Wednesday 11 March 2020

Myanmar Court Jails 15 Rohingya For Two Years For Trying to Flee Country

Source RFA, 6 March

(Note: update on mum Suu Kyi`s rule of law:
sentencing for leaving the country and arrested for illegally entering into the country..)

Myanmar police officers escort the convicted Rohingya to a police van following their sentencing at a courthouse in Minhla township, central Myanmar's Magway region, March 6, 2020.
Myanmar police officers escort the convicted Rohingya to a police van following their sentencing at a courthouse in Minhla township, central Myanmar's Magway region, March 6, 2020.
RFA video screenshot

A court in central Myanmar's Magway region on Friday sentenced 15 Rohingya Muslims to a maximum of two years in prison each for attempting to leave the country illegally, an immigration official said.

Authorities in Minhla township arrested the 15 adults and one child for traveling without official proof of identity or travel documents on Feb. 14.

Eight men and seven women were sentenced at the township courthouse under Section 6(3) of Myanmar's Immigration Act and immediately transferred to Thayet Prison, while the six-year-old was sent to the Magway Childcare Center run by the region's social welfare department.

"Their sentence came fast because they traveled without any proof of identity or travel documents," said Minhla township immigration officer Aung Pyi Soe who testified at the hearings. "We didn't need much evidence to convict them."

Because of restrictions on their freedom of movement, the Rohingya cannot freely travel inside or outside Myanmar without first obtaining official permission. Those who decide to travel illegally usually do not take identification cards with them, which all Myanmar residents must carry.

More than 200 Rohingya have been charged under the same act during the past three years, Aung Pyi Soe added.

About 70 other Rohingya adults who also tried to illegally flee Myanmar but were arrested on Feb. 20-21 appeared Friday at a courthouse in Yangon region's Hlegu township amid their ongoing trial.

The group consists of 67 adults and three children under 10 years of age. They are on trial for violating Myanmar's nationality statutes for traveling illegally and without documentation.

Four witnesses, including the head of Hlegu's Myoma Police Station, testified Friday.

"The Immigration Department filed a case against them under the Immigration Act," said Maung Maung Oo, head of the police Station. "We were with immigration officers when we arrested these Rohingya. That's why I am here as a witness."

Authorities apprehended the Rohingya, who hail from Rakhine's Kyautphyu, Sittwe, Minbya, and Buthidaung townships, as they were heading to Malaysia with the help of human traffickers.

One of those charged said the group left to escape travel restrictions imposed on them and to find work.

"We cannot travel and don't have jobs in Rakhine," said the Rohingya who did not provide a name. "We find it difficult to survive. That's why we fled from our homes."

'Seduced by traffickers'

Attorney Thazin Myat Myat Win, who is defending the Rohingya, said that traffickers told the members of the group that they would help them get jobs in Malaysia.

"They were seduced by traffickers because they lack job opportunities," he said, adding that some had to pay the traffickers 1 million kyats (U.S. $674) each, while others paid 3 million kyats (U.S. $2,000).

"Some kids said that the traffickers told those who couldn't pay them before leaving that they could pay them after they got jobs in Malaysia," Thazin Myat Myat Win said.

Rohingya activist Thar Aye said the Rohingya did not deserve to be sentenced.

"Although they don't have proof of identity to travel in the country, the sure thing is they are not foreigners," he said. "Instead of giving them jail sentences, authorities should send them back to their places of origin."

Thousands of Rohingya have tried to leave Myanmar in the last several years to escape institutionalized persecution, grinding poverty, and insecurity in Rakhine state.

They have paid human traffickers hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each to transport them to other Muslim-friendly nations in Southeast Asia where they hoped to have a better life.

Myanmar authorities have apprehended more than 2,200 Rohingya Muslims as they attempted to illegally leave the country by sea since 2015, according to a list of detainees obtained from a naval officer by RFA's Myanmar Service in February.

Nearly 1,500 Rohingya were detained in 2015, more than 500 were picked up in 2018, and roughly 250 have been apprehended so far in 2019, according to the list provided by the officer, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to give information to the media.

