Manus refugee wins global human rights award

1:16 pm on 14 February 2019

A Sudanese refugee detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island for almost six years has won an international award for human rights defenders.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat was one of three finalists for this year's Martin Ennals Award and announced Laureate at a ceremony in Geneva.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat Photo: Michael Green

Representatives from ten of the world's leading human rights organisations select the winner, who demonstrates commitment to human rights, despite the risks involved.

The chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Dick Oosting, said Mr Muhamat had never stopped raising his voice for those who had been stripped of their most basic rights.

The refugee had showed extraordinary tenacity and courage, always resisting peacefully even after a police officer shot him in the leg, Mr Oosting said.

When asked about the situation on Manus where about 600 refugees are detained by Australia, Mr Huhamat said it was "at crisis point".

"We need help. Many refugees and asylum seekers are sick. We have already lost 12 innocent men due to medical negligence. Many more people, including children, have attempted suicide," he said.

"Our situation becomes worse every day that the Australian Government keeps us as political hostages. We have been in prison for almost six years. We need freedom and safety. We need hope."

However, the refugee said he was not optimistic things would improve.

"The future on Manus Island is very dark. We are all living day to day and just trying to help each other survive. There is so much hopelessness and a sense of being powerless," Mr Muhamat said.

"I never think about my future. I just think about how to continue helping other people until they are free and living in safety. It's hard to think about the future as long as we are not free. But I hope to see a future when human rights are recognized and respected in every country."

Mr Muhamat was reportedly granted a temporary visa enabling him to travel to Switzerland but he will return to Manus Island.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat in Geneva.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat in Geneva. Photo: Facebook / Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs