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A single day out of 1516

Written by Sharafat Ali Sharfi, and light editing by Janet Galbraith of ‘Writing Through Fences‘.

Today is the 1516th day of my life in a camp called the Manus Island Regional Processing Center (MIRPC) run by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea. We were brought here against our will, told that we would be processedand then resettled in Australia or a third country.

My eyes open in the morning and although I am still half asleep the nightmare I see does not allow me to sleep again. Fear fills my head as I think about what will happen after the next 5 days. The Australian government want to close MIRPC at any cost on the 31st of October. As this repeats in my head I am playing with a cricket ball hung from the top of my bunk bed. I push the cricket ball and it comes back to me like like pendulum. I roll over to my right side and start looking at the wall of my bunk bed I made from empty cartons. There are many people in a single hall so everyone creates makeshift walls on his own bunk bed like this for privacy and to try to keep his belongings safe.

Still I am thinking: ‘What will happen after 5 days? What will happen if they take us to Lorengau, the small town on Manus Island?’ In the past few months two other refugees were found dead hanging from trees. Other refugees have been badly injured from knife and machete attacks by local people. Cultural differences, poverty and misinformation breed this violence. Like many here my fear and depression does not allow me to sleep.

I decide to get up and brush my teeth. As I open the hall door, the sun is shining as usual and I can hardly open my eyes. Here, the sunshine reflects on the white coral ground and burns my eyes. When I look up I see that a mentally upset and depressed person who usually sits in the hot sun by our compound gate has flowers in both ears and one in his hand. He holds it up like he is waiting for someone to arrive, or maybe he is imagining that he is in a garden somewhere.

I move on, heading to the showers. After I brush my teeth I return to my room and sit in my bunk bed. I start looking around and wonder whether I should pack my stuff before the police come inside the compound and take us to Lorengau center by force. They will use force because no one is ready and willing to go there. Everyone fears for their lives.

I don’t pack my stuff but sit there for an hour thinking about all the things circling in my head. The thoughts are growing more intense and are making me more depressed so I go outside for some fresh air. I had made a small garden in front of my compound and go to the right side where there is a tree. I sit there in its shade beside the fences. The breeze is nice and some local kids passing by have a soccer ball they are passing to each other which reminds me of my childhood days and how I used to play and love cricket. As soon as I would come back from school and had lunch, or even without lunch, I would take my cricket bat and ball and go out with my cousins and friends to the school ground in our village and play until evening. I still love cricket in the same way I used to love it in my childhood. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to to play proper cricket which was my dream.

It’s lunch time. I decide to go and eat something because I don’t do breakfast. There is a long queue for food – about 40 people – in front of the mess gate. I sit at the end of the queue and after my number is called I go in and find there is curry and white rice. The curry taste is very bad, the meat is not cooked. I just eat the rice and come out of the mess.

At 2 o’clock I join a peaceful protest walk. It is the 87th day of our protest where men hold banners and cards filled with different slogans. asking for us to be afforded humanity. The messages say things like ‘4 years are enough indefinite detention’; ‘PNG is not safe for us’; ’Safety is everyone’s human right’. The main purpose of the protest is to explain that we don’t want to be resettled in Papua New Guinea which is a poor country without the capacity to resettle us safely, that we want to be treated humanely and this indefinite detention put to an end.

As the afternoon goes on I sit at the area near the beach and listen to some good music. It brings me a kind of peace and satisfaction like yoga might.

By 6 o’clock dinner starts and finishes at 8pm so one has to eat in-between these two hours. If you come late there is no meal so I come back and take a shower. The queue for dinner is always double the size for lunch. If something is finished they do not bring more.

Prison and our detention have the same rules but our crime is only that we came to Australia looking for safety. Although it is our human right, according to Australia it is our crime and it is for or that we have been detained here for the last 4 years, since 2013 till now.

After 30 to 35 minutes of waiting in the queue for a meal I have my dinner. I come back to my bed, pick up my pen and paper and write about a single day in this life that I am living. I write it down with my limited English language grammar and vocabulary. It is not easy to read and write here as about 30 people live in this one room with me. Some are talking, some are listening to music. It’s hard to focus.