The figures do not include Rohingya who fled by land from two brutal military-led crackdowns in northern Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017.

During the first round of violence, about 90,000 Muslims left and headed across the border and into Bangladesh, while the second more brutal clampdown forced more than 740,000 out of their villages and into Myanmar's neighboring country.

Of the estimated 600,000 Rohingya still living in Rakhine state, about 120,000 reside in internally displaced persons camps where they were sent to live following communal violence with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

Those living in refugee camps in Bangladesh have refused to return to Myanmar despite a repatriation agreement signed in November 2017 that lets approved Muslims voluntarily return to Rakhine state. They fear reprisals of targeted violence and continued repression and discrimination if they return.

Funds for Rohingya crisis

Myanmar, which has denied that its soldiers committed widespread atrocities against the Rohingya, now faces legal action on genocide-related charges at three courts — the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court, and an Argentine court.

The ICJ in January ordered the country to protect the Rohingya from further harm and genocidal acts and to refrain from destroying evidence of alleged crimes that could be used in later hearings.

On Tuesday, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration, and other NGOs issued an appeal for U.S. $877 million in humanitarian assistance for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The funds will be used "to respond to the needs of approximately 855,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and over 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis in the communities generously hosting them," the UNHCR said in a statement.

The Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis will help provide food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care, protection, education, and site management, it said.

In response to the call, the U.S. State Department on the same day announced more than U.S. $59 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh and for internally displaced Rohingya and members of other affected communities in Myanmar.

The U.S. has now contributed a total of nearly U.S. $820 million in humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya crisis since the August 2017 crackdown. Of this funding, almost U.S. $693 million has been earmarked for programs inside Bangladesh.

"We continue to call on Burma to create the conditions that would allow for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable returns, based on the informed consent of those who have been forcibly displaced," the U.S. statement said.

"We also call on the government of Burma to ensure unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to all people requiring assistance," it said.

Reported by Myint Zaw Oo and Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Honorary Freedom award for Aung San Suu Kyi revoked by City of London Corporation

Source Cityoflondon, 5 March

Elected Members of the City of London Corporation's Court of Common Council have today voted to revoke the Honorary Freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi with immediate effect.

Burma's State Counsellor was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony at Guildhall in May 2017 in recognition of her 'non-violent struggle over many years for democracy and her steadfast dedication to create a society where people can live in peace, security and freedom'.

Sir David Wootton, Chairman of the City of London Corporation's Freedom Applications Committee, said:

"Today's unprecedented decision reflects the City Corporation's condemnation of the humanitarian abuses carried out in Myanmar, which have been detailed during the recent genocide hearing in The Hague, at which Aung San Suu Kyi led the delegation of the Government of Myanmar, and gave evidence.

"The Freedom Applications Committee concluded that the argument for the removal of the award had been much strengthened by Aung San Suu Kyi's close association with Myanmar's Government at the hearing, as well as her lack of response to letters from the Freedom Applications Committee."

Previous recipients of the City of London Corporation's highest award include Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, William Pitt the Elder, and more recently, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Professor Stephen Hawking.


Media enquiries:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts & Culture), City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 /



About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. 


‘The most powerful and disturbing book that I have ever read’

Source TheSpectator, 29 Feb

Nothing prepared Antony Beevor for this devastating exposé of the systematic use of rape in war and ethnic cleansing

'The most powerful and disturbing book that I have ever read''The most powerful and disturbing book that I have ever read'
A young Rohingya woman, one of hundreds raped by Myanmar armed forces, shelters at Leda, an unregistered Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Our Bodies Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women

Christina Lamb

William Collins, pp. 418, £20

Ihad assumed, after 40 years of researching and writing about war in the 20th century, that I was prepared for just about any horror. But Christina Lamb's research, into the mass rape of women and young girls in more recent wars and ethnic cleansing shook me to the core. This is the most powerful and disturbing book that I have ever read, and it raises important questions.

Lamb takes us from one zone of racial and religious aggression to another. The attackers have different motives and each persecuted minority is culturally unique, yet the pain and suffering of their victims are terrifyingly similar. She meets the Yazidi women, seized by Isis warriors from their ancient homeland between Syria and Iraq, chosen by lot as sex slaves, then sold on like second-hand cars from one rapist to another. The Muslim Rohingya women in northern Myanmar are violated with conspicuous cruelty by the Buddhist army in order to stampede an entire people over the frontier to Bangladesh.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnaps girls en masse to turn them into 'bush wives' to produce another generation of fighters and slaves. 'I abducted your girls ... I will sell them in the market, by Allah,' declared their leader Abubakar Shekau, after seizing hundreds of schoolgirls. 'I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will

marry off a girl at the age of nine.' Militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo sometimes even rape babies and infants because they are led to believe that this will give them special powers, or cure them of HIV.

This is the most powerful and disturbing book I have ever read

There have been so many more examples of mass rape in different countries. Bangladeshi women were abused terribly in 1971 by their fellow Muslims from the Pakistan Army in its attempt to crush the independence movement. The Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis was known for its massacres, yet the mass rapes which accompanied them were overlooked at the time. The 2018 report of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict named a minimum of 19 states in which women had been raped during recent conflicts. It also listed '12 national military and police forces and 39 non-state actors' as guilty of mass rape.

Rather like the killing of prisoners in wartime, rape has seldom been mentioned in the past, partly because it might have been embarrassing to think that one's own side might also be guilty, but also because of an assumption that it had always been a natural part of war. 'For decades there was little discussion,' Lamb writes. 'It took rape camps being set up again in the heart of Europe for the issue to get international attention. Like many people, the first time I heard of sexual violence in conflict was in the 1990s during the war in Bosnia.' And yet rape had certainly not been absent from the ideological conflicts of the first half of the century.

In the Spanish Civil War, officers in Franco's Army of Africa, during their advance on Madrid in the late summer and early autumn of 1936, urged their Moroccan troops to rape, and in many cases disembowel, the wives and daughters of peasants and workers as a deliberate act of terror to panic the Republican militias. The greatest example of all took place in 1945, as soldiers in the Red Army raped an estimated two million German women, tens of thousands of Hungarians, and even those women of supposedly Allied nations, such as Poles and Serbs. The Imperial Japanese Army did not restrict itself to the perpetual rape of 'comfort women' imprisoned in military brothels. They also believed in the gang rape of enemy civilians as a form of comradeship bonding.

Lamb's book should certainly provoke much debate and I hope it will also clarify some thinking. Perhaps the phrase 'rape as a weapon of war' has become too much of a standard term. In many cases it is correct, although a more accurate version would be 'a weapon of terror in conflict and ethnic cleansing'. Yet much depends on whether the 'weapon' is a deliberate military policy. It certainly was with the Pakistani Army in Bangladesh, Franco's Army of Africa, the Japanese Army and the Myanmar Army, along with all the other acts of ethnic cleansing.

But there are also examples of where an army has slipped its leash, and soldiers simply exploit the opportunity. In the case of the Red Army, the position was complex. Soviet propaganda had dehumanised the 'Fascist beast', and even the 'blonde witch', with calls for vengeance, yet many officers and soldiers were horrified by what their comrades did and took no part in it. A number even saved German women. So, we do need to be careful about generalisations.

The feminist definition of rape is that it is an act of violence driven by a compulsion to exert power, and has nothing to do with sex. But that is naturally the victim's point of view and does little to explain the motivation of the perpetrator. All the sadistic acts, which Lamb quite rightly does not spare us, clearly support that perspective. The dehumanisation of the enemy, which needs to be heightened by a strong dose of fear along with the hatred, is also another part of the weapon of terror. But men's motives to rape in war obviously vary, from sheer sexual opportunism to the fanatical compulsion to hurt, humiliate, pollute, disfigure and even kill their female victims. And as the Red Army example showed, not all men become rapists, even when they face no retribution. Also, to refute the black and white approach, Susan Brownmiller acknowledged in her seminal work on the subject, Against Our Will, there is even the 'grey area of wartime prostitution', where men with food, as well as guns, can exploit another form of power.

