From an episode of Uncommon SensePresented by Ben Eltham

Interview

Uncommon Sense: Asylum Seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat Tells the Truth about Life on Manus Island

‘I thought I should just find a place far away from my home country where I could start my life.’ Asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat escaped South Sudan’s civil war in 2013 making his way from Indonesia to Australia by boat. Little did Abdul know that he’d be spending the next six years on Manus Island and unable to leave.

Earlier this year, Abdul was given special permission to travel to Geneva from Papua New Guinea to accept the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award for his activism work while being detained. It was while in Switzerland that he was granted political asylum.

Speaking to Uncommon Sense fill-in host Ben Eltham, Abdul details the inhumane conditions he and many other asylum seekers encountered while being detained in offshore detention. He mentions that there are 818 men and women trapped in offshore centres like Manus and Nauru that have nowhere to go, no future, and who’ve lost all hope. Says Abdul, ‘This is clearly a breach of human rights [...] It’s just like hell and even worse than that because we’ve been exposed to such an inhumane condition.’

Comparing Manus to a concentration camp, Abdul refers to how asylum seekers have their names replaced with numbers. Not only this, they’re also deprived of the fundamental right to receive medical treatment with no one around to support them. Says Abdul, ‘The only thing you could do on the island is try and pray and pray as much as you can.’

When asked what he would say to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Abdul replies, ’When you put us in that place your idea is to leave us there forever. But we are not going to be there forever. There will be a time, one day we will walk away and we’ll tell this story […] You can be cruel as much as you want but remember, part of you is still human just like me, just like everyone.’

Image: Michael Green/The Wheeler Centre

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Listen to Uncommon Sense: Asylum Seeker Abdul Aziz Muhamat Tells the Truth about Life on Manus Island26:502 July 2019