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  • A March 21, 2014 Asylum seekers staring at media from behind a fence at the Oscar compound in the Manus Island detention centre, Papua New Guinea. (AAP)
The passage of medical evacuation bill by the Australian Parliament has returned hope to sick refugees and asylum seekers on Manus, say Afghans who are currently being held on Manus Island.
Besmillah Mohabbat

13 Feb 2019 - 5:15 PM  UPDATED 15 Feb 2019 - 12:46 PM

Afghan asylum seeker Walid Zazai arrived at Christmas Island in August 2013 and after few months he found himself on the Papua New Guinea island of Manus.

He says he was forced to flee his home because of his work with a US Army sub-contractor construction company.  

“They (the Taliban) said I’m helping infidels,” he told SBS Dari.

Mr Zazai describes the current situation of his fellow refugees as “so critical”, many with mental and physical illness.

“They only have the sleeping pills to help them get some sleep and get rid of pain for a few hours”, he said.

Those seriously sick are being sent to Port Moresby, but “there are no proper facilities to give them proper treatment” there he said.

He said there are few doctors and nurses available for the refugees held on Manus, “but they are not professionals and they don’t have facilities”.

For issues such as dental care, doctors refer people to the local hospital which he says only has one dentist and when they go there, they’re being asked: “Why you come here? This is not for refugees”.

Ahmad Zahir is another Afghan asylum seeker who left his government job and fled the Taliban in 2013. He arrived on Christmas Island in May 2013 and was transferred to Manus after three days.

He said he was once sent to Port Moresby for a sinus operation but because of the lack of qualified doctors, he had to undergo the same operation twice.

“I could see hope in their eyes”

Mr Zazai said asylum seekers on Manus were happy for the passage of medevac bill through the Australian parliament.

“I could see hope in their eyes yesterday”, he said.

“I saw smiles on their faces and a little hope.” 

The medical evacuation bill allows two doctors to recommend the critically-ill asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia.

The government has repeatedly warned that the bill that was passed against its will could re-start the people smuggling trade.

But the opposition says the amendments to the bill only apply to those who are currently held on Nauru and Manus islands.

Mr Zazai said there was no hope left for critically ill refugees on Manus and they “were thinking that we will die soon.

“But now they have a bit of hope that they will get the treatment and have a healthy life again”.

“We are not criminals”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has repeatedly said that some of the amendments to the medical evacuation bill would allow criminals currently held in offshore detention centres to come to Australia.

But Mr Zazai said: “I want to ask them, who did the crimes? We are not criminals”.

The PNG government has its own laws and anyone who commits a crime should be charged.

“If we are criminals, why they have kept us in detention center? Why they don’t refer us to prosecutor and court?” Ahmad Zahir told SBS Dari.

‘They are punishing us’: Afghan asylum seekers wait years for citizenship confirmation
A series of Afghan asylum seekers allege that the Australian government is withholding their Australian citizenship – years after completing the citizenship test – as punishment for arriving in Australia by boat.

Mr Zazai, meanwhile, says he believes that Australian politicians are using them for their own political gains.

“It’s the Australian government that did the crimes against humanity, it is not us. We are not criminals; we just seek safety, in a safe place in a safe country”, he added.

“All we need is just freedom”.

Between 40 to 50 Afghan asylum seekers are currently being held on Manus Island.