Received an email today from GetUp with what appears to be some very good news:
Dear Peter,Along with the email was this picture:
Today, on World Refugee Day, I received the best message – the news I've been waiting to hear every day now for almost a year: "My family is finally getting off Manus Island!" my young friend told me.
Overjoyed, she asked me to pass this on to you: "Thank you to all the Australians who haven’t abandoned us on the forgotten Island.”
She is the young asylum seeker who earlier this year revealed the appalling conditions in the Manus Island detention centre during an exclusive recorded interview with us. Thanks to GetUp members, her message reached millions all over the country.
In that interview she shared her grief for the very young children who felt like they were being punished for something, but couldn't figure out what. She recounted the heartbreaking story of a young boy, only 8 years old, who would lie down next to the fence and stare off into the distance, wishing he was a dove so he could fly away. She feared for his mental health. I feared for hers.
But today, I've heard news that my friend was one of the sixty-five asylum seekers who were removed from the notoriously inhumane facilities on Manus Island detention centre. It's because of you – and refugee advocates everywhere - that Manus is no longer 'the forgotten Island'. Our movement rallied together - sending postcards, emailed MPs, and ran TV ads – sharing the stories of the children on Manus in order to ensure that these families would not remain out of sight, out of mind. We did it.
You might remember the moment in the campaign, back in March, when the children saw their drawings on this website and learned their stories were being told on TV. She contacted me on that day and through tears of happiness said the children were literally dancing with joy. They were dancing because they felt that if we could hear their stories, they wouldn't be forgotten. We'd have to help them. They were right.
Today, on World Refugee Day, we should all take a moment to feel proud about what our movement's actions have done to bring about the release of the most vulnerable people out of the shameful and inhumane facilities that make up the Manus Island detention centre. It's a hard fought and long overdue victory.
This is a big step, but it's not yet over for the kids and families we've fought so hard to free. There are still some families – including children – who will need to wait until June 30 before they are released from Manus. Most of those whom have been released were transferred to Christmas Island, where the facilities are so overcrowded that we've heard families are crammed into the dining room. Processing has been stalled so numbers continue to rise.
But for now, we should congratulate those who made it happen. Today would not have happened without the sustained and tireless campaigning from amazing people and groups in the refugee space including, but not limited to, ChilOut, Amnesty International, Sarah Hanson-Young and the Greens, retiring Liberal MP Judi Moylan and the countless other refugee advocacy groups. A big thank you!
Today is a moment on the Manus campaign we can all be proud of, but the fight for a more humane system for processing asylum seekers and refugees who flee to Australia – including no child in detention – is one that we'll continue to fight and continue to update you on.
Leila, for the GetUp team
Thanks to anyone who followed the links from here and took action through GetUp to let our ignorant politicians know that we thought it wasn't OK to lock up children and families in jail.
If anyone hasn't seen them yet, these were some of the pictures coming out of Manus Island from the children:
This will not be forgotten and is a very black mark on Australia's reputation and it's commitment to uphold human rights. We should also remember that Manus Island isn't the only place where the Australian gov locks up children either.
An email from Amnesty International has arrived putting a more realistic picture of the situation in Australia with children in jail:
Dear Peter1,600? Fuck, didn't realise there was that many.
We've just heard the news that kids are being taken out of Manus Island detention centre, for now. This is great news for those 22 kids and their families, but they will likely join more than 1,600 other children locked up in detention centres across Australia.
The government is sending more children to detention centres than ever before. With regular reports of children committing self-harm, this only shows how urgently we need to get kids out of detention - NOW.
Generous Amnesty supporters have already helped raise over $32,000 for our Save A Childhood appeal. Peter, can you help us continue our vital work with a donation of $50?