The Guardian has reported this morning of receiving hand-written letters from a number of male detainees at the Manus Island Detention Centre, outlining their extreme fear of being persecuted for being homosexual if they are settled in Papua New Guinea.
From of the six letters translated by The Guardian, it is clear that the treatment of asylum seekers in the Australian-run centre is still way below sub-par. Even after the uproar after the death of Reza Berati, and the completely avoidable death of Hamid Kehazaei, the conditions have not improved on the island, as the four men who penned the letters detail instances where they were sexually assaulted, abused, and bullied within the centre.
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The most glaring part of all six letters is the genuine fear in these men’s lives about being persecuted for their sexuality when they are resettled in Papua New Guinea. It is well known that homosexuality is illegal in PNG, and carries a jail term.
One man wrote in his letter – which has been reported that it was a suicide note – that he was ‘so sorry to be born gay’ and that he wished his boat had sunk at sea, rather than be intercepted and directed to Manus Island. These people are preferring death over being in a detention centre that our government runs.
The same man writes that he thought that Australia was going to be ‘his protector’, but he has learnt otherwise.
All the letters were written by Iranian men, who fled from Iran, where homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by death.
The letters also outline how the writers have either contemplated, or attempted suicide, and have self-harmed whilst detained on Manus Island.
As reported by The Guardian, a spokesperson for the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has made a statement about the mental health of the gay refugees that the letters are from.
We are particularly alarmed that some have either self-harmed or contemplated taking their lives. This highlights the need for improved medical, social and legal support for all detainees, and particularly for groups who are already vulnerable to violence, discrimination and even further imprisonment in these circumstances, particularly LGBTI people.
It is also reported that Amnesty International have continuously questioned the health and safety of homosexual asylum seekers detained at Manus Island, but with no response from the Australian Department of Immigration.