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2021: Letter from detained Melbourne refugees to The Honourable Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria

To The Honourable Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria Level 1/1 Treasury Place East Melbourne VICTORIA 3002

May 1, 2021

Dear Premier We sincerely hope that you are recovering well from your injuries and that you will return to your role as Premier in strength. Premier, this is not the first time you have been contacted about our struggles. We know many of the good people of Victoria have written to you. This is the first time, however, that we have written to you directly.

We were encouraged to read that the Queensland government announced extra support for asylum seekers and refugees yesterday, our friends are very much in need of help so the announcement was good for us to hear. In saying that we would like to honour you for your strong support of refugees, we have seen that and it has also been a great encouragement to us. Premier, we believe you understand the battle we are in. We are sure you understand that we have been incarcerated for eight years now, around six years offshore and two years in Australia since being evacuated here for urgent medical care. We are not naive, we have had a very long time to research the issues surrounding our incarceration. We are intelligent men and women and have of course searched desperately, over the many years, for answers to every question you could imagine in order to try and make sense of what has happened to us. We understand that we arrived in Australia at a time when the politics of this very beautiful nation took an ugly turn. Premier we know that we are trapped in a political game and that we have little power to end it. We know we are victims of politics. When we left our homes, when we boarded boats, when we disembarked here and asked for asylum we did no wrong. We are sure you know that. The Australian Parliament website said then as it does today - that we should not, as asylum seekers, be punished for the type of transport we are forced to use. We asked asylum from Australia because we believed it would be a place of safety for us. We believed that a nation that had signed the Refugee Convention would honour our request for a refuge in accordance with International law. Senator Kim Carr supported us in Senate Estimates in November 2013 when he asked Liberal government officials to confirm that our request for asylum was legal and that we had committed no crime. For eight years we have had no opportunity to advance our lives. Eight years we have not been allowed any kind of meaningful activity. Eight years we have had no opportunity to build a career, marry, have families, reunite with our loved ones or enjoy freedom or safety. In Manus we saw a friend murdered. We also saw a friend die from a neglected infection. There have been many deaths. In Nauru we also witnessed terrible deaths. Friends set themselves on fire. A mother begged for treatment for her son for months. When he died she sat beside the refrigerated truck his body was kept in crying and begging for him to be buried by their family in Australia. Suicide attempts were so common in Manus and Nauru that guards were ordered to carry Hoffman knives at all times so they could cut down people trying to hang themselves. We have all seen so much blood and sadness, including our children, that we sometimes fear that we will never recover from these terrible days. We are shadows of the people we were when we arrived. Approximately one third of the people who arrived in Christmas Island were sent to Australia - they are no different from us. Approximately one third was sent to Manus and the other third to Nauru. We were randomly divided. Why are we still suffering? People from the same boats as us are prospering in Australia now. They have businesses and families - they were so lucky to escape the hellish life we had offshore. Some of our friends are still trapped offshore. Since December last year almost half of us were released into the community with work rights. They were randomly chosen too. There is no difference between us and them. Why are we still trapped behind fences and surrounded by guards and cameras? Why are we not free? How much more do the people of Australia think we can handle? We are the walking dead. We go to sleep hoping we will not wake up in the morning because every single day feels like a year to us. Many of us cannot eat more than one meal a day because we do nothing. We sit for most of the day. There is nothing to do. We are adults and they offer us Bingo for an activity, that is how little they respect our condition. We have little conversation now, we have said everything to each other. We do not think we can last much longer, the tiniest piece of bad news is devastating to us because we have become so fragile. We need freedom. We need to recover. We need to walk in the sun and breathe fresh air. We need to start living again. Premier please help us. We do not know what you can do for us but we must ask. We are suffering and this feels like the end game. We hope you can hear us. We hope Australians can hear us too and understand that it is time for us to be allowed to heal. Thank you for your valuable time. The signatures below are a portion of our number. As you would know it is difficult for us to print and distribute a letter such as this to every refugee held in Melbourne detention, we are in different locations - every one of us needs freedom though. We know you understand that. We are trying to post the original letter to you but it is hard for some of us to access a printer and also to post it. The following images are scanned copies of those originals.

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