Ditch hashtag say Manus refugees


Behrouz Boochani. Photo by Hoda Afshar, Facebook

Deakin University, Katie Colston

Refugee leaders detained on Manus Island say they do not want activists protesting on their behalf for their relocation to Australia, because they no longer wish to live in the country.

The hashtag #bringthemhere has been popular with protesters campaigning for the Australian government to shut down the offshore detention centres and bring the refugees to Australia.

Advocacy organisation ‘GetUp!’ is among the many groups who campaign using the hash tag.

Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani says the detainees are thankful for the support but would like protesters to instead advocate to ‘let the refugees go’ rather than for them to be brought to Australia

“I think the hashtag #bringthemhere doesn’t work because when they say ‘bring them here’ the government says they don’t want us there and many people in Australia don’t want us there. We don’t want to go to Australia, just let us go,” Behrouz said.

Abdul Aziz Adam, a Sudanese refugee who has been detained on Manus Island for almost six years, says most of the 600 men detained do not wish to resettle in Australia following the treatment they have received from the government.

“It’s a great idea and I remember I was part of the #bringthemhere campaign and we did a great job but unfortunately from what I can see right now only a handful of people want to come to Australia. Even if the majority wanted to come to Australia the problem is they no longer have trust in the media anymore and they think even if they say, they have lost complete faith in everything, they don’t even trust themselves anymore,” Aziz said.

Aziz said the men’s uncertainty about their future had left them feeling depressed and despondent.

“The refugees have lost hope, they are hopeless right now and they are not even planning to listen to any news about when they are going to get out of the island. People are so depressed and they are tired from their own lives, some of them even want to take their own life. No one knows how long we are going to be here for,” Aziz said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has repeatedly offered to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru but has been rebuffed by the Australia government who feared it would serve as a ‘back door’ for refugees to later move to Australia.

The fate of the refugees is not expected to change under new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was the Immigration minister prior to Peter Dutton taking on the role.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten stated that he wants to consider negotiating resettling refugees in five countries including New Zealand and Japan if he wins the next election.