These are the faces of the forgotten: a catalogue of lost hope.
The photos, on Immigration Department documents leaked from Christmas Island, show most are from persecuted minorities: Rohingyas from Myanmar; Hazaras from Afghanistan; Tamils from Sri Lanka; and the long-oppressed Kurds.
And they bust the myth that the majority of asylum seekers are young men. A four-year-old girl peers mournfully from the page; a boy of the same age wears a look of confusion.
Instead of playing with toys, these kids are locked up in a“concentration camp”, in the words of one former worker.
Even worse, they’re the victims of “state sanctioned child abuse”, according to a group of church leaders.
“Our situation is very bad because all of the client are trying to kill them self (sic),” one detainee, *Ahdi, originally from Sri Lanka, tells me via email.
“Before yesterday one of my other friend she is from Somalia she hung herself but god kept her alive.”
During her year on Christmas Island, Ahdi says the staff, “treat us like an animal”.
“Yesterday one of my friend from Myanmar, she went to medical. She had very bad stomach ache and headache. She couldn’t sit on the chair so she sat on the floor, after that the office call the nurse, nurse came there and checked her and told to the office, she is alright and she kicked her ……HOW CAN THE NURSE DO THAT???”**
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, ProfessorGillian Triggs, heard similar stories during her visit as part of an inquiry into children in immigration.
She confirms 13 mothers are on suicide watch after 11 attempted self-harm on July 7 using “various methods”, according to Fairfax: “One woman put a bag over her head three times, drank half a bottle of detergent and used a broken mirror to cut herself.”
“This incident on July 7 has been smothered by a blanket,” Professor Triggs says.
An AFP whistleblower says, on the same day, another woman jumped from the roof, breaking her ribs.
The following day, he had to cut down a male asylum seeker from a rope.
A month earlier there was a “full scale riot”, with detainees bashing their heads against the concrete.
“There was blood everywhere,” the informant says.
The debate around asylum seekers has become dehumanised; desperate people digitised. They want their stories told, and their photos shown.
When you look at their faces, you realise they’re just like us: mums and dads and sons and daughters and cousins and aunties and uncles.
Unlike us, they’re treated inhumanely for trying to fulfill basic human needs: to escape danger; seek shelter; create a future for their children.
Comments by Scott Morrison – and literature published by the Immigration Department – implying the majority of Tamils, Kurds, Rohingyas, and Hazaras are economic migrants, are plain wrong.
In Afghanistan last week, 15 Hazaras were dragged off a bus and shot dead. Prior to the shooting, gunmen checked their ID cards to make sure they were of the despised ethnic minority.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International claims Sri Lankan authorities have intensified security operations in Tamil areas since March, with scores of arrests and several deaths.
According to The Sentinel Project, “the overall risk of genocide in Sri Lanka is medium to high”, as, “conditions point to a likely renewal of conflict in Sri Lanka that could escalate to mass atrocities including genocide”.
These are the people Mr. Morrison says are not fleeing persecution.
They’re among 100,000 Sir Lankan Tamils languishing in Indian refugee camps, where six huts collapsed recently, killing a young girl.
Ahdi has been seeking asylum for six years, travelling by plane from Sri Lanka to Singapore, bus to Malaysia then boat to Indonesia and Australia.
“i am already lost my 6 years i don’t no How long will last (sic),” she writes.
“every day when i wake up. i just think what will happen today. which friend going to kill them self. where is my future all my life in detention.
i need freedom. who can help us?”
*Ahdi asked us to publish her photo for family back home. “My family waiting fo this pic so they are happy now. really thanks (sic).”
** These claims are reported verbatim from an asylum seeker living in the Christmas Island detention camp. The Hoopla has been unable to independently verify these claims.
Cover image: photos of asylum seekers imprisoned on Christmas Island, taken from detention centre documents leaked to The Hoopla.