[Letter from Manus Island, Harper’s Magazine, July 2018]
The ongoing abuses of Australia’s refugee policy
LIGHTENING flashed behind the fiberglass banana boat, but ahead of us the night sky was clear and the water was calm. Ezatullah Kakar, a Pakistani refugee, and I were in the South Pacific Ocean, 2 degrees shy of the equator, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. As we cut smoothly through the flat sea, one of the men aboard passed the skipper a beer. The mood was tense and quiet, the three-man crew speaking only when necessary. Kakar didn’t share their apprehension. He took out his phone, ran one hand through his wavy hair, threw his arm around me, and snapped a moonlit selfie of the two of us. I must have looked nervous, because Kakar smiled encouragingly at me. “I believe if we are doing good things, no one will catch us,” he said.