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The Last Man On Manus Island


The Last Man On Manus Island

The way things look he is going to be there forever - in a sort of Gilligan's Island scenario where he is going to have to sit out and wait. .. Whose problem is he? .Is the Australian government into the slave trade? Do they pick people up and take them to Manus Island and leave them there and say they are someone else's problem? Eric Vardarlis - solicitor to refugee Aladdin Sisalem

I don't see the government planning for an end for my situation. Only just maybe they want me to end it myself. And I can't. I don't have the courage to do it. And I want my rights to live. I want to live. Refugee Aladdin Sisalem

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone last week announced that Australia will settle 2,000 more refugees a year. On DATELINE on Wednesday, March 31, Olivia Rousset reports on a man who has officially been granted refugee status but remains completely alone in an Australian detention centre without any hope of being granted asylum in Australia. The refugee, Aladdin Sisalem, is being kept on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea at a cost to the Australian taxpayer of $23,000 a day. He has been on the island for 15 months and has spent the last seven months alone. Reporter Rousset is only the second visitor he has received in that time.

Sisalem was born in Kuwait but as the son of a Palestinian refugee he did not have an automatic right to residency. Unable to work legally and harassed by police, his three year odyssey began when he received a tourist visa to Indonesia. When he arrived he applied for asylum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees - but after a year of living on the streets of Jakarta and no progress with his application he went to Papua New Guinea. He travelled overland from West Papua to the PNG border where he was jailed for entering illegally and where he claims he was beaten in prison.

He then made his way by fishing boat to Australia's Saibai Island in the Torres Strait just before Christmas 2002. After being interviewed by Australian officials he was taken to Manus Island where he thought his case would be processed. It was two months before any official spoke to him about his case.

The Department of Immigration says that Sisalem did not actually request asylum - or rather that he did not ask for the correct form to apply for a visa - when he was in the Torres Strait and therefore Australia has no responsibility for him. Sisalem insists that he did ask for asylum, "I didn't risk my life to enter some remote Australian island because I am an economic migrant or something. I needed help. If the Australian government does not consider me as an asylum seeker then why do they ask me about the harms and persecution I suffer in Kuwait?"

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