Refugees and asylum seekers have been held captive under inhumane conditions on Manus Island in PNG for almost 6 years. The system is designed to be so brutal that asylum seekers are forced into despair and agree to go back home to whatever they have fled. Through his documentary Manus, Angus McDonald uses the first-hand testimonials of many of the island’s refugee residents, who share their harrowing stories. Manus has just won the Best Documentary Award at St Kilda Film Festival.
Isolated and separated from their families, hear stories from the men on Manus in their own words
By law, Australia does not resettle any migrants who approach the country by boat, a policy intended to discourage dangerous ocean crossings and human smuggling. Since July 2013, Australia has paid Papua New Guinea, its closest neighbor, to agree to permit the housing of hundreds of migrants caught at sea while trying to reach the continent. At present, hundreds of migrants, all men, and mostly from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, still remain held on Manus. The vast majority, more than 80% have official refugee status.
One of the detainees, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, has just been granted asylum in Switzerland and will continue to fight for the freedom of refugees Australia detains in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. He was detained for traveling from Sudan by boat to Australia to seek asylum. During almost six years in detention on the PNG island, Aziz was an outspoken critic of the regime that imprisoned him and left hundreds of other refugees indefinitely detained.
Another refugee on Manus, a Kurdish journalist and writer Behrouz Boochani won Australia’s richest literary prize earlier this year for his book about Manus entitled No Friend But The Mountain. Boochani fled persecution in Iran and has been on Manus Island since 2013. The film MANUS also includes a poem Boochani wrote about his plight which he recited for the documentary in Farsi.
Australian Director Angus McDonald began filmmaking in 2017 believing that film was the best medium in which to reach the public to advocate for more humanitarian approaches to managing the welfare of forcibly displaced people seeking asylum, particularly here in Australia. His films are created under the name Howling Eagle and his YouTube series titled “Philoxenia” (a Greek word meaning ‘extending hospitality and friendship to the stranger’) are a selection of short films and interviews about refugee protection across the globe and current refugee policies in Australia. Howling Eagle has also engaged in a social impact campaign, advocating, fundraising and assisting other refugee support organisations.