu king, or oba, probably the Awujale of the Ijebu kingdom, Oba Ademuyewo Fidipote.

    The oba wears a beaded crown, but the beads have been parted and his face is visible. This is unusual, for the oba is like a god and must be concealed when in public. The beads over his face, with their interplay of light and shadow, are meant to give him a divine aspect. Why is his face visible in this photograph? Some contravention of customary practice has taken place. The dozens of men seated on the ground in front of him are visibly alarmed. Many have turned their bodies away from the oba, and several are positioned toward the camera, not in order to look at the camera but in order to avoid looking at the exposed radiance of their king.

    The invention of the daguerreotype was announced in 1839. By the 1840s, photography had spread like wildfire and become a vital aspect of European colonialism. It played a role in administrative, missionary, scientific and commercial activities. As the Zimbabwean novelist Yvonne Vera put it: “The camera has often been a dire instrument. In Africa, as in most parts of the dispossessed, the camera arrives as part of the colonial paraphernalia, together with the gun and the bible. ...”

    Photography in colonialized societies was not only a dire instrument. Subject peoples often adopted photography for their own uses. There were, for instance, a number of studios in Lagos by the 1880s, where elites could go to pose for portraits. But such positive side effects aside, photography during colonial rule imaged the world in order to study, profit from and own it. The colonial gaze might describe as barbarous both the oba’s beaded crown and his regal right to conceal himself. This was one of the repeated interactions between imperial powers and the populations that they sought to control: The dominant power decided that everything had to be seen and cataloged, a task for which photography was perfectly suited. Under the giant umbrella of colonialism, nothing would be allowed to remain hidden from the imperial authorities.

    Imperialism and colonial photographic practices both flourished in the 19th century, and both extended themselves, with cosmetic adaptations, into the 20th. In 1960, during the horrific French war on Algeria, the French military assigned a young soldier, Marc Garanger, to photograph people in an internment camp in the Kabylia region of Northern Algeria. Thousands of people had been confined in the region under armed guard, and the French military commander had decreed that ID cards were mandatory. A picture of each prisoner was required. Many of the women were forced to remove their veils. These were women who did not wish to be seen, made to sit for photographs that were not for them. (Photography played a different military role in the numerous aerial reconnaissance missions by the French, which resulted in thousands of negatives mapping the region.)

    Garanger’s photographs both record an injustice and occasion it. His alternative, not an easy one, would have been to refuse the order and go to prison. His pictures show us what we ought not to see: Young and old women, their hair free flowing or plaited, one face after the other, in the hundreds. They collectively emanate refusal. The women of Kabylia look through the photographer, certainly not considering him an ally. Their gazes rise from the surface of the photograph, palpably furious.

    When we speak of “shooting” with a camera, we are acknowledging the kinship of photography and violence. The anthropological photographs made in the 19th century under the aegis of colonial powers are related to the images created by contemporary photojournalists, including those who embed with military forces. Embedding is sometimes the only way to get a direct record, no matter how limited, of what is happening in an armed conflict. On occasion such an arrangement leads to images whose directness displeases the authorities, but a more common outcome has been that proximity to an army helps bolster the narrative preferred by the army.

    Still, photographic reportage has the power to quicken the conscience and motivate political commitments. Examples abound of photographs acting as catalysts in the public’s understanding of vital issues, from the images of Bergen-Belsen in 1945 to the photograph of the Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi in 2015. And yet, perhaps even more insistently, on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis, photography implicitly serves the powers that be. To insist that contemporary photographic practice — and I mean to include a majority of the international news coverage in newspapers like this one — is generally made (and published) for the greater good is to misconstrue history, because it leaves out the question of “Good for whom?” Such pictures aren’t for their subjects any more than the photograph in Stone’s book was for the Ijebus and their king.

    Certain images underscore an unbridgeable gap and a never-to-be-toppled hierarchy. When a group of people is judged to be “foreign,” it becomes far more likely that news organizations will run, for the consumption of their audiences, explicit, disturbing photographs of members of that group: starving children or bullet-riddled bodies. Meanwhile, the injury and degradation of those with whom readers perceive a kinship — a judgment often based on racial sympathy and class loyalties — is routinely treated in more circumspect fashion. This has hardly changed since Susan Sontag made the same observation in “Regarding the Pain of Others” (2003), and it has hardly changed because the underlying political relationships between dominant and subject societies have hardly changed.

    Without confronting this inequality, this misconstrual of history, photography will continue to describe itself as one thing (a force for liberation) while obdurately remaining another (an obedient appendage of state power). It will continue to be like the organs of the state that “spread democracy” and change regimes. Even when it appears to go against the state, it will only do so selectively, quaintly, beautifully, piteously, in terms that do not question the right of the state to assert power.

    For how long will these radically unequal societal realities endure? Many affecting photographs have been made during the huge waves of international migration of the past few years. These pictures issue, as usual, from the presumed rights of photographers to depict the suffering of people “out there” for the viewing of those “back home.” But in looking at these images — images of war, of starvation, of capsized boats and exhausted caravans — we must go beyond the usual frames of pity and abjection. Every picture of suffering should elicit a question stronger than “Why is this happening?” The question should be “Why have I allowed this to happen?”

    This is what the scholar Ariella Azoulay calls the “citizenship” of photography, its ability, when practiced thoughtfully, to remind us of our mutual responsibilities. When I look at the bewildering photographs of refugee camps in Richard Mosse’s recent book, “The Castle,” I feel indicted. The imperial underpinnings of Mosse’s project are inescapable: Using military-grade thermal cameras, he makes extremely complex panoramic images (stitched together from hundreds of shots) of landscapes in the Middle East and Europe in which refugees have gathered or have been confined. His pictures echo the surveillance to which these bodies are already subjected. But the thermal imaging renders the images very dark, with the humans showing up as white shapes (almost like a negative). The picture conceals what it reveals. We see people, but they remain hidden.

