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This Is What Refugees On Manus And Nauru Want Australians To Know

'What can we really want from Australia except freedom? Stop torturing us.'

The Australian-run regional processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island has been shut down. The centre on the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru hosts a fraction of the people it did at its peak. But hundreds of refugees -- men, women and children, from countries including Iran, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, Myanmar and more still remain stranded on the two tiny specks of land, trapped in a years-long limbo that shows no signs of ending.

Almost all those remaining on Manus and Nauru have been found to be legitimate refugees, with many of the remainder still waiting for their refugee status to be determined.

This means they have been ruled to have well-founded fears of punishment, persecution or imprisonment if they return to their home country. They cannot go back; they will not be let into Australia; and the Australian government is blocking them from going to New Zealand, after the Kiwis made several offers to take refugees from the centres.

Asylum-seekers look through a fence at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea March 21, 2014. AAP/Eoin Blackwell/via REUTERS

Their only options are to hope to be one of up to 1200 refugees accepted for resettlement in the United States, or remain permanently on the islands severely lacking in basic infrastructure and medical care, where they were imprisoned for years, where they watched friends die, where they themselves experienced trauma, violence, assault.

Only around 300 have been resettled so far under the U.S. deal struck in November 2016, and considering President Trump's controversial travel ban blacklisted people from many of the countries the refugees came from, and Trump himself said "I hate taking these people", hopes are not high.

There remain 255 men, women and children in the Nauruan regional processing centre as of April 26, according to documents published on the Department of Home Affairs' website, with more living in the community outside the centre. Before the Manus centre closed in October last year, the department said 690 men lived there.

After the Manus centre at Lombrum was officially closed last year, and all remaining refugees and asylum seekers transferred to facilities closer to the town of Lorengau, much of the attention there subsided. After a flurry of reporting on the stand-off between the men who refused to leave the decommissioned centre -- despite a lack of food, water, power and medical help -- and the PNG authorities, and then the initial days of the new arrangement, Australians now don’t hear much about what is happening to the men on Manus Island.

Neither do we hear much about the men, women and children on Nauru. Besides occasional reports on a refugee being assaulted, or a small band of Australian-based advocates calling on the government to airlift a sick refugee to Australia for medical treatment they cannot receive in their new island home, most of us don’t know much about what is happening.

Protesters march in Sydney against the moving of refugees in Papua New Guinea on October 15, 2017.
PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

ten daily contacted a range of refugees on both Manus and Nauru to ask a simple question -- “ what do you want Australian people to know about your situation today?”

Some were eager to share their thoughts, though many did not -- some said they were simply too sick or tired to speak to media, others did not respond when contacted on social media profiles that are now dormant or on phones that may have run out of battery, call credit, or both.

Here are the thoughts of refugees who want to tell Australians their stories.

Nasiri, Manus

I just would like to say I would like to go out of here to start new life and normal life. I don't want to go Australia at all, just need to go somewhere else to start my life. I would like to get out of here to treat my medical problem, because I didn't receive treatment here.

I know that we came to Australia illegally, but being a refugee is not illegal. The Australian government kept me here as a prisoner and we can't go out of here by our decision, even for treatment.

Abdul, Manus

The detention has been closed but they forcibly moved us to other camps which are overcrowded. There’s not enough rooms, some of our friends still sleep in classrooms. There are many incidents which happened but we don’t want to report it because we are tired - five years we reported things but there’s no action or they don’t care. The government is keeping us in a place which is not safe, but they are doing it anyway. We are human beings just like them. All we want is freedom, not indefinite prisons.

Refugees on Manus protest their situation

The refugees have lost hope long time ago, even though the USA deal is still on the table. We don’t think USA will take refugees from countries like Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia. Trump put a ban to these countries. The current situation is very bad and unsafe here on Manus. In the last few weeks, three refugees got beaten up. One man was stabbed four times in his shoulder and his friend was been beaten and robbed of his phone. This kind of violence shows there’s no safety for refugees on Manus. We are still under Australian government responsibility but they are trying to dump us here on PNG and walk away .

A few refugees got mental health issues. Five of them attempted to take their own lives because of the depression and stress, also they fear that the government will forget them here. We are hopeless and powerless, many of us have given up. The refugees are not coping well, many are bored of themselves. They stay in their rooms 24/7 because there’s nothing you can do.

We don’t have proper medical care here, the IHMS is not helping and the refugees are scared to go to the local hospital because they don’t have enough doctors or medicine. We don’t have life here, we have a humanitarian crisis. We have been denied our freedom for five years and the government is still lying to Australian people about our situation. They think like we are coconuts trees or iron bars, they made stay in place.

Facilities at the now decommissioned Manus Island Regional Processing Facility, in October 2012
Photo by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship via Getty Images
Ezatullah, Manus

I still have respect for Australia. We all know the government wasted our life and they hurt us a lot and they lied to us a lot and they used us a lot because of politics, but I still have respect and love for Australians people. Dutton should learn how we are good, peaceful people. I know a lot of people feel pain for us but politicians don't care. Now people are happy to go USA.

I am still waiting for my interview. I am still hoping the New Zealand government will do something for those people who didn't get an interview for USA, so I am still positive and strong. I am still fit, I am focusing my training in kickboxing. I will never give up. I am still fit and I am ready for world class fighting, I would like to represent New Zealand.  I always feel pain because I found everything - love, respect - but not freedom. I need freedom. Five years is enough. Let us free. We are human beings and we already lost memories and we need to recover our memories. Please don't destroy the rest of our lives. Let us free.

The island of Nauru
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Behrouz, Manus

Its one of the hardest questions that I’ve been asked, because its the refugees’ question too for Australia; "what do you want from us?" It's one of our main questions and we are still waiting after five years to get an answer to. That why Australia has left us in limbo this whole time and continues to keep us here as a hostage. What I hear all the time from other refugees on Manus is that they don't want anything from Australia anymore, only to let us go. If they have other options, they won’t choose Australia.

But suggesting that they should go back to the country that they flee from or stay in Manus, where no opportunity for a better future is on the table, is not an option for us. The refugees don't want to go to Australia. That's the main point, and that is exactly what I am asking the Australian people to understand. After five years of suffering, what can we really want from Australia except freedom? Stop torturing us.

Refugee advocates protest in October 2017 in central Sydney, against the treatment of asylum-seekers in detention centres. REUTERS/David Gray
Shahriar, Nauru

We have been locked up in an 40 square metre accommodation since 2015. My son attended Nauru elementary school for just two months - after that, I was suffering everyday to see him in that terrible condition school and I made my mind to leave that school. He is now 10 years old. When we arrived, he was just four years old. The picture of his future is horrible without any education, and those directly responsible for this are the Australia authorities. They have ruined the future of these miserable children. All of the detention story is because Australia wanted to make an exhibition of a bunch of needy people in order to discourage others from coming.

Our children are deprived of their liberty and education, their future is ruined just because of cruelty. 

There are just two major supermarkets for the necessities of refugees and other Nauru native people. There is no mall. There is just one company which provides a low speed internet with a lot of flaws. It is a monopoly company without any competition and very expensive, $50AUD just for six gigabytes.

Some children attend school just to leave the accommodation and be free for a couple of hours. But the quality of education isn't comparable with Australia. Australian government just pretends that everything is OK.