The very phrase 'weapon of war' also unintentionally reinforces that old mistake of including rape as a natural part of the landscape of armed conflict. Unfortunately, as Lamb emphasises, in the few recent cases where perpetrators have been brought to trial, prosecutors tend to drop the rape charges when they find it easier to convict on the more general charge of terrorism. That is no comfort whatsoever to the women who have had to summon up great courage to appear as witnesses.

The vast majority of victims suffer twice. Those who survive their ordeals then have to face ostracism from their own families and communities. They are seen as polluted. Many commit suicide, unable to cope with the contempt and shame heaped upon them. Most of the rest, whatever culture they come from, describe feeling 'dead inside'. It is very hard to enjoy normal human relations after an assault intended to dehumanise one. And how can one trust anyone again when, in the case of ethnic cleansing, former friendly neighbours become savage aggressors? As Lamb argues, the survivors are heroic. Mercifully for the male reader, there are some heroes too on their side of the fence, principally rescuers and doctors.

It must also have taken courage to research and write this book. When you tackle such horrors, they have a way of coming back to haunt you in the dark watches of the night. In 1944, a traumatised Vasily Grossman wrote, after producing the very first report on the atrocities of the Treblinka extermination camp: 'It is the writer's duty to tell this terrible truth, and it is the civilian duty of the reader to learn it.'

Christina Lamb has more than accomplished her duty. It is now our duty to face this other 'terrible truth' — that of man's inhumanity to woman.

WRITTEN BYAntony Beevor

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Myanmar army kills five Rohingya Muslims, including a child, in Rakhine

Source Presstv, 1 Mar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Rohingya detainees step out of a police van upon arriving at the court in the western Myanmar city of Pathein ahead of a hearing on December 11, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

At least five Rohingya Muslims, including a child, have been killed and several others injured during clashes in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, where state-sponsored violence has prevailed in recent years.

A regional lawmaker and residents said on Sunday that the five members of the persecuted Muslim minority were killed in Mrauk U town a day earlier. A 12-year-old boy was among them.

There were conflicting accounts of the number of Rohingya injured, which ranged from six to 11.

Media reports citing an unnamed Rohingya villager said that the deceased bodies had bullet wounds.

"Five Muslims died as their bodies were found," Reuters quoted the villager as saying, adding, "Their funeral was held today."

"We can't go out and we can't go anywhere," he added. "We are just staying safe in our village. If this keeps happening, I feel like there is no hope."

The regional MP, Tun Thar Sein, said that Saturday's fighting broke out after Arakan Army -- a predominantly Buddhist ethnic group -- attacked a military convoy passing the area. Troops responded with gunfire and shelling two villages of the troubled region, the lawmaker added.

In this file photo taken on September 7, 2017, a smoldering house that was consumed by fire is seen in Gawdu Tharya village near Maungdaw in Rakhine state (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar military claimed that the forces from the ethnic militant group that recruits mostly from Rakhine's Buddhist majority were responsible for the death.

Contradicting the military's claim, Khine Thu Kha, a spokesman for the militants, who want more autonomy for Rakhine State blamed Myanmar's government troops for the civilian casualties.

Saturday's attack was one of several to kill Rohingya this year. In early January, four Rohingya children died in a blast the military and rebels blamed on each other. 

On January 25, Myanmar troops shelled a Rohingya village, killing two women, one pregnant, and injuring seven people.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice earlier this year ordered Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims against further atrocities and preserve evidence of alleged crimes.

The region came to global attention in 2017 when more than 750,000 Rohingya, mostly women and children, fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown that UN investigators have said was carried out with "genocidal intent." Bangladesh was already hosting some 200,000 Rohingya when the exodus began.

Hundreds remain in Myanmar and now live under apartheid-like conditions, confined to camps and villages and denied access to healthcare and education. 

The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine State for centuries, but the state denies them citizenship. Bangladesh refuses to grant them citizenship too.