    This technique makes for uncanny images in which distressed people move about like the figures you see in dreams, indistinct but full of ghostly presence. At the Moria camp in Greece, it is snowing. We see a long snaking line of people, waiting. What are they waiting for? For some material handout, probably, for food or blankets or documents. But their waiting represents the deeper waiting of all those who have been confined in the antechamber of humanity. They are waiting to be allowed to be human.

    Mosse’s images, formally striking as they are, are unquestionably part of the language of visual domination. With his political freedom of movement and his expensive technical equipment, he makes meticulous pictures of suffering that end up in exquisite books and in art galleries. He is not the first photographer to aestheticize suffering, nor will he be the last. And yet, by suppressing color, by overwhelming the viewer with detail, by evoking racial horror rather than prettily displaying it and by including in his work philosophical considerations of the scenes he shows — “The Castle” contains essays by Judith Butler, Paul K. Saint-Amour and Mosse himself and a poem by Behrouz Boochani — he does something quite different from most photojournalists. He unsettles the viewer.

    Photography’s future will be much like its past. It will largely continue to illustrate, without condemning, how the powerful dominate the less powerful. It will bring the “news” and continue to support the idea that doing so — collecting the lives of others for the consumption of “us” — is a natural right. But with a project like “The Castle,” I have a little bit of hope that an ethic of self-determination can be restored. I have hope that the refugees of Moria, Athens, Berlin and Belgrade will gain a measure of privacy. The women of Kabylia will cover their faces and return to themselves as they wish to be. The oba’s beaded crown will fall back into place, shadowing his face. Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be seen. Among the human rights is the right to remain obscure, unseen and dark.

    #photographie #colonialisme #post-colonialisme #impérialisme
    ping @albertocampiphoto @philippe_de_jonckheere

    Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop avec le commentaire suivant de Emmanuel Blanchard:

    L’auteur fait notamment référence au travail récent de #Richard_Mosse (exposition et ouvrage « The Castle ») dont il fait un compte rendu à la critique et laudatif. Un point de vue qui peut lui-même être critiqué... dans un sens plus critique.
    Pour accéder à quelques images de Richard Mosse :

    #réfugiés #asile #migrations #images #image

    The Castle

    Richard Mosse has spent the past few years documenting the ongoing refugee and migration crisis, repurposing military-grade camera technology to confront how governments and societies perceive refugees. His latest book The Castle is a meticulous record of refugee camps located across mass migration routes from the Middle East and Central Asia into the European Union via Turkey. Using a thermal video camera intended for long-range border enforcement, Mosse films the camps from high elevations to draw attention to the ways in which each interrelates with, or is divorced from, adjacent citizen infrastructure. His source footage is then broken down into hundreds of individual frames, which are digitally overlapped in a grid formation to create composite heat maps.

    Truncating time and space, Mosse’s images speak to the lived experience of refugees indefinitely awaiting asylum and trapped in a Byzantine state of limbo. The book is divided into 28 sites, each presenting an annotated sequence of close-up images that fold out into a panoramic heat map. Within this format, Mosse underscores the provisional architecture of the camps and the ways in which each camp is variously marginalised, concealed, regulated, militarized, integrated, and/or dispersed. His images point to the glaring disconnect between the brisk free trade of globalized capitalism and the dehumanizing erosion of international refugee law in European nation-states. Named after Kafka’s 1926 novel, The Castle prompts questions about the ‘visibility’ of refugees and the erosion of their human rights.

    The book comes with a separate book of texts, including a poem by Behrouz Boochani, the journalist, novelist and Iranian refugee currently held by the Australian government in confinement on Manus island, an essay by Paul K. Saint-Amour, associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, an essay by philosopher Judith Butler, and a text by Richard Mosse.


  • La vie de désespoir des réfugiés relégués par l’Australie sur une île du Pacifique

    La femme du Somalien Khadar Hrisi a tenté plusieurs fois de se suicider. R, une Iranienne de 12 ans, a voulu s’immoler par le feu : à Nauru, minuscule caillou du Pacifique, des réfugiés relégués par l’Australie racontent à l’AFP une vie sans perspective, sans soins et sans espoir.

    Nauru, le plus petit pays insulaire du monde, vient d’accueillir le Forum des îles du Pacifique (Fip) mais a interdit aux journalistes l’accès aux camps de rétention où Canberra refoule les clandestins qui tentent de gagner l’Australie par la mer.

    L’AFP a toutefois réussi à y pénétrer et à rencontrer des réfugiés dont la quasi totalité ont souhaité l’anonymat pour des raisons de sécurité.

    A Nauru, près d’un millier de migrants dont une centaine d’enfants, sur 11.000 habitants, vivent dans huit camps financés par Canberra, certains depuis cinq ans, selon leurs récits.

    Dans le camp numéro 5, que l’on atteint au détour d’un chemin sous une chaleur écrasante, dans un paysage hérissé de pitons rocheux, le Somalien Hrisi veut témoigner à visage découvert.

    Il n’a plus peur, il n’a plus rien. Sa femme ne parle pas, son visage est inexpressif.

    M. Hrisi la laisse seule le moins possible, à cause de sa dépression. Elle a tenté plusieurs fois de se suicider ces derniers jours, raconte-t-il.

    « Quand je me suis réveillé, elle était en train de casser ça », dit-il en montrant des lames de rasoir jetables. « Elle allait les avaler avec de l’eau ».

    – Problèmes psychologiques -

    M. Hrisi affirme qu’ils sont allés plusieurs fois à l’hôpital de Nauru financé par l’Australie mais que celui-ci refuse de les prendre en charge. L’autre nuit, « ils ont appelé la police et nous ont mis dehors ».

    Le camp numéro 1 traite les malades, expliquent les réfugiés. Mais il n’accueille qu’une cinquantaine de personnes car l’endroit croule sous les demandes. Or beaucoup de migrants vont mal et souffrent de problèmes psychologiques liés à leur isolement sur l’île.

