Behrouz Boochani, the official Jesus of Manus Island
Behrouz Boochani, the official Jesus of Manus Island

Tim Blair, The Daily Telegraph, November 25, 2017

Journalist Paige Taylor was once deeply sympathetic to the cause of asylum seekers.

Then reality happened:

A former kitchenhand at the family camp on Christmas Island told me in 2011 that the wealthiest new arrivals “bossed staff about like servants”. “We have to call them clients, even when they’re throwing their dinner on the ground,’’ he said at the time. “One Iranian guy said, ‘I’m not going to eat this. Do you know how much I paid to come here?’ ”

It seemed to contradict what I thought I knew about asylum-seekers and their motives. I ­realised there was a misunderstanding in some individuals’ minds about what Australia’s ­humanitarian intake was for. Some viewed it as a service they had purchased. Being called “clients” by guards and immigration officials reinforced this.

I was shocked when a camp doctor told me “Persian prin­cesses” in the camps were asking for breast enhancements and their husbands requested cosmetic dentistry. Sitting on the beach at Flying Fish Cove, the doctor told me his theory that in Iran people-smuggling agents were selling the lie that the Australian government would happily provide these things as soon as they stepped off the boat.

Could this be right? I know I did not try as hard as I should have to pursue stories such as this. I felt the claims were too outlandish, too hard to prove or that they would reflect unfairly on the genuine refugees in detention.

Then in 2013 the former director of medical health services for Australia’s offshore asylum processing network, Ling Yoong, confirmed to the Medical Observer that detainees did, indeed, request Botox, IVF and breast enhancements when they underwent standard medical checks in the camps.

They’re not refugees. They’re Kardashians.

UPDATE. “So this is what we have come to as a nation,” weeps Richard Flanagan:

The wretched of the earth, because they were no longer safe where they lived, sought to come here. With a determined cruelty, we kidnapped and imprisoned them in Pacific lagers. These lagers became synonymous with the idea of hellholes because it was important to our government that they be – ­and be known as – hellholes.

Hellhole Lager. Or, to use its official title, West End Draught.

In the camps the refugees were made to answer to numbers given to them as their new identity. Denied their names they were not even allowed their stories.

It might be easier to refer to them by name if they hadn’t thrown away their passports.

Every attempt that could be made was made by the Australian government, from the petty to the disturbing, to deny journalists access to the Pacific lager.

Journalists hate it when our lager access is denied.

Evil was being done to the innocent, and to that truth there is finally no justification that even the most powerful could make. And so it mattered that Australians not know of the mounting crimes for which all Australians will be finally accountable.

25 million of us at The Hague! Hope there’s enough lager.

We were a nation born out of the evils of invasion and convictism. It was not that we saw ourselves as infinitely perfectible. It was rather that we were aware of what the alternatives were.


Now we are seen globally as the inventors of a particularly vile form of 21st century repression, in which the innocent are subjected to suffering in a prison where the crime is never named, no sentence is ever passed, and punishment is assured. For this achievement Australia now enjoys the praise of European neo-fascists and American white supremacists.

Lefties are sad when Europeans and Americans condemn us and they’re sad when Europeans and Americans praise us. There’s no pleasing some people.

It is hard to say what is most horrifying in this long saga but the intent of the Australian government to now abandon the refugees it kidnapped, scattering them across an impoverished and corrupt country with a notorious reputation for violence, is an affront to any notions of humanity or decency.

We didn’t kidnap anybody and they weren’t scattered. Nice sledge against Papua New Guinea, by the way.

When, out of fear for what might befall them should they leave, some hundreds of refugees refused to move from the Manus compound, there began a protest in which the refugees used the only thing left to them: their bodies.

And their breast implants, apparently.

Over the years we had taken away their rights, their future, even their hope. Three weeks ago we cut off their water, food and medical supplies. Risking starvation, dysentery, cholera and violence, some hundreds of refugees asserted with their flesh the one thing which Australia could not steal: their human dignity.

There’s a new centre just 20 kilometres down the road.

Behrouz Boochani was targeted for one reason and one reason only: he has been the voice of truth speaking from the appalling reality of the Pacific lagers.

Too hoppy? Not enough malt?

It is difficult to believe that all this is not being masterminded – if the word is not too grand for such thuggery – at the highest levels of the Australian government.

Anyone following recent events would know that the highest levels of the Australian government cannot mastermind anything.

Released some hours later, Boochani tweeted that he had been left handcuffed for two hours while he was “pushed several times”, had his belongings destroyed by the police, and was yelled at by the police commander that he “was reporting against us”. Boochani knows now, more than ever, that he is a marked man.

And in these circumstances he has, in characteristic fashion, continued to report … Behrouz Boochani kept on smuggling out his messages of despair in the hope we would listen.

He’s on Twitter.

We choose whether we live or whether we wait for death. Through his words Behrouz chose to live. His words showed that while our government had jailed his body, his soul remained that of a free man.

He’s free to join hundreds of his mates at the new centre. Behrouz has jailed himself.

I am not sure if I would have had his courage were I to find myself in his situation. Perhaps that is why I admire it deeply.

The courage of staying in a joint that’s been shut down. The bravery of not going somewhere else. The heroism of immobility.

We must begin the work now, with urgency, with determination, of rebuilding our nation’s honour, and our collective dignity. Because if we don’t, if we think it doesn’t affect us, the alternative is that what is happening on Manus will begin to happen here.

Sure it will. It’s just that obvious.



Comments are closed.