The United Nations has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world.


Source FRC, 25 Feb


Free Rohingya Coalition Call for an independent review of BBC World Service Burmese Language Programme

The World Service must not be permitted to amplify, legitimize and put more fuel on the popular flame of anti-Rohingya racism

London and Frankfurt:  The role of the Burmese language media and social media in condoning and disseminating racial hatred against the Rohingya in Myanmar is increasingly under the international spot light, particularly in light of the cases relating to mass atrocities  at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague ( Journalists who have reported honestly about the crimes perpetrated by the military have been imprisoned or intimidated. The independent Burmese language media is subject to the pressure and influence of the government and the military ( At this time, it is vital that the free press that reaches the Burmese-speaking public inside and outside the country maintain their impartiality and integrity.

The BBC Burmese service has over decades, including during the period of military rule, been a vital part of the free press, enabling the Burmese-speaking public to access information outside the influence of state censorship and propaganda. In 2013, BBC Burmese, which had operated from outside the country during military rule, opened a bureau inside the country, leaving the organisation open to the same pressure and influence from the Myanmar government as other media outlets. There are multiple and ongoing allegations from both the Burmese diaspora in the UK and those inside the country of racism (and sexism and homophobia) within the service. The allegations relate not simply to the programme outputs, but to patterns of recruitment, promotion and the contracting of anti-Rohingya journalists and staff, and/or staff that have close links with the military (for example, see attached). These Burmese journalists and staff have been able to operate with impunity from the corporation's internal complaints system, while their more liberal-minded colleagues are side-lined.

The BBC and Ofcom complaints procedures are set up to deal with programme output, and not to deal with situations relating to potentially endemic issues of racism in a country where there are immediate risks of genocide ( The internal complaints procedures have, thus far, proved themselves to be inadequate in addressing these concerns and restoring confidence in the professional integrity of the corporation.

It is vital that in order to restore the trust of both the Burmese and British public in the BBC brand, that an independent review of the BBC Burmese service is launched, and that safeguards are put in place to ensure that potential whistle blowers working within the Burmese service are adequately protected and thus able to bring their concerns to light.

Rohingya are a protected group under international law, specifically under the Genocide Convention (See ICJ file linked above). Claims in Myanmar that they are "Bengali", "migrants" or "foreigners" are understood, almost universally, in an international context to be both false and racist. In 2013, on BBC Radio 4's "Beyond Belief", then a BBC Burmese staff member, Mr Soe Win Than, made the following comments in English regarding the Rohingya and the regions in which they have been enclosed and subjected to the policies of apartheid (

Rohingya is the term that the ethnic group of people call themselves which is not accepted inside Burma. So, there are the foreigners coming to our land, taking away our land. So, there's a conflict there.

And then, almost the contiguous townships of Rakhine, Burma, originally there were more Rakhine people – ethnic people – but now 95% of the people is Rohingyas/Bengalis there. So, the Rakhine people have the well-founded fear they will be swamped.

Complaints to the BBC against Soe Win Than, who previoisly served in the Burmese Ministry of Information under Burma's military government, were upheld by the BBC Trust, including that he provided and "inaccurate" depiction of the population and failed to indicate that these racist views were not his own. Nonetheless, he has since been promoted to be the head of the BBC Burmese service. Since that time at least ten thousand Rohingya have been killed and three quarters of a million have fled the military-led campaigns of terror to Bangladesh.

Worryingly, the three days of preliminary hearing at the International Court of Justice in the Hague on genocide were covered by Soe Win Than and one other journalist – Mr Kyaw Zay Ya. In 2012, following the wide-spread violence in Rakhine state which predominantly targeted Rohingya and other Muslim communities, Kyaw Zay Ya (then not a BBC employee) was one of four Burmese in the UK who organised anti-Rohingya protests, including one outside the BBC in London.  The event was promoted on facebook under the headline:

"Stop Lying BBC, Rohingyas are Bengali Terrorists…they are invading our country, Burma" (see screenshots 1-4)

