'Fake deal, fake process': Manus asylum seekers angry over Trump-Turnbull transcript

Image from @TaghiniaAmir on Twitter Source: Twitter

Asylum seekers being held in Australian immigration detention on Manus Island have responded to the release of a phone call transcript in which the PM told the US president he could decide who to take or not take in the refugee swap.

The publication of the transcript of the first phone call between the then new US president Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been met with anger on Manus Island.

When Mr Trump asked Mr Turnbull about the details of the refugee swap deal brokered under the previous US administration, Mr Turnbull said the US was only obliged to "go through the process".

Iranian Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani told SBS World News via phone that the transcript shows the deal was not a real option for asylum seekers being held on Manus Island and Nauru.

He also rejected Mr Turnbull’s claim that most of those seeking asylum are “economic refugees” as disingenuous.

“It is only propaganda… this deal is a fake deal. And the American president clearly said that ‘we are not going to take these people',” said Mr Boochani, who has been imprisoned on the island for four years.

“They only needed this fake deal to put people through a fake process to waste time.

“They don’t want people to settle in PNG. There is not a future for us in this country, and this is not a safe country. There is enough evidence that this is not a safe country for the refugee.”

Turnbull on leaked call with Trump
Turnbull on leaked call with Trump

The release of the transcript comes amid protests by asylum seekers against leaving the facility for a temporary transit centre in the island’s main town of Lorengau.

The protests reportedly began on Tuesday after water and power supplies were cut off at the centre’s largest compound on Monday.

Mr Boochani said Australian Federal Police were leading local officers in attempting to enter the facility but were denied by asylum seekers in their way.

There were reports that three refugees were attacked and robbed in separate incidents outside of the compound at the weekend, including a Sudanese asylum seeker who suffered leg wounds from a machete, an Iranian who was injured in an armed hold up and another man robbed while walking.

Mr Boochani said life inside was “systematic torture” for the asylum seekers, but was preferable to life in PNG or being returned to a country of origin.

Asylum seekers hold sit-down protest at Manus Island on Friday.
Behrouz Boochani

“I cannot go back to Iran. If I go back, they will arrest me at the airport and then torture me physically for months and months and after that they will they will definitely hang me. How can I go back now?

“I have to stay here and resist. Or there is another way. I can kill myself. If I kill myself this game is over.”

Despite the protests being peaceful for the first four days, Mr Boochani said he feared the response of authorities would lead to violence because of provocation.

“The (Department of) Immigration is provoking refugees to make our protest into violence and we don’t want this.

“They need violence to use force against us. But we are not going to make any violence.”

He said the asylum seekers were determined to stay in the detention centre.

“When both sides are determined, I am sure some violence will happen,” he said.

A tweet posted Friday afternoon stated security forces had withdrawn.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Federal Police have been contacted for comment.  

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