This report gathers what we do know from past inquiries and reports, media reports, and from information obtained through parliamentary proceedings, as referenced in this report (and, as conditions change quickly, providing the date of the information). Wherever possible, we have relied on credible media reports, which are consistent or verified by those we trust. Another trusted source contributed other information for this report, including from local residents of Manus Island.
Much of the report comes from the men living in PNG themselves. The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) spoke to several men in telephone interviews during October 2018. The information from those interviews that is included in this report has been independently confirmed by at least two sources, unless otherwise indicated. For reasons of privacy and security the sources have not been identified, except with their consent.
Some of the men we spoke to dedicated hours to tell us about what was happening to them and their friends, and some shared personal and difficult stories. Some made sure we knew of those who were more vulnerable or isolated, and who could not speak to us. This is their story to tell, and we are indebted to them for trusting us with that story.
In a climate of secrecy, much of what we know today about the situation of people on Manus Island and Port Moresby is mainly thanks to men like these. These are men who, despite all that they have gone through, continue to speak up. They speak up for the most vulnerable. They tell us about their lives and their fears, and what is really happening to them. They do so tirelessly, often selflessly, and certainly at great personal cost.
They have not only spoken up through the media, but have taken control of their own stories through film, photography, cartoons and their own writings. We have reproduced some of those writings in this report and online, and thank those involved, especially Janet Galbraith, the coordinator of the website Writing through Fences. These are the men who refuse to be silenced, and who should not be forgotten.
Benham Satah: Despite his extraordinary ordeal (as detailed later in this report), he has been a regular spokesperson, advocate and an interpreter for many from the very beginning.
Shamindan Kanapadhi: He speaks regularly about issues in Manus Island, including lack of medical care and mental health support. Shamindan also provided regular updates to media about the treatment of people who remained at the regional processing centre when it closed.Kazem, Kaveh, Rahman and Farhad: Among others, these men have written poems and stories in Writing through Fences, a website that showcases the works of those who are in or who have spent time in detention.
Behrouz Boochani: A Kurdish-Iranian journalist, he has published an award-winning book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, has filmed and co-directed a movie, Chauka, Please Tell us the Time using mobile phone images. He has also written extensively for various leading news organisations, collaborated with a playwright Nazanin Sahamizadeh on a play called Manus and participated in many forums and conferences remotely from Manus Island, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. He has won multiple awards including Anna Politkovskaya 2018 investigative journalism award and Amnesty International Australia’s 2017 media award.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat: He has been reporting from Manus Island since March 2016 via short WhatsApp messages, which have formed the basis of a Walkley Award-winning podcast series, the Messenger. He has also contributed significantly through media, forums and conferences, and is one of three nominees for an international human rights award.
Kaaveh Maleknia: He had his first photo exhibition in Perth in June 2018, Beautifully Suffered, showcasing landscape photos of Manus Island, while he remained on Manus Island.
Amir Taghinia: The only man from Manus to have resettled in Canada, he recently participated in SBS’s new season of Go Back to Where You Came From.
Imran Mohammad: Recently resettled in the US, he has reported on the living conditions on the Island and won Amnesty International Australia’s blogging competition.
Imran, Amir and Abdul Aziz Muhamat also participated in SBS’s virtual reality project, Inside Manus.