    Les évacuations sanitaires vers l’Australie sont rares selon eux.

    Les ONG ne cessent de dénoncer la politique d’immigration draconienne de l’Australie.

    Depuis 2013, Canberra, qui dément tout mauvais traitement, refoule systématiquement en mer tous les bateaux de clandestins, originaires pour beaucoup d’Afghanistan, du Sri Lanka et du Moyen-Orient.

    Ceux qui parviennent à passer par les mailles du filet sont envoyés dans des îles reculées du Pacifique. Même si leur demande d’asile est jugée légitime, ils ne seront jamais accueillis sur le sol australien.

    Canberra argue qu’il sauve ainsi des vies en dissuadant les migrants d’entreprendre un périlleux voyage. Les arrivées de bateaux, qui étaient quasiment quotidiennes, sont aujourd’hui rarissimes.

    Le Refugee Council of Australia et l’Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ont dénoncé récemment les ravages psychologiques de la détention indéfinie, en particulier chez les enfants.

    « Ceux qui ont vu ces souffrances disent que c’est pire que tout ce qu’ils ont vu, même dans les zones de guerre. Des enfants de sept et douze ans ont fait l’expérience de tentatives répétées de suicide, certains s’arrosent d’essence et deviennent catatoniques », écrivaient-ils.

    R, une Iranienne de 12 ans rencontrée par l’AFP, a tenté de s’immoler. Elle vit à Nauru depuis cinq ans avec ses deux parents de 42 ans et son frère de 13 ans.

    Les enfants passent leurs journées prostrés au lit. La mère a la peau couverte de plaques, elle dit souffrir et ne recevoir aucun traitement.

    – Essence et briquet -

    Le père a récemment surpris sa fille en train de s’asperger d’essence. « Elle a pris un briquet et elle a crié +Laisse-moi seule ! Laisse-moi seule ! Je veux me suicider ! Je veux mourir !+ ».

    Son fils sort lentement de son lit et confie d’une voix monocorde : « Je n’ai pas d’école, je n’ai pas de futur, je n’ai pas de vie ».

    Non loin de là, entre deux préfabriqués, une cuve est taguée du sigle « ABF » et d’une croix gammée. L’Australian Border Force est le service australien de contrôle des frontières, honni par les réfugiés.

    Ces derniers se déplacent librement sur l’île car la prison, ce sont ses 21 kilomètres carrés.

    Khadar reçoit un ami, un ancien gardien de buts professionnel camerounais qui raconte avoir secouru un voisin en train de se pendre. Son meilleur ami a été retrouvé mort, le nez et les yeux pleins de sang, sans qu’il sache la cause du décès.

    Pas de perspectives, et pas de soins. Au grand désespoir d’Ahmd Anmesharif, un Birman dont les yeux coulent en permanence. Il explique souffrir aussi du cœur et passe ses journées sur un fauteuil en mousse moisie, à regarder la route.

    Les défenseurs des droits dénoncent des conditions effroyables et font état d’accusations d’agressions sexuelles et d’abus physiques.

    Les autorités de l’île démentent. Les réfugiés « mènent leur vie normalement, comme les autres Nauruans (...) on est très heureux de vivre ensemble », assurait ainsi lors du Fip le président de Nauru, Baron Waqa.

    Mais les réfugiés soutiennent que leurs relations avec les Nauruans se détériorent.

    « Ils nous frappent toujours, ils nous lancent toujours des pierres », accuse l’adolescent iranien.

    – Economie sous perfusion -

    Un autre Iranien, un mécanicien qui a réussi à monter un petit commerce, crie sa colère. Il vient de se faire voler « la caisse, les motos, les outils ». « La police ne retrouve jamais rien quand ce sont les Nauruans qui volent les réfugiés », assène-t-il.

    Si les conditions sont vétustes dans les camps, où la plupart des logements sont des préfabriqués, beaucoup d’habitants de Nauru semblent vivre dans des conditions plus précaires encore.

    Bon nombre habitent des cabanes de tôle, les plages sont jonchées de détritus. Ils disent ne pas comprendre de quoi se plaignent les migrants.

    En attendant, les camps sont cruciaux pour l’économie de l’île, exsangue depuis l’épuisement des réserves de phosphate qui avait contribué à l’opulence du siècle dernier.

    Selon les chiffres australiens, les recettes publiques sont passées de 20 à 115 millions de dollars australiens (12 à 72 millions d’euros) entre 2010-2011 et 2015-2016, essentiellement grâce aux subventions australiennes liées aux camps.

    « Si on enlève les réfugiés, Nauru est morte : c’est pour ça que le président tient à ce que nous restions », juge le Camerounais.

    Mais tous les réfugiés rencontrés souhaitent partir, n’importe où pour certains.

    « Au XXIe siècle, les gens pensent en secondes, en instants. Le gouvernement australien a volé cinq ans de notre vie... qui s’en soucie ? », regrette le père de la petite Iranienne.
    #Nauru #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Australie #photographie
    via @marty
    cc @reka

    • The #Nauru Experience: Zero-Tolerance Immigration and #Suicidal_Children

      A recent visit to Nauru revealed the effects of Australia’s offshore #detention_policy and its impact on #mental_health.

      The Krishnalingam family on the roof of an abandoned mansion in Ronave, Nauru. The family applied for resettlement in the #United_States after fleeing Sri Lanka and being certified as #refugees.

      CreditCreditMridula Amin

      TOPSIDE, Nauru — She was 3 years old when she arrived on Nauru, a child fleeing war in #Sri_Lanka. Now, Sajeenthana is 8.

      Her gaze is vacant. Sometimes she punches adults. And she talks about dying with ease.

      “Yesterday I cut my hand,” she said in an interview here on the remote Pacific island where she was sent by the Australian government after being caught at sea. She pointed to a scar on her arm.

