Manus Island refugee addresses UN over Australia's 'cruel' asylum seeker policy

Award-winning Manus Island detainee Abdul Aziz Muhamat has spoken before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat. Source: UN

A Manus Island detainee who won an international human rights award has addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese refugee who has been detained for nearly six years, urged the council to hold the Australian government accountable for the treatment of refugees.

Speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Law Centre, the 25-year-old said: “After 6 years, we deserve our lives back and a future. We urge your mandates to take this up with the Australian government, which deserves to be held accountable by this Council.”


“We have no rights. We are not safe. We cannot go to Australia, or elsewhere, because the Australian Government will not allow it. We cannot go home, as it is unsafe. We are all sick and we have lost hope. We are in limbo.”

He said the impact of six years of Australia's offshore detention policy had exacted a physical and mental toll.

"We are held in cruel and inhumane conditions that amount to torture. 12 people have died. I witnessed my friend being beaten to death by guards."

It is the second time Mr Muhamat has spoken overseas, after getting temporary leave from being inside the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

Last month he was in Geneva to for human rights defenders for exposing “the very cruel asylum seeker policy of the Australian government”.

Mr Muhamat, who fled the war in Sudan as a teenager and attempted to reach Australia by boat, has spoken out against offshore detention.

As Australia begins its fourth session as a member of the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Law Centre is calling on the Australian Government to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by immediately ending its ongoing abuse of innocent men, women and children.

"As the Australian Government sits on the UN Human Rights Council, professing its commitment to human rights, it is indefinitely imprisoning nearly 1000 men and women in offshore refugee camps on Nauru and Manus," said HRLC Legal Director Edwina MacDonald.

"These people have now been detained for nearly six years – imprisoned for fleeing the same atrocities this Government comes to the UN to condemn."

"UN committees and experts have consistently and repeatedly denounced Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees as an abuse of human rights."

3 min read
Published 2 March 2019 at 5:15pm
By Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS News