‘Torturous’: Australian family fights to free refugee held for eight years without charge

One of the child refugees unlawfully detained on Manus Island alongside Loghman Sawari has said it is “unbelievable” he remains detained, eight years on, while an Australian family has said they have repeatedly offered their own home as sanctuary for him if he were released from detention.

This came as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees again urged Australia to end offshore asylum processing which “undermined the rights of those seeking safety and protection and significantly harmed their physical and mental health”.

On Saturday, Guardian Australia detailed Sawari’s eight years held within Australia’s on- and offshore detention regimes. Arriving in Australia as a 17-year-old, he was unlawfully sent to the adult men-only detention centre on Manus island, while still a child.

Australia is legally obliged to provide protection for Sawari, however eight years since he arrived, and having suffered numerous physical and mental health crises while detained, he remains in indefinite detention. He has committed no crime, nor is he accused on any.

Sawari has been approved for resettlement to the US for more than a year, but has not been allowed to go.

Tinshwe, who was 15 when he fled Myanmar and was sent to the adult men-only detention camp on Manus, remembers being held in the close confines of an isolation building alongside Sawari.

“I feel so bad for Loghman, it is unbelievable he is still in detention. Why is he still there? It’s been so long,” he told Guardian Australia.

Tinshwe was returned to Australia and now lives in Adelaide, where he is studying. He said his time held on Manus Island was terrifying, and still traumatises him.

“He was so young,” Tinshwe said. “We were all so young. You have to see it from our point of view, we didn’t know what was going on, we were frightened. There was no one I could talk to.”

Melbourne woman Samantha Nelson said she saw media reportage of Sawari’s situation and wanted to help.

“We have developed a very close connection over the last six or seven years. We want to do all we can to help him. I’ve gone up to visit him in Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation, and if the court will allow it, he can live with us, he can be part of our family, we want to welcome him as a member of our family.

“He’s never really asked us for anything, but we just want to do what we can. We don’t have much to offer, only our home, our friendship and our love.”

But Nelson said her family had been frustrated in her efforts to help Sawari.

“We’ve been advocating for him for many years, to no avail. I don’t know how many letters I have written to ministers and members of parliament. I sometimes find it quite hard to deal with, emotionally. We want him to be allowed to start a new life.”

Nelson told Guardian Australia she wanted Sawari to have friends and a community outside of the confines of detention, and to know he had a place to go whenever he was, finalmente, liberado.

“It’s been torturous really, it’s been so traumatic for him. He tries to remain positive, he tries not to rock the boat. His resilience is incredible, I don’t think most people could have held on.

“He’s basically like a prisoner, and he’s been like that for eight years, despite doing nothing wrong.”

Guardian Australia sent the home affairs department detailed questions on Sawari’s ongoing detention, but the department said it would not comment on his case.

“Australia’s border protection policies remain steadfast; persons who travel to Australia illegally by boat will not settle here," decía. “Temporary transfer to Australia to receive medical treatment is not a pathway to settlement.”

“Transitory persons” were encouraged to finalise medical treatment to resettle in the US or another third country, return to Nauru or PNG, “or voluntarily return home”.

The date 19 July marks eight years since the Australian government mandated offshore detention for all asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Sawari arrived by boat to Christmas Island five days after the law was changed.

Following the 2013 law change, más que 3000 people were sent to detention centres in PNG’s Manus Island or Nauru. Twelve people have died in offshore detention, including from murder, medical neglect and suicide.

Just more than 960 have been resettled in the United States, while around 230 remain in PNG or Nauru. Several hundred others have been allowed to live in the Australian community, albeit on temporary visas, while hundreds more have chosen to return to their home countries, where some have been killed or forced to flee again.

Por lo menos 169 refugees transferred to Australian under the repealed medevac legislation remain in the country. Some are living in the community, are in detention centres, or being held under guard in hotels. New Zealand has a standing offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore system each year.

“Australia’s abusive offshore processing policy has caused immeasurable suffering for thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers,” Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch, dicho.

“The Australian government should accept New Zealand’s repeated offers to take some of the refugees, and work toward ending offshore processing once and for all.”

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said, on the eighth anniversary of mandatory offshore detention, “we once again urge Australia to draw an end to this policy and urgently provide solutions for the remaining asylum seekers and refugees still under its offshore processing arrangements”.

“Over its 70 años, the UN refugee agency has seen time and again the profound harmful effects of long term detention on people seeking asylum – many of them being people who have already suffered great hardship, trauma and danger.”

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