      “One day I will kill myself,” she said. “Wait and see, when I find the knife. I don’t care about my body. ”

      Her father tried to calm her, but she twisted away. “It is the same as if I was in war, or here,” he said.

      Sajeenthana is one of more than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have been sent to Australia’s offshore #detention_centers since 2013. No other Australian policy has been so widely condemned by the world’s human rights activists nor so strongly defended by the country’s leaders, who have long argued it saves lives by deterring smugglers and migrants.

      Now, though, the desperation has reached a new level — in part because of the United States.

      Sajeenthana and her father are among the dozens of refugees on Nauru who had been expecting to be moved as part of an Obama-era deal that President #Trump reluctantly agreed to honor, allowing resettlement for up to 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore camps.

      So far, according to American officials, about 430 refugees from the camps have been resettled in the United States — but at least 70 people were rejected over the past few months.

      That includes Sajeenthana and her father, Tamil refugees who fled violence at home after the Sri Lankan government crushed a Tamil insurgency.

      Sajeenthana, 8, with her father after describing her suicidal thoughts and attempts at self-harm in September.CreditMridula Amin and Lachie Hinton

      A State Department spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the #rejections, arguing the Nauru refugees are subject to the same vetting procedures as other refugees worldwide.

      Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement that Nauru has “appropriate mental health assessment and treatment in place.”

      But what’s clear, according to doctors and asylum seekers, is that the situation has been deteriorating for months. On Nauru, signs of suicidal children have been emerging since August. Dozens of organizations, including #Doctors_Without_Borders (which was ejected from Nauru on Oct. 5) have been sounding the alarm. And with the hope of American resettlement diminishing, the Australian government has been forced to relent: Last week officials said they would work toward moving all children off Nauru for treatment by Christmas.

      At least 92 children have been moved since August — Sajeenthana was evacuated soon after our interview — but as of Tuesday there were still 27 children on Nauru, hundreds of adults, and no long-term solution.

      The families sent to Australia for care are waiting to hear if they will be sent back to Nauru. Some parents, left behind as their children are being treated, fear they will never see each other again if they apply for American resettlement, while asylum seekers from countries banned by the United States — like Iran, Syria and Somalia — lack even that possibility.

      For all the asylum seekers who have called Nauru home, the psychological effects linger.
      ‘I Saw the Blood — It Was Everywhere’

      Nauru is a small island nation of about 11,000 people that takes 30 minutes by car to loop. A line of dilapidated mansions along the coast signal the island’s wealthy past; in the 1970s, it was a phosphate-rich nation with per capita income second only to Saudi Arabia.

      Now, those phosphate reserves are virtually exhausted, and the country relies heavily on Australian aid. It accounted for 25 percent of Nauru’s gross domestic product last year alone.

      Mathew Batsiua, a former Nauruan lawmaker who helped orchestrate the offshore arrangement, said it was meant to be a short-term deal. But the habit has been hard to break.

      “Our mainstay income is purely controlled by the foreign policy of another country,” he said.

      In Topside, an area of old cars and dusty brush, sits one of the two processing centers that house about 160 detainees. Hundreds of others live in community camps of modular housing. They were moved from shared tents in August, ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum, an intergovernmental meeting that Nauru hosted this year.

      Sukirtha Krishnalingam, 15, said the days are a boring loop as she and her family of five — certified refugees from Sri Lanka — wait to hear if the United States will accept them. She worries about her heart condition. And she has nightmares.

      “At night, she screams,” said her brother Mahinthan, 14.

      In the past year, talk of suicide on the island has become more common. Young men like Abdullah Khoder, a 24-year-old Lebanese refugee, says exhaustion and hopelessness have taken a toll. “I cut my hands with razors because I am tired,” he said.

      Even more alarming: Children now allude to suicide as if it were just another thunderstorm. Since 2014, 12 people have died after being detained in Australia’s offshore detention centers on Nauru and Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea.

      Christina Sivalingam, a 10-year-old Tamil girl on Nauru spoke matter-of-factly in an interview about seeing the aftermath of one death — that of an Iranian man, Fariborz Karami, who killed himself in June.

      “We came off the school bus and I saw the blood — it was everywhere,” she said calmly. It took two days to clean up. She said her father also attempted suicide after treatment for his thyroid condition was delayed.

      Seeing some of her friends being settled in the United States while she waits on her third appeal for asylum has only made her lonelier. She said she doesn’t feel like eating anymore.

      “Why am I the only one here?” she said. “I want to go somewhere else and be happy.”

      Some observers, even on Nauru, wonder if the children are refusing to eat in a bid to leave. But medical professionals who have worked on the island said the rejections by the Americans have contributed to a rapid deterioration of people’s mental states.

      Dr. Beth O’Connor, a psychiatrist working with Doctors Without Borders, said that when she arrived last year, people clung to the hope of resettlement in the United States. In May, a batch of rejections plunged the camp into despair.

      Mr. Karami’s death further sapped morale.

      “People that just had a bit of spark in their eye still just went dull,” Dr. O’Connor said. “They felt more abandoned and left behind.”

      Many of the detainees no longer hope to settle in Australia. #New_Zealand has offered to take in 150 refugees annually from Nauru but Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, has said that he will only consider the proposal if a bill is passed banning those on Nauru from ever entering Australia. Opposition lawmakers say they are open to discussion.

      In the meantime, Nauru continues to draw scrutiny.
      ‘I’m Not Going Back to Nauru’

      For months, doctors say, many children on Nauru have been exhibiting symptoms of #resignation_syndrome — a mental condition in response to #trauma that involves extreme withdrawal from reality. They stopped eating, drinking and talking.

      “They’d look right through you when you tried to talk to them,” Dr. O’Connor said. “We watched their weights decline and we worried that one of them would die before they got out.”

      Lawyers with the National Justice Project, a nonprofit legal service, have been mobilizing. They have successfully argued for the #medical_evacuation of around 127 people from Nauru this year, including 44 children.

