US deal bittersweet for Manus Island detainees

10:08 am on 21 September 2017

Refugees detained on Manus Island say they have mixed feelings about news that 54 of Australia's offshore detainees have been accepted for resettlement in the US.


The 54 are the first of up to 1250 detainees in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who are to be taken in by the US.

There are 928 people detained on Manus and 1135 on Nauru, according to the Human Rights Law Centre.

Ben Moghimi.

Ben Moghimi. Photo: supplied

Iranian refugee Ben Moghimi is with a group of about 100 Manus Island detainees in Port Moresby awaiting medical treatment.

None of those men were part of the first US intake and Mr Moghimi said that had left them feeling anxious.

"But you know it's not anxious actually it's kind of mixed feelings. I don't know if I should be happy or should be sad or should be anxious. We are kind of confused," Mr Moghimi said.

"I would love to go United States but I don't know when they are going to interview me and I'm a bit worried that they will leave me behind."

Back in the detention centre, Rohingyan refugee Imran Mohammad said 10 Rohingyans had been accepted by the US.

Mr Mohammad, who had just returned from a medical examination with US officials, said in four years of detention he had never seen such happiness in the faces of his fellow Rohingyan detainees, a feeling he also hoped to experience .

"I want to go to America because it is the only option for me to get out of this torturous environment," he said.

"It will allow me to taste my freedom which I have never experienced in my life. It will be the biggest day of my life knowing that I am a recognised citizen of a safe country," he said.

"I don't have to introduce myself as a stateless person anymore. I can be the voice of voiceless people."

Imran Mohammad.

Imran Mohammad. Photo: Supplied

With the Manus Island detention centre due close by the end of October, the men still detained there are being pressured to move to an open 400-bed 'transit centre' in nearby East Lorengau.

Amir Taghinia.

Amir Taghinia. Photo: supplied

However, frequent attacks by locals mean many refugees prefer the safety of detention.

Iranian detainee Amir Taghinia said Australian officials were finding new ways to coerce the men into leaving.

"Cutting water and power. Cutting cleaning services and sanitation, which is already causing many people to fall sick ... now they are cutting smokes.

"The majority of the guys, they are relying on smokes to buy things, they are using smokes as a currency and the department (of immigration and border protection) knows this very well," he said.

"Now they are not providing drinking water on time. Sometimes the whole area is running out of drinking water."

Kurdish journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani said the detainees left behind by the US would not accept resettlement in Papua New Guinea.

"We are happy about these guys that they will leave Manus. Finally they will get freedom. But on the other side we are worried," he said.

"Still the Australian government is pushing us to send us to East Lorengau camp. We will resist because they are trying to push us to live in PNG. So we will refuse and we will resist and we don't want to live in this country anymore."

After 51 days of protest in the detention centre, Mr Boochani said the peaceful demonstrations would continue even as Australia began to free its political hostages.

Behrouz Boochani recognised for his reporting under tough conditions

Behrouz Boochani Photo: Facebook

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