Pacific / Papua New Guinea

Former Manus inmate seeks UN intervention at PNG camp

11:14 am on 28 June 2019

A Sudanese refugee who spent almost six years detained on Manus Island has called for UN action to end Australia's offshore detention regime.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat, who was recently granted asylum in Switzerland, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He spoke of the humanitarian crisis among about 900 refugees still detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus and Nauru, who he said were being destroyed physically and mentally.

Mr Muhamat said many of the men on Manus had attempted suicide in the past month.

"Politicians in Australia and across the world are de-humanising the refugees and using them for their own political agenda. The voice of the refugee must be heard and acted on. We urge your mandate and the council to continue to uphold (sic) the Australian government accountable for the breach of the human rights."

Mr Muhamat said he welcomed a recent call by UN special rapporteurs for Australia to immediately provide appropriate health care to more than 800 refugees it holds in PNG and Nauru.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and inhuman punishment, Nils Melzer, were among the experts.

They said the Australian government should immediately transfer refugees requiring urgent medical attention to Australia.

In February, Mr Muhamat was granted permission to travel from Manus Island to Geneva to receive the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders.

He lodged a claim for asylum in Switzerland and in June he became a Swiss citizen.

"I came to Australia seeking safety. Instead I was forcibly taken to Manus Island and detained for almost six years in inhumane conditions. Now I am finally free. But will not rest while over 800 people are still imprisoned indefinitely by the Australian Government," said Mr Muhamat.

Edwina MacDonald, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva to monitor Australia on the Human Rights Council, called on the Australian Government to end the suffering of people held on Nauru and Manus.

"The Australian Government continues to act with breathtaking hypocrisy, claiming to support human rights at the UN while indefinitely imprisoning men and women in offshore detention camps."

"These people - imprisoned for fleeing the same atrocities this Government comes to the UN to condemn - have now been detained for nearly six years. No government can truly stand for human rights while choosing to severely damage the lives of innocent people," said Ms MacDonald.