A detainee held in the Mantra Hotel already suffered unspeakable tragedy in his life, furthered now by our government. Mostafa Azimitabar speaks out on behalf of his friend.
IN 2009, Ramsiyar Sabanayagam was 18 years old when he lost his family. He and his father, mother and pregnant sister were eating lunch together and, out of the blue, they were bombed. A bomb interrupted the cordial atmosphere of the family in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, where there still has been a history of prolonged and excessive systemic racism against the Tamil community.
Ramsiyar was horribly injured in the bombing and was taken to hospital unconscious. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) saved his life. The relics of the shell shrapnel are still in his head and shoulder. His brother was also killed by a helicopter shooting in 2002.
When he was discharged from hospital he was arrested and locked up in a concentration camp because of his ethnicity. After a year, Ramsiyar was released and went back home. But no one was at home.
Ramsiyar sought asylum to Australia on 26 July 2013 and after a few weeks, the Australian Government put him on a plane and exiled him to the Manus Island detention centre. After hundreds of interviews with case managers and immigration staff, they recognised him as a refugee in 2016. Ramsiyar says his refugee status hasn’t changed his situation — he is still detained in a cage.
Australia is the only country in the developed world that detains genuine refugees. Why don't refugee lives matter to Australian politicians?
The PANCH medical centre in Melbourne across from the Mantra Prison (Hotel) continues to offer to help us, but the Australian Government continues to reject their offers — why? Because treating us is not important to the Government; they want to punish us, not treat us. Instead of treating us, they are paying around $355,000 per year per refugee to torture us.
When Ramsiyar was on Manus, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) took X-rays of his head and shoulder. The doctors and nurses were fully aware of his pain but didn't do anything for him.
“Take two Panadols and drink lots of water,” they said. It was the common statement that all refugees on Manus Island heard repeatedly from IHMS staff.
Ramsiyar was tortured on Manus for six and a half years and last year, he was transferred back to Australia for medical help under the Medevac legislation. He is currently locked up on the third floor of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne along with approximately 65 other refugees. Ramsiyar and his fellow refugees spend 23 hours a day in their room and to date, they haven't received appropriate medical care.
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Ramsiyar has been through a lot of heartbreaking experiences that are more sorrowful than you can possibly imagine. Why does the Australian Government continue to torture him? What crime has he committed?
We have choices when we hear the tragic story of Ramsiyar. We can cry and try to do something for him, we can send our love to him so that he can keep his smile and stay strong or we can stay silent and let the cruelty and torture continue.
Ramsiyar’s only remaining family is a niece and uncle who live together. His niece’s name is Magilini. Ramsiyar has also become friends with many caring people in Australia since he has been imprisoned. He says they have listened to his pain and he has come to consider them his family. Magilini and his new Australian family are his hope, his future.
I asked him what he would like to do when he is free. He said he wants to study so that he can help people.
I'm so proud of having a wonderful brother and friend such as Ramsiyar in my life. I never lose my hope when I see his smile. Ramsiyar is a fantastic teacher for the world and I am looking forward to seeing the day that he is free.
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