Manus refugee says most of the remaining detainees don't want to come to Australia

Kurdish journalist and Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani has told an Australian audience that the men remaining in offshore detention just want to be allowed to leave.

A Manus Island refugee has said most of the men remaining in offshore immigration detention centres don't actually want to come to Australia. 

Speaking via video call from Papua New Guinea on Wednesday night, Kurdish journalist and Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani told a La Trobe university event that the men "just want to get off this island". 

"The [refugee advocates] say 'bring them here' but most of the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru don't want to go to Australia," he said.

"The government always says 'these people want to come to our country' but we don't want ... to go to Australia. So, just let us go."

Mr Boochani spoke as part of a La Trobe University Ideas & Society event.
Source: Supplied

Mr Boochani, who has been detained on Manus Island for six years, said there were 370 asylum seekers remaining on the Papua New Guinea island, 70 of which, he said, have already been accepted by the US.

On Nauru, he said, 60 men had also been accepted by the US and are waiting to fly, which would leave approximately 200 men on the island.

As of April this year, Senate estimates revealed that 508 people had already been resettled in the US from Manus Island and Nauru with "further departures anticipated in the coming months".

The resettlements are the result of a 2016 bilateral agreement between Australia and the US, which US Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom said was aimed at relieving "the suffering of these refugees".

Speaking to SBS News on Thursday, Mr Boochani said most of the detainees are very happy to never go to Australia, they just want their basic human rights. 

"What is important for us is to get freedom and it is not necessary that we go to Australia," he said.

"Of course there are a few people who want to go to Australia because their families are living there but most people only want to get off this island."

Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island.
Source: AAP

Earlier on Wednesday, refugee advocates said seven refugees from Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka were scheduled to depart Nauru for the US that night.

Despite the large numbers of refugees expected to be settled in the US, a Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson said the US deal still falls hundreds of places short. 

“The Australian government has run out of options," Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said in a statement.

"Except for New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees, which has so far been rejected by the government, there are no other third country resettlement countries."

Mr Boochani urged the Australian government to reconsider New Zealand's offer to accept at least 150 refugees being held on Nauru or Manus Island.

"We are not too many people here in Manus Island and Nauru," he said.

"It is the time that they do something for us, or at least accept the New Zealand offer."

Mr Boochani added that the spike in self-harm cases that plagued Manus Island following the Liberal party victory in the May federal election had stabilised. 

At the height of the crisis, which saw more than 25 refugees and asylum seekers attempt suicide or self-harm, the main hospital on the island was unable to cope with the sudden surge in patients and was forced to turn people away.

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

Published 11 July 2019 at 3:18pm
By Maani Truu