Refugees trapped on Manus Island

Mohsen is late, but effusively apologetic as he sits down.

“I can’t sleep at night for the nightmares,” he says.

“In the dark I am back in that prison in my country,” – a middle-eastern country Guardian Australia has chosen not to name for fear of consequences for his family – “so instead I sleep in the day”.

Mohsen spends his nights sitting up, either in his room or outside, talking and smoking with the other refugees who are held in the quasi-detention of the bureaucratically-named East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre, on a high, isolated ridge at the edge of town.

His days here are listless. Mostly, he does not wake until three in the afternoon. Today, it’s nearly five by the time he arrives in town.

But Mohsen knows he is one of the few who can make even that small journey.

Not far from here, on neighbouring Los Negros island, 942 asylum seekers continue to live behind the tall security fences of the Australian-run asylum detention centre inside Lombrum army base. Their claims for protection are still being languorously assessed, mired in non-cooperation from one side or another, or have already been rejected.

But 41 men – Mohsen included – have been found to be refugees, and since January they have been steadily moved from the detention centre to the transit centre, on Manus Island itself.

Here, their lives are still heavily restricted: they can move around the island, though never leave it; they have a curfew, recently repealed though still observed out of safety concerns; they cannot work; and their communications are heavily restricted.

But for the first time in years they are free, perhaps to the greatest extent they ever will be, to tell their stories.

When Guardian Australia meets Mohsen in Lorengau township, he asks that we find somewhere away from the main street to talk. Continue reading


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