5th Feb 2017
Failure to transfer Eaten Fish to Australia will lead to another death on Manus Island
“It is with profound alarm and sadness that we learn our friend and colleague, winner of last year’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award Eaten Fish, currently held in an Australian refugee rendition camp in Papua New Guinea has decided to undertake a hunger strike. He is a man who has given up hope, cannot struggle any longer, cannot face the future that is being forced on him, and would rather die than submit to the indignities of further inhuman treatment.” – Dr Robert Russell, Executive Director, CRNI
From our colleagues at the Save Eaten Fish campaign:
Eaten Fish has been on a hunger strike for six days and last weighed in at 48 kilos. It has been well documented in the press that Eaten Fish suffers from debilitating mental health issues. He has also been the victim of sexual assault, chronic sexual harassment and abuse within Australia’s immigration prison camp on Manus Island for the past three and a half years.
Due to his extremely fragile mental health and ongoing sexual harassment Eaten Fish has been held in the Special Supported Accommodation compound [also referred to as VSRA] for the past eight months.
In a document from PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority dated 29th of January 2017, it is stated that the Australian Border Force told Eaten Fish that his allegations of sexual assault and abuse have not been substantiated and that he will be removed from the VSRA i.e. returned to the general population of the camp where the sexual assaults took place. Worryingly it also states that ABF will not negotiate with Eaten Fish on any grounds. It is this that has forced Mr Fish’s actions.
In an urgent letter to ABF Chief Medical Officer Dr John Brayley dated 2nd February 2017, Dr Sue Ditchfield writes: “Bizarrely he [Eaten Fish] was expected to prove the assaults to the satisfaction of PNG authorities. He was unwilling to identify his assailants because of his fear of retribution and of course any assaults take place well away from the compound guards.” Furthermore those authorities to whom Eaten Fish was obligated to prove the assaults took place were the same parties who had assaulted him late in 2016.
In a letter to CMO Brayley Janet Galbraith writes: “At the beginning of the hunger strike he [Eaten Fish] only weighed 53 kilos and he has already lost a substantial amount of weight. He reports to me today that he is shaky, weak, has a lot of body pain, no longer feels hunger, is losing his memory and his heart is beating fast. He says he can no longer shower.”
“I cannot suffer anymore. I know now that I will have to die because I cannot suffer anymore,” Mr Fish told Ms Galbraith.
When asked by authorities within the prison camp what he wished to accomplish through his hunger strike Mr Fish said: “Something happens with hunger strike and I think you know what that is. I will die and this will all finish.”
The Australian government has been petitioned many times both from within Australia and internationally asking that Eaten Fish be brought to Australia for medical treatment.
Dr Ditchfield says, “I urge you to be pro-active in transferring this critically ill young man to Australia. I have no doubt that failure to do this will lead to yet another death of an asylum seeker on Manus Island”.
If you can be of any assistance in the emergency effort to release Eaten Fish, please contact his advocate Janet Galbraith:
+61 448 370 918 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Full statement from CRNI’s Executive Director reads:
It is with profound alarm and sadness that I and all of us at Cartoonists Rights Network International learn that our friend and colleague, cartoonist Eaten Fish, currently held in an Australian refugee rendition camp in Papua New Guinea has decided to undertake a hunger strike. It is my personal conviction that it is not really to protest anything. He is a man who has given up hope, cannot struggle any longer, cannot face the future that is being forced on him, and would rather die than submit to the indignities of further inhuman treatment. As of this writing his strike is in its sixth day and he is presenting grave and critical symptoms of starvation. While we urgently hope and pray that he will end his fast and find some reserve of hope and the will to fight, we also understand that a convergence of bad decisions and inhuman policies among powerful and intractable institutions all conspire against him. He is a fragile, beautiful soul in the path of a grinding militancy of cowards.
If one understands all of the circumstances involved one would have to conclude that this is state-mandated ‘Murder by Suicide’. The governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea Have Not Remembered. With President Trump’s latest objection and apparent withdrawal of any hope of repatriating some of the inmates of this camp to the United States our friend’s fate seems to be sealed.
When the story is finally told about the inmates at Manus Island and the other detention centers in the Pacific and the inhuman heartlessness which drives the treatment of these refugees I predict that a number of ambitious politicians will pay a heavy price.
We have been watching in slow motion as governments ignore their own histories and fail the test of courage required by states that claim to be democratic.
Cartoonist Rights Network International joins with dozens of other institutions and hundreds if not thousands of people around the world in demanding that Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia take immediate and personal responsibility for what is happening at the rendition camps on Manus and Nauru.
This full story has not yet been written, but it will be drawn.
Dr. Robert Russell