What is happening?

(Please note this contains distressing content and reference to physical and psychological violence)

As you probably know, the situation for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island has become increasingly critical over the last few weeks.

For three weeks hundreds of men remained in the closed detention compound without sufficient food, water, shelter or medical care, refusing to leave because they knew where they would be taken was worse; that they would simply be moving from one prison to another.

On Thursday 23rd November, after weeks of intimidation, police and immigration carried through with their threats – entering the compound and attacking the people inside. The men, who are committed to peaceful and nonviolent resistance, were beaten with metal poles, dragged onto buses and taken into the local town of East Lorengau against their will. Anyone who was seen to be taking video of the violence against them were also immediately beaten, and many of the phones that they use to document and communicate with were destroyed.

As of today (Tuesday 28th November), all the men are now in the new centres or in the community. A large group was simply left on the side of the road as the ‘new accommodation’ is not equipped for them, with insufficient or non-existent food, water and facilities (including not enough beds). Many have communicated that their situation now is even worse than the siege of the last few weeks.

On top of the insufficient facilities and care, they are suffering the injuries from being beaten and the psychological trauma from the terror of last week, and are living with the ever-present fear of attacks and violence from some locals.

Above all else, however, as Behrouz Boochani has said, they still do not have freedom:

The issue is plain and simple. We did not come to Australia to live in a prison. The peaceful protest by refugees is not because we want to remain in this prison. We are resisting because we want freedom in a safe environment. The core concern is freedom … only freedom. The rest of what you hear are just peripheral issues.
Behrouz Boochani (award winning journalist and refugee on Manus)

As of today they have been peacefully protesting for their freedom for over 118 days. Their untiring and peaceful resistance has been incredible, and has inspired many in Australia to stand in solidarity with them.

What can we do?

So what should happen now? How can these people be resettled with safety and freedom?

Although New Zealand have offered to resettle 150 people, Australia continues to refuse to such an arrangement. And even if New Zealand were to take 150, there would still be hundreds of people without freedom and safety. The US deal is also often quoted as a solution, however the process is immensely slow, and there is no real guarantee that anyone else will be resettled let alone all the people who need freedom.

Many advocacy groups are calling for the men to be immediately brought to Australia, as this is the only way to get all the men to immediate safety. From there, those who wish to can stay, while other resettlement arrangements can be made for those who do not want to stay in a country that has treated them this way.

There have been many and diverse protests during this time, including weekly rallies organised by the Refugee Action Collective, vigils and creative civil disobedience organised by Love Makes A Way, and many others such as blockades and cello playing direct action! These protests are ongoing, and anyone can join in! There are many ways to be involved.

On Monday 4th December I will also be running a flash mob (dance) as a protest, to the music of my friend Moz who is one of the men on Manus. Anyone who’s keen to be involved please contact me! (See below)

To hear about other upcoming actions, follow the Refugee Action Collective (Vic) and/or Love Makes A Way on Facebook or sign up to their mailing lists.

You can also ring Malcolm Turnbull at (02) 6277 7700 to call to Bring Them Here.

If you’d like daily updates on the situation from the people experiencing it, you can follow @ManusAlerts on the Telegram app, or follow Behrouz Boochani or Walid Zazai on Twitter.

If you’d like any more information on what’s happening or how to get involved, please feel free to email me at

Abi Benham-Bannon
This story is also published in our December Olive Branch