AROUND 40 people attended a recent public forum to hear about the conditions asylum seekers on Manus Island are facing.
The forum was hosted by Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugees (BVRAR) at the Bega CWA Hall with guest speaker Bede Carmody, Southern NSW Amnesty International’s community organiser.
Mr Carmody discussed the findings in the report by Amnesty International, This Is Breaking People, which examined the treatment and conditions of 1100 refugees currently detained on Manus Island in a policy by the Australian Government.
It is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia, and there are 1.3 refugees for every 1000 people in Australia.
This Is Breaking People stated the Manus Island refugees human rights have been violated by suffering cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and being kept in arbitrary detention – being held without any idea of when they will be processed.
The Amnesty report said the refugees are kept in illegal conditions where they are given half a litre of water per day, and detaining them costs Australia an estimated $1billion annually.
“[This money] could be spent elsewhere if we didn’t have this policy,” Mr Carmody said.
The questions from the crowd came thick and fast, and people were soon asking what steps they could take to help the situation.
Mr Carmody said ways to help were to write to local MPs in order to draw more attention to the issue, as well as educate more people about the truth of asylum seekers.
“The turn-out was really good,” Mr Carmody said.
“The more I travel the more and more I see people coming out who want to know more about the issue and what to do.”
He said he had seen a lot of activism for refugees returning to the “grass roots groups”, which was good as awareness “has to start locally”.
BVRAR coordinator Hallie Fernandez-Markov said she was “positive” about the event and there were “lots interested”.
BVRAR undertakes various activities in order to support refugees.
These include public awareness campaigns, teaching English as a second language for local resident asylum seekers, and holding fundraising events to help refugees.
On May 16, six Afghan refugees will be visiting the Bega Valley as part of the home hospitality respite program for asylum seekers residing in cities, where they will stay at three different homes in the community and have tours around the Bega Valley.