The closure of Manus Island Detention Centre is a ‘process’ (for want of a better word)

“Everything is processing at this point.”

Such is cruelty wrapped in the banal language of the bureaucrat who serves as his master’s voice.

The utterer was a spokesman for the Minister for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. One could read the comment as a bare statement of fact. Irrefutable. Everything is processing at this point. It may as well be a statement on life, the universe and all parts within. Growth and entropy. Birth and death. Hope and despair.

But it was not; it was something larger that lives within the timeline of an insidious slow-drip torture. The remark from a few days ago was in response to the closing on Tuesday of the detention centre within Lombrum Navy Base on Manus island, whereupon the refugees will be moved into three other facilities in the vicinity of the island’s main town of Lorengau.

The asylum seekers were living off food parcels, while anxiety ate away at them.

Daniel Webb, the legal advocacy director for the Human Rights Law Centre told Australian Associated Press at the weekend that the asylum seekers were “tense and they are frightened. The refugees are terrified of violence if they stay inside the detention centre and if they leave.

‘‘Many local people are angry, particularly at the Australian government, so it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

The refugees’ solution is to barricade themselves inside the centre. They fear for their lives, not for the first time.

But here in Australia, in the chambers of Parliament, in the conscience of our political leaders, there is a dead calm. For they can look into their hearts and absolve their actions. For metaphorically, they did not place hands around necks. They did not, personally, squeeze the life out. They did not hang the noose from on high.

So how could they take the blame for what has unfolded, is unfolding? They were not there. They had left. It was someone else’s problem. How could the moral responsibility be theirs? How could they be criticised by international human rights groups, be censured by UN human rights groups and officers – for what, being themselves? Yet, the government is the nation. The stain spreads over all, and that is an act of betrayal, and bastardry, to all those who think these actions of inhumanity do not define who we are.

A note, the last warning to refugees, has been put up. It reads, in part:

“Final message to refugees and non-refugees at the Manus Regional Processing Centre. The Manus RPC will close at 5pm today (Tuesday). All power and water will cease. There will be no food supplied. . . You have been advised that accommodation and services have transferred to alternative locations. You have been given access to transport to take you to these alternative locations. Transport is still available. Move to alternative accommodation now.”

In The Guardian, Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee who has been on Manus for more than three years wrote on Sunday:Today the refugees receive pre-packaged food; now the long queues for food that existed throughout the history of the prison have disappeared. The PNG police force and navy are walking around outside the camp – it seems their numbers have increased. A lot of Australian guards have left Manus and we have just been left alone here.

Everything, here, in the political world, is defending the indefensible.

“The presence of the military has evoked an extraordinary fear. We have not been sleeping properly lately. We are expecting an attack from someone at any moment. There is nothing more agonising than witnessing the agony of others, and what is even worse is having no choice but to write about them. I am weary from writing. I am weary from writing about people who have died. I am horrified at the thought of writing.”

PNG’s Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas said Australia had to find a solution. His country had done all it had to do under the processing arrangement.

The refugees’ solution is to barricade themselves inside the centre. They fear for their lives, not for the first time. Note to Australian government: It’s why they sought asylum. They feared for their lives in their own country. What do we care? We ship them to an environment where they fear, again for their lives. (And just to show that we play no favourites, here in Australia to a certain class of refugee, we ban them having a pet.)

That’s the process.

“Everything is processing at this point.”

Everything, here, in the political world, is defending the indefensible. George Orwell, who wrote that nearly a century ago, said in Politics and the English Language that when “When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocitiesiron heelbloodstained tyrannyfree peoples of the worldstand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy . . .

“A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine . . . And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.”

And that’s what this process of playing politics has done. When we turned our heads away, averted our eyes, we damned them, and us. We used language to even out the enormity of the vile actions. We thought we found security. We found sinking sand.

Image: Manus Island Detention Centre. Wikimedia Commons

4 responses to “The closure of Manus Island Detention Centre is a ‘process’ (for want of a better word)

  1. These illegals have had notice since last year that Manus was shutting.
    Q -,Why was it shutting.
    A – Because the illegals lawyers went to the PNG Supreme Court who decided it should be shut.
    I still need a clear Explaination how these illegals from Iran, Iraq , Bangladesh , Afganastan have
    travel by air , crossed borders , entered countries with no ID , no Passport and no money . Is it
    a true miracle?
    Furthermore it must be recorded that the behaviour of these illegals towards the local PNG folk has
    been disgraceful, abusive and threatening . The yelling of rape threats towards women of all ages is
    common practice. The locals have had enough , quite simple. Who can condone this social behaviour? Do you want them as neighbours?

  2. Along with the treatment of Aborigines, I’ve never been more ashamed to be Australian with how we have accepted the treatment of these unfortunate people. It’s even been said that a number of Australians don’t think we have treated them harshly enough. I regret the ALP’s cowardly part in this hideous saga, and the truly monstrous Peter Dutton’s capacity for cruelty but this all started with John Howard and the Tampa and his insistence that no boat people will ever set foot on Australian soil, or some such bombastic statement. What a miserable legacy that man left behind.

    1. At the time of Tampa and the Pauline Hanson genie being let out of the bottle, I believe Malcolm Fraser chastised John Howard, saying something like..”You can’t have a little bit of racism. Once you let the genie out of the bottle, it’s very hard to get it back in”.

  3. I understand and not surprised at the actions of the obnoxious Peter Dutton and his government colleagues. I find it harder to understand the supposedly ‘principled’ ALP in joining the Libs and National Party in a race to an ever deeper bottom. Thee offshore processing aand the non-acceptance these refugees is a disgrace to our nation.

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