      In a quarter of the cases, the government has resisted these demands in court, said George Newhouse, the group’s principal lawyer.

      “We’ve never lost,” he said. “It is gut-wrenching to see children’s lives destroyed for political gain.”

      A broad coalition that includes doctors, clergy, lawyers and nonprofit organizations, working under the banner #kidsoffnauru, is now calling for all asylum seekers to be evacuated.

      Public opinion in Australia is turning: In one recent poll, about 80 percent of respondents supported the removal of families and children from Nauru.

      Australia’s conservative government, with an election looming, is starting to shift.

      “We’ve been going about this quietly,” Mr. Morrison said last week. “We haven’t been showboating.”

      But there are still questions about what happens next.

      Last month, Sajeenthana stopped eating. After she had spent 10 days on a saline drip in a Nauruan hospital, her father was told he had two hours to pack for Australia.

      Speaking by video from Brisbane last week (we are not using her full name because of her age and the severity of her condition), Sajeenthana beamed.

      “I feel better now that I am in Australia,” she said. “I’m not going back to Nauru.”

      But her father is less certain. The United States rejected his application for resettlement in September. There are security guards posted outside their Brisbane hotel room, he said, and though food arrives daily, they are not allowed to leave. He wonders if they have swapped one kind of limbo for another, or if they will be forced back to Nauru.

      Australia’s Home Affairs minister has said the Nauru children will not be allowed to stay.

      “Anyone who is brought here is still classified as a transitory person,” said Jana Favero, director of advocacy and campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Center. “Life certainly isn’t completely rosy and cheery once they arrive in Australia.”

      On Monday, 25 more people, including eight children, left the island in six family units, she said.

      Those left behind on Nauru pass the days, worrying and waiting.

      Christina often dreams of what life would be like somewhere else, where being 10 does not mean being trapped.

      A single Iranian woman who asked not to be identified because she feared for her safety said that short of attempting suicide or changing nationality, there was no way off Nauru.

      She has been waiting two years for an answer to her application for resettlement in the United States — one that now seems hopeless given the Trump administration’s policies.

      Each night, often after the power goes out on Nauru, she and her sister talk about life and death, and whether to harm themselves to seek freedom.

  • Refugees on Manus Island face catastrophe at hands of Australian detention regime - World Socialist Web Site

    Refugees on #Manus_Island face catastrophe at hands of Australian detention regime
    By Oscar Grenfell
    1 November 2017

    About 600 refugees still held at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are facing a humanitarian disaster, and possible police-military violence, after the Australian government moved to shut down the facility yesterday.

    Contractors employed by the Australian government cut pipes, emptied water tanks, cut off electricity supplies and removed generators, before leaving the centre on Tuesday. Asylum seekers have been left without food, only minimal water, and no security. Heavily-armed PNG police and troops are massed outside the complex, warning they will enter it today unless the refugees leave.

    #réfugiés #camps #encampement #australie #papouasie_nouvelle_guinée

  • #Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time

    #Chauka_please_Tell_Us_the_Time is a documentary movie co-directed by #Behrouz_Boochani and #Arash_Kamali_Sarvestani. It was shot by Behrouz Boochani from inside the #Manus_Island detention center in Papua New Guinea.[1] The entire movie was shot over a period of several months on a mobile phone, which was kept secret from the prison authorities. Chauka is the name of a native bird on Manus Island and is also the name of the solitary confinement unit at Manus detention center. The Chauka is a symbol of the island and allows locals to tell the time from the Chauka’s regular singing. The co-director, Arash Kamali Sarvestani lives in the Netherlands. Sarvin Productions company produced the movie.

    Boochani, a journalist who was persecuted for his journalism in Iran, was forced into hiding and fled Iran in 2013. He was intercepted by Australian authorities while attempting a boat crossing from Indonesia to Australia and incarcerated in the Manus Island detention centre. “After a year or two years I found out that the journalism language is not powerful enough to tell the suffering and to tell the history of this prison, and what Australian government is doing in this island,” said Boochani.,_Please_Tell_Us_the_Time
    #film #documentaire #Australie #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    Trailer :

    • Detained journalist on Manus Island secretly shoots feature film entirely on mobile phone

      ’Chauka, please tell us the time’ is a movie co-produced by Behrouz Boochani - a Kurdish journalist, writer and human rights defender, who has spent nearly four years as a detainee at Manus Island Detention Centre.

  • Cost for Australia’s offshore immigration detention near $5 billion

    Ahead of Wednesday’s four-year anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s move to reinstate hardline rules to send any asylum seeker arriving in Australia by boat to offshore detention, Senate committee figures show the total operational and infrastructure costs for Australia’s detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has reached $4.89 billion.
    #coût #business #Australie #externalisation #détention_administrative rétention #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Manus_island #Nauru

    via @forumasile

  • #Australie. Île de Manus : plus de 60 millions d’euros versés à des migrants maltraités

    Le gouvernement australien a accepté de dédommager des réfugiés retenus dans le centre de rétention de Manus au titre de sa politique migratoire restrictive. Une manière d’éviter un procès gênant durant lequel les exactions commises auraient été exposées.
    #manus_island #indemnisation #justice #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #dédommagement #île_de_manus
    cc @reka

  • Australia agrees to pay $70 million to Manus Island detainees -

    The Australian government has agreed to pay detainees on Manus Island more than $70 million (US$52.75 million) in the “largest settlement in a human rights class-action” in the country’s history.
    More than 1,900 detainees had alleged they suffered serious physical and psychological injuries during their time in the Australian government’s offshore asylum seeker detention center on the Papua New Guinea island, between 2012 and 2016.

    #Australie #migrants #Manus_Island

  • An island off Manus

    The torturous system of Manus prison sometimes catapults a person into distant and stunning places. Following this country’s High Court decision regarding the illegality of the incarceration of refugees on Manus Island, we have gained some freedom, albeit limited in time and scope. During the past nine months, this partial liberty has become a part of my life, a source of restricted freedom. Whenever the tension intensifies in the prison, I take refuge in the jungle, the sea, and in some of the far-flung villages of Manus Island.

    Curious to know why he helps refugees, he smiles and says: “One day, when I was in Lorengau, I saw a few Iranian refugees wandering aimlessly around town. Something flashed across my mind about them. I realised they have no father, no mother and relatives: they are like aliens here. I felt they were afraid of being in Lorengau. I told them that you are my brothers and introduced my island to them. I invited them over and asked them to come and visit me whenever they liked, and to spend some time with my family.”
    #Mendirlin #solidarité #Manus_island #asile #migrations #réfugiés #australie #externalisation
    cc @isskein @reka

  • Papua New Guinea soldiers attack refugees in Australian-run prison camp - World Socialist Web Site

    Papua New Guinea soldiers attack refugees in Australian-run prison camp
    By Max Newman
    18 April 2017

    Escalating tensions at the Australian refugee detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island erupted last Friday when armed soldiers fired shots into the camp and assaulted detainees. Videos posted on-line showed terrified asylum seekers seeking shelter as gunfire peppered the centre.

    Eye-witness accounts indicate that a vehicle rammed the entrance gates, and rocks were thrown at refugees. Anxious to whitewash the assault, the Australian government continues to claim that only a single shot was fired, into the air, despite photos and videos showing multiple bullet holes.

    #réfugiés #asile #migrations #australie #papouasie_mouvelle_guinée #océanie

  • Australian government unveils brutal refugee deal with the US - World Socialist Web Site

    Australian government unveils brutal refugee deal with the US
    By Max Newman
    14 November 2016

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced a one-off “resettlement” deal with the United States that will forcibly remove to the US some of the 2,200 refugees who have rotted since 2013 in Australia’s prison camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

    At a media conference in the government’s Maritime Border Command headquarters, Turnbull declared that Australia’s naval “Operation Sovereign Borders,” which organises the interception and turn back of refugee boats, would be boosted to its highest-ever level.

    #australie #états-unis #réfugiés #asile #migrations

  • The extraordinary cost of keeping asylum seekers in detention: over $500,000 each

    What if our government really wanted to save money? As well as going after $6.7 billion in its omnibus savings bill, it could go after the billions more it costs to run our immigration detention centres: $9.2 billion in the past three years, $3.9 billion to $5.5 billion in the next four, according to the most complete accounting yet of the costs normally hidden in inaccessible parts of the the budget.
    #détention_administrative #rétention #coût #économie #Australie #externalisation #Manus_island #Nauru

    #Rapport de Save the children & Unicef:

    • Et pas mal d’argent aussi pour des #NGO :
      #Save_The_Children not saving anyone

      Like many NGOS before it, Save The Children is the latest case study of an NGO contracted into the supply chain with good intentions, but set to leave the detention sector under a cloud of controversy. Having tendered and won the $36 million contract in 2013, Save The Children began education, recreation and child protection services at Manus Island and Nauru.

    • Nauru refugees: Australia pays $35.3 million per year for ‘island of despair’

      But what goes on here is far from idyllic, and the government of Nauru is cashing in on it, earning a staggering $35.3 million a year just for hosting Australia’s immigration problem.

    • Nauru detention centre operator makes $101m profit – at least $500,000 for each detainee

      #Canstruct_International’s holding company has more than $340m in cash and investments, according to accounts filed with regulator

      The company behind Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru made a $101m profit last financial year – more than $500,000 for each of the fewer than 200 people held on the island.

      Rard No 3, the holding company for Canstruct International, which has the government contract to run the Nauru offshore processing centre, has more than $340m in cash and investments, according to its most recent accounts filed with the corporate regulator.

      When Canstruct International was initially awarded the Nauru contract in 2017 the company had $8 in assets.

      Its only significant contract is with the federal government to provide “garrison and welfare services” for refugees and asylum seekers held by Australia on the Pacific island.

      The construction revenue Rard No 3 earned in 2020-21 – $333m – was commensurate with Canstruct International’s Nauru contracts for the period. The company signed two contract extensions worth $303m during the financial year, with other extensions worth hundreds of millions in preceding and future years.

      Rard No 3 now holds $236m in financial investments and owns three investment properties worth more than $14m. The company also reaped $6m in interest and dividends from its investment portfolio. It made an after-tax profit of $69.5m in 2018-19 and $101m in 2019-20 and again in 2020-21.

      The number of refugees and asylum seekers held by Australia on Nauru diminished steadily over the course of 2020-21, from 185 to 108 by the end of the financial year.

      There are currently 115 people held by Australia on the island, with the transfer of people from the offshore regime on PNG to Nauru, and the departure of some refugees for America.

      It currently costs the Australian taxpayer more than $4m each year to hold a single refugee or asylum seeker on Nauru, or nearly $12,000 a day, according to government figures.

      In its latest report, filed late to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the company did not comment on its future on Nauru. The Australian government has committed to an “enduring” offshore processing regime on the island but intends to hand control of the centre over to the Nauru government at some point. Canstruct International’s most recent extension was to the end of June this year.

      “Likely developments in the operation of the group and the expected results of those operations in future financial years have not been included in this report as the inclusion of such information is likely to result in unreasonable prejudice to the group,” the company stated.

      “Although it is expected that there will be changes to the company’s activities in the near future, it is still unclear as to the extent of the changes predicted.”

      The directors of Rard No 3 are four members of the Murphy family – the founding director of the Canstruct group of companies, Robin Murphy, and his three sons, Adrian, Rory and Daniel.

      The Canstruct group, or entities associated with it, have made 11 donations to the Liberal National party in Queensland. The company has previously strenuously denied any link between political donations and the awarding of any contracts.

