I'm A Manus Detainee. Here's What Abbott And Hanson Need To Know

Last week former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised Nauru in public by candidly calling it "a very pleasant island”.

He also described the living conditions of refugees on the island as excellent.

This is not the first time Tony Abbott has expressed such utter nonsense.

During the time he was Prime Minister, he never lost an opportunity to speak out against refugees, to attack them over and over again.

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When he made this recent sweeping statement he did not provide any examples or facts to support what he said. He made a false generalisation of a situation that we refugees have had to endure for many years while imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru. His behaviour is typical of most conservative politicians; this kind of thing has become a common practice among them.

Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison visit Nauru in 2011. (Image: AAP)

The reality is that the most reputable human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN, many Australian-based human rights organisations and an Australian senate inquiry have all written comprehensive reports on many, many occasions.

They have exposed the kind of systematic neglect and abuse that is inflicted on refugees held on Manus and Nauru -- the public knows exactly how horrific the situation is on these two islands.

I think about the deaths of the 12 individuals who perished on these two islands and how most of them died as a result of medical neglect or suicide. These incidents and the circumstances around them say it all.

A protester at the 'Evacuate Manus and Nauru: Five Years Too Long, 12 Deaths Too Many' protest in Sydney. (Image: AAP)

A few days after Tony Abbott made those comments Pauline Hanson of the One Nation Party stated on a Sky News program that the people incarcerated on Nauru have not been recognised as refugees. And when she was confronted by objections from former Senator Sam Dastyari she continued to assert her claims and maintained her belief that the people on Nauru have not been accepted as refugees.

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However, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Home Affairs, Mandy Newton, confirmed during a recent Senate Estimates Committee hearing that as of October 22 this year 83 percent of the 652 asylum seekers on Nauru (541 people) had been granted refugee status.

A few days after that incident Senator Hanson again attacked the refugees on Nauru by accusing asylum seekers of a deliberate strategy to 'beat the system' by using "children as pawns to get what they want".

She is reported as saying: “Why would you bring more children into the world?”

In my view the most disgusting part of this is that Senator Hanson believes refugees do not have the right to have children during the time they are on Nauru. This is despicable because no one in the world has the right to take away the right of a woman to have children, regardless of the conditions.

This is the extent of the rhetorical abuse aimed at a group of innocent human beings who have already been in detention for more than five years, in addition to being targets of a sadistic political program.

It is hard to imagine the volume of violent abuse coming out of the mouths of these politicians. It is hard to imagine that there are still politicians who would utter the most harmful things about refugees, in particular about that which is most sacred to a woman and aimed at destroying the life of a child.

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What is clear is that the history of the prisons on Manus Island and Nauru has been well documented. In future no one will be able to deny what took place on these two islands.

Individuals like Tony Abbott and Pauline Hanson are perfect examples of politicians who play critical roles in shaping and ingraining this kind of violence.

They perpetrate this violence without realising that they will one day oblige a future Prime Minister to make an official apology.

Politicians have been complacent for all the years we have been incarcerated and have not faced sufficient pressure while they have been attacking refugees. Now they have to face a new, independent stand by the public. It seems that public opinion cannot tolerate their form of destructive rhetoric. What I mean is that this kind of rhetorical violence was politically beneficial until recently when a powerful message was sent to those who have been using vulnerable refugees as political footballs.

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The era of political gain through persecution of refugees is coming to an end. In an unprecedented win, Kerryn Phelps was elected to the seat of Wentworth beating the favoured Liberal candidate. As part of her campaign for the by-elections she openly announced that her priority was to free the refugees from offshore detention centres. This support for our cause did not result in a decrease of popularity; instead, it was one of the main reasons she was elected.

It seems that Australian public opinion is turning around slowly but surely, and more people are starting to oppose the policy of exiling refugees to Manus and Nauru. Holding refugees on these two islands does not accrue the same political capital it once did. In order to make sense of this issue one needs a particularly savvy understanding of politics: and this issue is something that a failed politician like Tony Abbott simply cannot comprehend.

Translation: Omid Tofighian, American University in Cairo/University of Sydney

Feature Image: AAP