In the chaos of Australian politics right now (citizenship scandals, rumoured leadership coups, and the lengthy process of passing same-sex-marriage legislation) it’s easy to overlook the tragedy unfolding on Manus Island.
But here’s a refresh: More than 400 male refugees are currently stranded in a makeshift refuge that has no electricity. They have no access to clean water or edible food. Doctors from NFP Medecins Sans Frontieres have been denied entry into the centre to treat gravely ill patients. The Australian Government is doing close to nothing to change this.
In protest to this grim reality, five Christian leaders, Jarrod McKenna, Rev. Dr. Michael Frost, Fr. Rod Bower, Hwvar Khoshnow and Byron Smith chained themselves to the Prime Minister’s official residence, Kirribilli House yesterday afternoon with the goal of drawing greater awareness to the situation and prompting the Government to evacuate the men.
Hwvar Khoshnow a Kurdish refugee who’s been living in Australia for eighteen years, spoke to us about her very personal pursuit of justice for the refugees in PNG. Fleeing a volatile region, Khoshnow’s family were given the opportunity to resettle in Australia– a decision approved by then PM John Howard under a Liberal Government.
“My family had to flee across the mountains from Iran—but under the kindness of the Australian Government and the UNHCR we came here in 1999″, she said.
Khoshnow believes the current Australian Government has failed the men on Manus and continues to use the crisis as a political ploy. There is always the underlying implication that they have done something criminal and they are to be feared.
“I’m a refugee myself, I hope I’m not scary. No one wants to be a refugee—we did not want to be refugees. It’s so unfortunate when you have to leave your home” says Khoshnow.
Referring to her own family, Khoshnow also stresses the deep value these men could bring to their communities if only given the chance.
“My mother is an obstetrician and gynaecologist she serves her community. My brother is a musician. My dad works in the community serving people” she says. “We’ve had every opportunity to flourish and to give back. And we love our home. This is home for us now. And it’s because of this that we really feel these men deserve to call somewhere home as well. They are human beings.”
“We’ve treated them so poorly for so long, it’s time to evacuate them somewhere safe. They’ve spent too many years wasting their beautiful lives.”
The group carried out the protest for a number of hours before their chains were cut loose and they were issued warning notices by the police.