A Sudanese refugee who spent years in an Australian immigration detention centre has been awarded a prestigious international human rights prize for exposing Australia’s “cruel refugee policy”.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat won the Martin Ennals award 2019 in Geneva and said would soon return to Papua New Guinea after the award ceremony in the Swiss city.
He is a refugee activist from Sudan’s Darfur region from where he fled in 2013 to Indonesia before boarding a boat bound for Australia.
After arriving in Australia by boat, authorities sent him to a camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. He exposed the conditions of the camp through a podcast co-produced by British newspaper The Guardian in 2017.
The 25-year-old had tears in his eyes and mouthed “thank you very much” to the crowd as he was given the award, Australia’s ABC reported.
“It’s not easy to be incarcerated in a place where all the fingers [are] pointed at you as a criminal and all the words that you hear from the people surrounding you [are] that you have made a mistake, [asking] why do you come to this country and you deserve to be in [the] detention centre,” he said during his acceptance speech.
The UN high commission for refugees, in a statement praising the refugee’s advocacy work, said it “continues to urge that solutions be found for all refugees and asylum seekers under Australia’s offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru as a matter of urgency”.
The Manus Island detention centre was shut down in November 2017 when inmates were transferred to new accommodation in Lorengau.