Occupying Labour offices for Refugees on Manus Island

Today activists occupied Labour offices in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin to demand that the government take immediate action to help the refugees on Manus Island.

Below is the letter we handed in.

To Jacinda Ardern,

700 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island need our help. This is a humanitarian crisis in our backyard. Keeping the offer of taking 150 people from Manus and Nauru on the table with Australia is not enough. Offering up to $3 million in aid to PNG, Nauru and aid agencies does not resolve the underlying problem. The human face of this situation should not be ignored. We can and should help all of these people immediately.

These refugees and asylum seekers need urgent help. They have been left without food, water, medicine or power. They have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom. We demand that the New Zealand government do what the Australian Government will not. We should show manaakitanga, take a strong stand for justice and welcome all 700 to Aotearoa New Zealand immediately.

The Australian government and its inhumane and illegal border policies have created this situation that now exists. As a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the Australian Government should be responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. By taking these people to off-shore detention centres and indefinitely detaining them, Australia is in breach of international law and has created this present humanitarian crisis.

You have said in relation to people smugglers that, “Anyone who tries to put at risk vulnerable peoples’ lives should come under the full force of the law.” It is time to apply this standard to the Australian government whose off-shore detention centres have been described as amounting to torture. We demand that the New Zealand government condemn Australia’s inhumane and illegal border policies and urge them to immediately close all off-shore detention facilities and end the policy of stopping and detaining asylum seekers.

This is our chance to challenge Australia rather than buy into and support their ‘Pacific Solution’. Describing these people as ‘boat people’ and empathising with Australia’s ‘problem’ dehumanises refugees and people seeking asylum and only increases distrust and xenophobia towards them. Our silence makes us complicit in Australia’s abuse of human rights until we speak up against them and challenge the negative rhetoric and policies.

The New Zealand government needs to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru off Australia’s hands. This is a toxic deal left over from the National government that had Australia offering to detain people wanting to come to NZ in return. All the people illegally detained by Australia deserve justice. We have the chance to be on the right side of history.

The NZ government must condemn Australia’s illegal and inhumane policies that lead to this crisis. Rather than acquiesing to Australia’s power dynamics, we should be part of creating a fair and due process of people seeking asylum in the Pacific.

We need to act now. The NZ government needs to transport these people immediately to safety. Just like in 1973 and 1995, it’s time to take action – send a frigate and actually evacuate the men now.

-Peace Action Wellington

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