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Exclusive: Two Manus Island detainees react to the news of the detention center's closure

At least 800 men are still in the center, some of whom have been there for three years

CNN —  

When Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam landed on Christmas Island, in Australian territory, he thought his days of horror and torture were over.

Fleeing without his family, under threat of death for being a member of the wrong tribe in Sudan, he told CNN he would rather die in the ocean than be tortured in his home country.

But when he was transferred to Australia’s remote detention center on Manus Island in 2013, he realized his trauma had only just begun.

“They just want us to die. For the last three years we were under heavy, systematic torture (which) aim to force us to go back … Hundreds of us lost their minds completely,” he said.

According to the Australian Immigration Department, as of June 30, 854 men were still being held in the detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which was set up as part of a deal between the Australian and PNG governments.

Men who have tried to reach Australia by boat are sent there while their asylum claims are processed.

The governments announced on Thursday they were working to close the controversial center.

But for the detainees, who spoke to CNN in a series of WhatsApp messages from inside the compound, the closure of Manus Island doesn’t come as a relief. It’s just another step in a journey that has led them from danger to misery and despair.

Aziz: ‘I thought my life will be hundreds of times better’

Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam is still on Manus Island.
Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam is still on Manus Island.

In just under a month, it will be the third anniversary of 25-year-old Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam’s arrival on Manus Island.

“I am belonging (to) an African tribe called the Zaghawa,” he told CNN. “The (Sudanese) government decided to hunt every Zaghawa, kids, adults, including old people - torturing and killing them.”