At midnight, 12 o’clock, the light is turned off and I take my phone from my pocket to see what’s going on. I check my inbox, reply to friends and send some text message to Amnesty International, UNHRC and other organisations who work for Human Rights asking them to please look into our matter. In five days we do not know what will happen. I open Facebook, scroll through some posts that speak in our support and read the messages of raised voices around Australia that speak for us to be let free. I do want to thank those people who don’t have any personal agenda but are trying to help and support us just for the sake of humanity. I want to say to all of them, humanity is above every religion. So I write this single day out of 1516 of my indefinite detention as still I am thinking, ‘What will happen after 5 days’.

Sharafat was born and raised in Parachinar; a small town in the North West province of Pakistan. Sharafat has a Bachelor of Commerce. He loves cricket. It is his hobby and his passion.


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  1. melitawritesalifeMelita Luck

    So good to share your day. Hear so much about Manus, but you took me inside it. Your ability to write English is great. Bless you. May you taste freedom very soon.

  2. Cara Clark

    I’m so sorry you have been subjected to this disgraceful treatment.

  3. Glenn Barry

    Firstly- I hope that your freedom comes soon – there are gentle movements by independent members in parliament towards that end
    Secondly – I hope that those responsible are prosecuted under international human rights law so that this criminal behaviour never happens again

  4. wam

    Awful history!!!

  5. Joseph Carli

    In this country we often hear such aphorism and maxims as : “do unto others…” “Love your neighbour…” “Walk a mile in..” and “There, but for the grace of God go I.”…we hear all these things, and even at times repeat them as talismans or lessons to reassure ourselves that WE at least know of the tribulations or misfortunes that befall others, can as easy and swiftly happen to ourselves…We suspect these things..but I believe we DO NOT, in most cases of the general community, accept these things….we see it happening to others and we groan and wince, but there is enough of a social buffer-zone of security between the tragic unfolding disasters and ourselves to shield the great majority of the nation from feeling they have any duty toward their fellow human to plead their case..Not here on this blog, of course, but out there in the community..
    I myself eschew those more common, but expressive sayings above for one that I feel touches my inner emotions and connects me to what I believe is the essence of our connected spirituality…it is this incomplete sentence..:

    “As I crossed a bridge of dreams…” no more..that is all I want to know of is enough to have those few poetic words to connect me to all that is wanted in and from the desires of myself and my fellow travellers in this life..and it sickens me to the depth of my soul that we can scorn the hurt, anxiety and suffering of others like those in Manus Is. or Nauru, WHATEVER their status, for nothing more than some vague fear of “opening the gate” so more refugees come into the country…

    GUTLESS!!..I spit the word at the feet of those fellow country-persons that hold such fear in their hearts..GUTLESS…
    stinking COWARDS..not worthy of even having a country to feed and protect them.,nor deserving of the joys and pleasures that so many diverse ethnic groups deliver to their feet every bloody day of their worthless lives.

    It is those such people who will deliver the rest of us into the hands of those who would betray this nation and bring about our eventual destruction…History does not record a country being lost through the courage of its people, but by jeezus, these is a legion of nations that have been done over through the cowardice of a few who cringe in fear at the gates of their own snivelling misery..

  6. helvityni

    “Sharafat was born and raised in small town Parachinar; North West province of Pakistan. Sharafat has a Bachelor of Commerce. He loves cricket. It is his hobby and his passion”.

    A perfect citizen for Oz, Sharafat is fluent in English, has a Uni degree. and he’s passionate about cricket; he has more to offer to this county than some of our own…

    What happened to Australia?

  7. Phil

    I am so utterly ashamed of my government and those fellow Australians who still support that shameful regime. Sharafat, you have every right to seek asylum in Australia yet you are denied that right by an oppressive and inhuman government. Your description of life in detention is harrowing and is an indictment of the Australian Liberal/Nationals government.

    All Australians would do well to think carefully about the way this conservative government has breached the human rights of Sharafat and his fellow travellers caught up in this disgusting policy of cruelty as a deterrent. When a government succeeds in convincing the people of the necessity of cruelty as a deterrent it is emboldened and will not balk at using the same tactics on domestic groups of ‘others’ if it can see political advantage.

    Thank you Sharafat for your writing – you have the sort of spirit that has long been lost to millions of mosty conservative Australians.

