Refugee held at Australia’s offshore site wins top human rights prize
GENEVA A Sudanese refugee held in one of Australia's offshore migrant detention sites for six years was on Wednesday awarded the world's most prestigious human rights prize.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat, 26, was hailed by the organisers of the Martin Ennals Award for his "extraordinary tenacity and courage" in protesting the Australian government's "inhumane practices".
For years Canberra has sent asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to Manus Island or Nauru in the Pacific for processing, with those found to be refugees barred from resettling in Australia.
The harsh policy is meant to deter people embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but the United Nations and rights groups have harshly criticised the camps' conditions and long detention periods.
"The conditions that we are living there are absolutely indescribable, ...inhumane and cruel," Mr Muhamat told reporters in Geneva ahead of Wednesday's award ceremony.
"We have been treated very badly, (worse) than an animal," he said, pointing out that refugee residents of the camps are referred to only with a number. "My number is QNK002, that's how I'm known to the system."
Mr Muhamat described how he fled the violence in Darfur, first to Khartoum and later making his way to Indonesia.
He said he attempted three times to reach Australia by boat, losing five of his closest friends en route.
Then, in 2013, Australian authorities intercepted the boat he was on and forcibly transferred him to Manus, where he has been held ever since with hundreds of other men.- AFP