      Canstruct International’s Nauru contract has attracted significant parliamentary interest and repeated questioning in the Senate.

      The October 2017 “letter of intent” awarded to Canstruct International was worth $8m. But a government-ordered financial strength test, conducted by KPMG, to test the company’s fitness for the contract, was erroneously conducted on a different company.

      KPMG reported its pre-contract financial strength assessment was conducted on Canstruct International Pty Ltd – but the government, after twice having to correct its evidence to the Senate, has since confirmed the assessment was actually undertaken on Canstruct Pty Ltd, a company also controlled by the Murphy family, but with which it had no financial relationship.

      Less than a month after the letter of intent was signed, the company won a $385m contract awarded by limited tender.

      Since then, government figures show eight further non-competitive amendments to the contract, raising the total cost to $1.82bn.

      The most recent contract extension was in January, to 22 June, for $218.5m. There is an option to extend for six months beyond.

    • Nauru contract standoff causes chaos and confusion as refugee services left in limbo

      A refusal by Nauru to agree to a contract extension until the 11th hour has caused chaos and confusion on the island, after refugees and asylum seekers were told to clear out of the processing centre and warned healthcare may stop.

      Australia and Nauru have been working towards Nauru taking over contracts to provide welfare and garrison service to the 400 or so asylum seekers and refugees on the island, but Nauru has struggled to be ready.

      As a result Australia has repeatedly extended its $432m contract with #Canstruct, which contracts #Wilson to provide security, with the most recent six-month extension due to expire at midnight on Tuesday.

      However as late as Tuesday afternoon there was no decision made on either extending with Canstruct or Nauru signing a new contract, which resulted in fear and confusion among the refugee and asylum seeker group.

      The standoff, which saw Canstruct and Wilson inform other stakeholders they were “demobilising” only ended late on Tuesday afternoon when Nauru agreed to a three-month extension.

      Island’s government extends Canstruct’s contract at 11th hour but not before asylum seekers were told to clear out

  • Jig is up on our outsourced refugee hells in #Nauru, #Manus_Island

    Nauru and Manus Island have served the Coalition well, right up to the election, but there are ominous signs that the music may stop leaving us without a seat. The Australian government may need a new policy. It’s not a matter entirely within its control.
    #Australie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #politique_migratoire

  • Voices from Manus: ’I don’t want to go to Australia ... after what they did’

    But when he was transferred to Australia’s remote detention center on Manus Island in 2013, he realized his trauma had only just begun.
    “They just want us to die. For the last three years we were under heavy, systematic torture (which) aim to force us to go back ... Hundreds of us lost their minds completely,” he said.
    #Australie #asile #migrations #chiffres #statistiques #Manus_island #Nauru #externalisation

  • What next for #Manus_Island asylum seekers?

    Australia has agreed to close a detention centre on a Pacific island that is used to house asylum seekers.

    Manus Island is part of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Its Supreme Court ruled in April that holding people in such a camp was unconstitutional.

    So, what could happen next to about 850 men currently being held on the Pacific island?
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Australie #externalisation

  • Refugee camp company in Australia ’liable for crimes against humanity’

    The company that has taken over the management of Australia’s offshore immigration detention regime has been warned by international law experts that its employees could be liable for crimes against humanity.

    Spanish infrastructure corporation #Ferrovial, which is owned by one of the world’s richest families and the major stakeholder in Heathrow airport, has been warned by professors at Stanford Law School that its directors and employees risk prosecution under international law for supplying services to Australia’s camps on #Nauru and #Manus_Island in Papua New Guinea.
    #crimes_contre_l'humanité #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Australie #privatisation #externalisation #camps_de_réfugiés
    cc @daphne @marty @albertocampiphoto

  • The terrible true story of Mr Eaten Fish, Manus Island cartoonist

    Ali is 24 years old. He is from Iran and is an artist. I ask Ali, what is it like to live on Manus Island? Every day the same like the last 800 days, he tells me

    #Manus_island #Australie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #BD #bande-dessinée

  • Wilson Security paid guard to keep quiet about alleged sexual assault on Manus Island

    #Wilson_Security paid at least one Australian security guard to keep quiet about an alleged sexual assault of a local Manus Island worker, in a number of separate payments of up to $15,000 made by the company.

    #Manus_island #asile #migrations #réfugiés #viols #violences_sexuelles #corruption #privatisation

  • Papua New Guinea court finds Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on #Manus_Island is illegal

    Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says about 900 men being held at the Manus Island detention centre will not be brought to Australia after Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled their detention was illegal.
    #Australie #migrations #réfugiés #Papoue_Nouvelle_Guinée #détention_administrative

  • Australia’s asylum seeker politics ’toxic’ since 2001: Tanya Plibersek

    Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has called for children to be released from Nauru and mainland detention centres as soon as possible, describing Australia’s asylum seeker politics since 2001 as “nothing less than toxic”.

    #Australie #Nauru #détention_administrative #rétention #asile #externalisation #réfugiés #migrations #viols #harcèlements_sexuels #enfants #enfance

  • 600 refugees in Australian detention centre write open letter demanding assisted suicide

    Two-thirds of the inhabitants of Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea have demanded help end their own lives to escape being ’tortured and traumatised’ every day
    #lettre #suicide #suicide_assisté #mort #mourir_en_détention #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Australie #Manus_island
    cc @reka @albertocampiphoto

    • Voici le contenu de la lettre :

      A Christmas letter from Manus

      On 30 November 2015, Six hundred men in Manus RPC, PNG, wrote the following letter to Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia and Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

      The importance of this letter is that it sets a challenge for all of us who are preparing to celebrate Christmas. Read the letter and ask yourself: by treating people this way, are we being true to the Christian spirit, or are we betraying it? Christmas is the time when, according to Christian tradition, Christ’s parents could not readily find shelter as they fled to escape persecution. If they did the same thing today and found themselves in Australia, they would be taken by force to another country where they would be locked up indefinitely in shocking conditions.

