Ten years of inhumanity, ten years too long

PAULINE PANNELL is a member of Grandmothers for Refugees Fremantle. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, she recaps on 10 years of Australia’s offshore processing regime.

ASYLUM seeker Mostafa (Moz) Azibitabar spent 2,737 days in detention, six years of this in the appalling conditions of an Australian offshore centre on Manus Island.

Eventually he was transferred to Australia under the short-lived medivac law, then locked in a hotel. 

Early this month in a federal court decision Justice Murphy said that although the hotel detention was lawful, it lacked ordinary human decency and “I can only wonder at the lack of thought, indeed lack of care and humanity, in detaining a person with psychiatric and psychological problems in the hotels for 14 months”.

For a decade, our government has maintained and continues to maintain this inhumane system.

On July 19, 2013 Kevin Rudd announced that no person arriving by boat without a visa would ever settle in Australia and would instead be detained offshore. 

This resulted in the regime of cruelty under which thousands of men, women and children suffered years in dehumanising conditions in detention on Nauru and Manus Island.

Moz who is an artist, musician and writer, fled racist persecution in his homeland of Iran, seeking safety in Australia.

If Moz had arrived a few weeks earlier (before Rudd’s announcement) he would now be on a pathway to permanency here.

He is currently in the community on a short-term bridging visa. 

On Manus Island asylum seekers were held for years in “Regional Processing Centres” but there was no processing, no information, just indefinite detention.  


Offshore detention has had devastating effects on those who suffered it.

They endured horrible conditions with mental and physical cruelty and shocking medical neglect.  

Conditions in offshore detention have been similar to that in a high security prison and included an appalling living environment (such as insufficient, overflowing toilets), water rationing, medical neglect and acute lack of privacy. 

There were cruel deaths; Reza Barati was murdered by locals and our guards and Hamid Khazaei died through medical neglect and bureaucratic delays.

Australia has failed in our duty of care.

In 2019 all were moved from Manus Island to Port Moresby.

Ten years on, 80 refugees and people seeking asylum are still trapped in PNG. 

They are not in detention, but impoverished and often in dangerous circumstances in the community.  

The Australian government forced them to PNG; we kept them there, and paid billions to do so.  

On Jan 1, 2022, Australia washed its hands of those remaining. 

They are now a PNG responsibility. 

They have suffered a decade of hopelessness.  

Understandably, the mood is total despair. 

Our current government has advised these asylum seekers to seek a third country to settle in.

Local priest Father Giorgio Licini says at least 10 of these men now have such severe debilitating mental illness that they can’t engage with any process.  

The Albanese government came to power aspiring to a fair and humane refugee policy. 

Grandmothers for Refugees are calling on the government to vigorously pursue its reform agenda, giving priority to bringing the remaining 80 refugees and asylum seekers from PNG to Australia while resettlement options are found.

That would show some “ordinary human decency”.  

Join Grandmothers for Refugees Fremantle in our standing protest. 

End a decade of this brutal policy now. 

When: Friday July 21, 5 – 6pm

Where: Scot’s Presbyterian Church Fremantle (Cnr of Parry St and South Tce)

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