  8. Kyran

    This is on the heads of Dutton and Pezzullo. No one else.
    Ms Salmon wrote of the Manus deadline, Mel Mac issued an SOS. In both articles, the likely fatal cocktail being handed to the likes of Mr Sharfi is well portrayed. Giving people suffering physical, mental and emotional trauma one month’s supply of medicine with no supervision is inviting disaster. To force the likes of Mr Sharfi into a community that is documented as having been against them is inviting disaster. To invite the very militia that fired upon them on Good Friday to oversee the process is inviting disaster.
    Dutton and Pezzullo have consistently said they are not responsible, even though they brag about paying for this barbaric policy and openly declare the terms and conditions for their regional minions.
    If they are not responsible, why are they so terrified of scrutiny? The $70 mill price tag for keeping a class action out of court, whilst paid with a denial of liability, was a blatant admission of guilt and complicity. And they have done this on more than 20 occasions.
    There is a new class action in the offing.

    What will they pay to avoid scrutiny? It is a moot point. The men on Manus; the men, women and children on Nauru; the men, women and children currently embroiled in the insidious overreach of the DIBP; their fate will likely precede any court action, such is the glacial progress of legal action.
    Whatever the outcome, those in the care of those two monsters will continue to suffer. It is Australia’s shame, no doubt. But it is the fault of those two animals. No one else.
    To you and your friends, Mr Sharfi, take care. As best you can.

  9. jimhaz

    [Sharafat, you have every right to seek asylum in Australia]

    Nothing in the article indicates that.

  10. paul walter

    Transgresses the Australian notion of the fair go.

    Isn’t enough enough by now?

  11. Kyran

    Jimhaz, the inalienable right to seek asylum is written into the UN convention, of which Australia is not only a signatory, but was a contributor, under Doc Evatt. In the event you need further clarification, try this;

    “Australia’s “push-backs” of asylum seeker boats are illegal under international law and “may intentionally put lives at risk,” the United Nation’s global expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has said in a formal report to the UN general assembly.”

    “But Australia is singled out for criticism for its policy of forcibly intercepting asylum seeker boats and pushing them back to where they had come from.
    “‘Push-back’ measures, in addition to violating the principle of ‘non-refoulement’, may also amount to excessive use of force whenever officials place refugees or migrants intentionally and knowingly in circumstances where they may be killed or their lives endangered because of the environment,” Callamard wrote.”

    Putting aside the legality, if you cannot read, the barbarity is inexcusable.
    Take care

  12. Maeve Carney

    He is from Pakistan. Why does he seek refuge from Pakistan. Pakistan is not a war zone. “We were brought here against our will” he was a refugee brought to a place of safety. I’m all for the rapid processing and resettlement of genuine refugees but they need to be real refugees in real need, not queue jumpers who are pissed off they didn’t make it to Australia.

  13. paul walter

    Sean O’Meara, that would rank as the most serious candidate yet for “Dumbest Comment of All Time” at AIM.

    Don’t you EVER read the newspapers?


    A refugee is a person fleeing persecution in the country which they are fleeing. What persecution is Sharafat fleeing?

    “A perfect citizen for Oz”. Maybe as an immigrant but as a refugee?

  15. Joseph Carli

    Maeve…; ” I’m all for the rapid processing and resettlement of genuine refugees but they need to be real refugees in real need, not queue jumpers “…
    And just who the hell are YOU to make judgements as to who does or does not deserve assistance..hey!?…who the hell are YOU…didn’t YOU get unrequested assistance when you were pulled from your mother’s womb?..taken out, cleaned , pap-fed and had your arse-wiped from that day almost and perhaps including THIS!?…Gutless comment, form a gutless pap-fed, pompous, pampered wimping , whinging sloth!…
    Given free education and health care just so you could complain and censure those who NEVER had it so good…’re weak…weak as piss!

  16. jimhaz

    Deaths 1,112
    Injuries 1,894
    Total 3,006
    Population 193,200,000
    Odds 0.0016%
    Terrorism is now at its lowest level since 2006, in part because of the army’s Zarb-e-Azb operation which has removed militant safe havens in the North Waziristan region.

    Deaths 1,004
    Injuries 2,772
    Total 3,776
    Population 79,814,000
    Odds 0.0047%

    Odds needs to be taken into account when accessing the level of danger. Also whether only portions of a country suffer the majority of incidents.

