The Sudanese refugee advocate Abdul Aziz Muhamat has been presented with the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva. In his acceptance speech, Muhamat laid bare what he referred to as atrocities meted out by the Australian governmentto refugees on Manus Island and in Nauru.
Muhamat fled his conflict-ridden home country, Sudan, in 2013. He flew to Indonesia and continued his journey to Australia from there on a boat. Muhamat’s boat was intercepted by the Australian authorities, and he was transferred to the country’s offshore immigration system at Lombrum naval base on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea. He was granted refugee status in 2015, but remains on the island, along with several other asylum-seekers.
In his speech, Muhamat recalls how he was locked in a cage, “like an animal”, in a democratic country. He also mentions how authorities on Manus Island replace the names and identities of refugees with numbers. Unless they can quote their numbers, refugees on the island are denied potable water, food, and medical access.
In his speech, an emotional Mahmut also acknowledged the plight of refugees around the world and their struggles for their rights.
Behrooz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian asylum-seeker also stationed in Manus Island, recently won Australia’s $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature for his novel No Friend But the Mountains, which he wrote one text message at a time.