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 ‘processed’ and 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.