  17. Joseph Carli

    Maeve…I despise people like you..I despise them to the pit of my colon..People like you don’t deserve a nation to succor them, give them comfort , protection, education and all the other hard worked for and won conditions by the unions, migrant workers and all those other ethnic peoples INCLUDING the original Indigenous peoples who have suffered for so long so lazy bums can make fatuous commentry on who can and who can’t IN THEIR OPINION come to be part of our good fortune.. this you slob and consider you even had an education that gave you the luxury.

    Maris Zalups.

    One of the lads I went to school with died about a year ago…of a heart attack, I am told. His name was Maris Zalups…Of course, we kids lazily condensed his Latvian surname to more suit our casualness and his happy easy-going nature to “Slopsy”….His brother’s name was Arrtis (sp?)…..too hard!…he got called : “Harry” (He too passed away just recently)….Harry grew from a gangling boy to a full-blown archetype “Viking Warrior” in both phiz and psyche!.. a body like “Conan the Warrior” and a voice like Barry White….he was much in demand by the “gentler sex”….we scowled in the corner of the local front-bar…but we scowled quietly!

    Their parents were escapees from a turmoiled Europe after the second world war…the father was a very good musician…before a very bad motorcycle and side-car accident….I remember him tirelessly trying to teach Harry the piano, and he succeeded..even against Harry’s wishes (too much sun..too much surf in Australia!)…there was a small bust of Ludwig van ‘ on the upright piano and Harry would everyday be there rolling out some turgid piece, with his father smoking a dour pipe whilst sitting in a teacher’s contemplate at the end of the keyboard. I remember once the father went out of the room to fill his pipe as Harry played…he had no sooner gone than the rebellious spirit grabbed the youth’s hands and a playful Jerry-Lee Lewis piece sprung from the keyboard….parents came running and Harry immediately fell back into the rhythm of the classical piece as if nothing had happened!

    Maris was a lost cause as far as artistic instruction went and his father left him alone and he, with all us adventurous kids would immediately make for the gully to swing from the trees like Tarzan, or wooden sticks in hands, make for the seaside sand-dunes ala Beau Geste!…we could always see Harry, finally released from Tchaikovsky, running toward us in frenetic glee!

    Their mother was an artist..with oils…she could often be seen UNDISTURBED! in a small side room off the shed painting away. I remember once..I must have been about nine or ten..chasing Harry through the house and we were pulled up in the lounge room where Mrs. Zalups had a lot of her framed paintings propped on the chairs there…She held us up ..”Boys, boys…stop!..I would like you to meet Mr….” of course, young boys are even less inclined to remember names than manners and we said hello and then ran on. It was only many years later, whilst walking down Rundle Mall, past a Myers window display of a full-size photo cut-out of a man in a grey suit with several framed paintings of his on display that I recognised him as that same gentleman in Mrs. Zalup’s lounge-room ..and her introductory words came straight back to me..”Boys, boys..stop!..I would like you to meet Mr. Hans Heysen”.

    This is an important story…look at the players..Myself ;Italian / Irish..them Latvian..others in our group incl’ English, Dutch , German..and know it…..AND…let us embrace the reality..: All Australian! the Australia I vote for, not a mean-spirited polarising of one ethnic group against the other…for there is no one ethnic majority that can work this huge nation on it’s own…there never has been….This is the Labor objective I’s motto, no less intense than us kids on a limb of a huge pine tree about to group-swing way out over the gully depths, all clasping onto the one many-knotted rope..: “One in -All in!”…..GO!… this is the spirit of the people who still stand united together around the “light on the hill”.

  18. Michael Taylor

    jimhaz and Maeve, what appalling attitudes you have.

    Who are you to say that the writer of this article shouldn’t have fled Pakistan? How the hell do you know what that person endured in his home country?

    You’re both the type of people who would say Australia is a great place to live without ever stopping to think that over 100,000 people are homeless, while Indigenous Australians suffer oppression, while some people can’t put a meal on the table for their children.

    Sorry, but you both disgust me.

  19. Michael Taylor

    For all the so-called experts on Pakistan, the war in North West Pakistan (the war you probably have never heard of) has created 500,000 refugees.

  20. Michael Taylor

    Thanks, corvus. Seems like there’s a bit of a war going on over there.

    But not to worry. No reason to leave, according to some. Life’s rosy.

  21. Florence nee Fedup

    The most stupid thing is, if they were not refugees, they would be welcome under other migration paths. Many have skills this country needs. Many have close family here.

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