      This Christmas, we should all face up to some uncomfortable facts:

      boat people are not “illegal”: they do not break any law by coming here to seek asylum;
      we take them by force to another country (PNG or Nauru);
      we imprison them and mistreat them;
      we vilify them as “illegal” and sanitise the whole exercise by calling it “border protection”
      every aspect of it: the cruelty and the dishonesty, contradicts the most fundamental aspects of Christan teaching;
      all of this has been implemented by people who conspicuously proclaim their Christianity, including Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison.

      Any government which is willing to tolerate these things cannot possibly describe itself as adhering to the Christian tradition. Likewise any Opposition which does not oppose it. If your Federal MP is a member of the government and sends you a Christmas card this year, you can be pretty confident that he or she is a hypocrite.

      Here is the transcribed text of the letter:

      Hello Dear Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton.
      As the refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Manus Island detention we wold like to request you something different this time.
      As previously we wrote and asked for help and there was no respond to our request to be freed out of detention we realized that there are no differences between us and rubbish but a bunch of slaves that helped to stop the boats by living in hellish condition. The only difference is that we are very costly for the Australian tax payers and the Politicians as our job to “stop the boats” is done.
      We would like to give you some recommendations to stop the waste of this huge amount of money ruining Australian’s reputation and to keep the Australian boarders safe forever.
      1. A navy ship that can put us all on board and dump us all in the ocean. (HMAS is always available)
      2. A gas chamber (DECMIL will do it with a new contract)
      3. Injection of a poison. (IHMS will help for this)
      This is not a joke or a satire and please take it serious.
      We are dying in Manus gradually, every single day we are literarly tortured and traumatized and there is no safe country to offer us protection as DIBP says.
      Best regards
      Merry Christmas in advance
      Manus refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Un peu en vrac, la question de la politique de l’#excision de l’#Australie (#excision_territoriale):

    La première excision (2001), celle des îles, et contenu dans ce document législatif:

    Et puis ils ont décidé d’exciser tout le territoire australien pour l’arrivée par bateau, en 2013:

    “The effect of this change, while it has been discussed as the ‘excision of the Australian mainland from the migration zone’, in fact only excises the mainland for those who arrive to Australia by boat. Previously, only those who were intercepted in waters on the way to Australia and then transferred to Christmas Island, or arrived at Christmas Island or another “excised offshore place”, became an offshore entry person and were thereby excluded from making a Protection application by section 46A of the Migration Act. Following this amendment, all those who arrive by boat, including those who actually land on Australia’s shores, are now barred by section 46A. Any person arriving by boat to seek asylum in Australia must have this bar lifted by the Minister personally, in circumstances where the Minister finds it is in the public interest to do so. All boat arrivals are now also subject to Australia’s offshore processing regime and can be transferred to a regional processing country under section 198AD of the Migration Act, even if they first land on the Australian mainland. Any asylum seeker arriving by plane is still able to lodge a protection application and is not subject to the regional processing arrangements. These changes also ensure that all boat arrivals are subject to mandatory detention, are to be taken to a regional processing country, and cannot institute or continue certain legal proceedings in Australia.”

    Il y a aussi un wiki sur cela:

    Et une vignette:

    #Australie #migrations #asile #externalisation #réfugiés

    cc @reka

    • Out of sight, out of mind : excising Australia from the migration zone

      The migration zone is any place in Australia where a person arriving without a valid visa - what is technically called “without lawful authority” - can still make a valid visa application.

      It is distinct from the territory of Australia and might best be understood as a legal boundary within which people arriving without valid visas can still fall under the remit of the Migration Act of 1958. Protections afforded by the Migration Act - in addition to being permitted to apply for asylum - include having asylum claims processed in Australia, rather than in a detention centre such as Manus Island or Nauru


      –-> on explique très bien dans cet article aussi l’histoire du #Tampa et de #Arne_Rinnan :

      To understand how we started tinkering with the boundaries of the migration zone, one must go back to 2001 and the so-called Tampa Affair. In August 2001, Captain Arne Rinnan rescued 433 asylum seekers from their sinking boat and sheltered them on his freighter, the MV Tampa. He then made the decision to head to Christmas Island (which was at the time still in Australia’s migration zone) for the safety of his vessel, the crew and the people he had rescued.

      As a way to solve what then prime minister John Howard viewed as a direct challenge to border security in the aftermath of September 11 terrorist attacks, he proposed and had passed legislation that re-defined Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Australian sea and resources installations as well as any other external territories, or state or territory islands, prescribed by regulations as “excised offshore places”. Importantly, this legislation was also retrospective.

      With a stroke of the proverbial parliamentary pen, while the Tampa asylum seekers had reached Australian territory, they were no longer in the “migration zone” and were subsequently removed to offshore detention centres.

    • Voir aussi ce décret de #Reagan mentionné dans l’article « Immigration Enforcement and the Afterlife of the Slave Ship » :

      But in our present day, it began in earnest with President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12324 of 1981, also called the Haitian Migrant Interdiction Operation (HMIO), which exclusively tasked the USCG to “interdict” Haitian asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States by sea routes on unauthorized sailing vessels. Such people were already beginning to be derogatorily referred to as “boat people,” a term then borrowed (less derogatorily) into Haitian Kreyòl as botpippel.

  • Melbourne woman taking on #Transfield over children in detention

    This is the Melbourne woman who has corporate giant Transfield Services extremely nervous as it negotiates a new contract to run Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres.

    Transfield is preparing to sign a multibillion-dollar, five-year deal to continue operating the Manus Island and Nauru camps on behalf of the federal government, and Shen Narayanasamy wants to put the release of children at the forefront of the company’s mind.

    #détention_administrative #rétention #asile #réfugiés #migrations #enfants #enfance #droits_humains #Manus_island #Nauru #externalisation #privatisation #Australie
    cc @reka @odilon