Despite BBC Burmese service's prior knowledge of his racist campaigns against the persecuted Rohingyas, Kyaw Zay Ya has since been recruited by the BBC Burmese Service under Mr Soe Win Than. Worse still, Kyaw Zay Ya was assigned to be the sole BBC Burmese language journalist covering the first two days of the Rohingya genocide trial in the Hague. During the first opening day of the ICJ's public hearings in the Hague Kyaw Zay Ya chose not to present the voices of the Rohingya activists who were gathered outside the world court in support of the Gambia filing a legal challenge against Myanmar or Burma for the latter's breach of the Genocide Convention.   Despite complaints by members of the Burmese ethnic minority communities who came to offer Rohingyas their support and solidarity, Kyaw Zay Ya has not been disciplined. Instead the BBC Asia Division and Burmese Service Management have whitewashed Kyaw Zay Ya's racist bias against the victims of genocide. 

There are further complaints that have been lodged relating to a photojournalist contracted by the BBC Burmese service inside the country, who has recently posted numerous deeply racist and offensive posts about the Rohingya on facebook (see attachments). The response by the BBC to these complaints was to "speak with" the individual concerned asking him not to post such material.   Most worryingly, it did not result them taking a look at their own contracting practices.

It is very important that each of these complaints be not dealt with as individual complaints relating only to BBC Burmese "outputs". In the context of widespread hate speech, potential genocide and/or other mass atrocities in which the domestic media is understood to play a role, it is vital to consider whether patterns of racial discrimination are inherent in the Burmese service as a whole.  All elements and aspects of British engagement with Myanmar are under increasing scrutiny – from business, to NGOs, to Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is important that the BBC Burmese Service is also held up to scrutiny to ensure it adheres to the same standards of non-discrimination within the rest of the BBC.                   

As such the Free Rohingya Coalition call for an independent review of BBC Burmese language services including their recruitment, promotion, contracting and internal Human Resources practices.

The coalition's Rohingya co-founder and coordinator of Media Relations Nay San Lwin says, "on behalf of my fellow refugees and survivors of the genocide in our country, I appeal to  both the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the parliamentary authorities, to investigate the  BBC World Service Burmese language programme for using one of the world's most influential media platforms to amplify, legitimize and put more fuel on the popular flame of anti-Rohingya racism in Burma and among the Burmese diaspora." 

Media Contact:

Nay San Lwin | | +49 176 62139138

Download PDF file here:

'Never heard of anything like this': Advocates stunned by Manus escape

Source TheAge, 22 Feb

Toronto, Canada: Refugee advocates have described a Rohingya asylum seeker's escape from Australia's offshore processing centre on Manus Island, and successful resettlement in Canada, as unprecedented and extraordinary.

Jaivet Ealom, 27, has spoken publicly for the first time about his high-risk and secretive journey to freedom in a series of interviews with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Canada.

Jaivet Ealom staged a daring escape from Manus Island before eventually making his way to Canada.

Jaivet Ealom staged a daring escape from Manus Island before eventually making his way to Canada. CREDIT:COLE BURSTON

Ealom says he escaped from the Manus Regional Processing Centre in May 2017 and boarded a flight to Port Moresby by posing as an interpreter.

He then lived for six months as a fugitive in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands before arriving unannounced in Canada, where he was granted protected refugee status.

"Nothing like this has ever come to light before," Paul Power, the chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, said.

"It is extraordinary. I've never heard of anything like this."

Other sources in the refugee sector confirmed to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that they had never heard of a similar successful escape from offshore detention and resettlement in a third country.

Ealom was detained in Christmas Island for six months in 2013 and then spent 3½ years on Manus Island. He said his escape plan was influenced by the plot of the hit US television show Prison Break.

"I realised I had to take things into my own hands and do something," he said. "I was stateless, I didn't have any documentation. I could see things were just going to get worse."

The extraordinary journey of Jaivet Ealom, who escaped from Manus Island Detention Centre and became a politics student in Canada.

An Iranian asylum seeker, Loghman Sawari, fled from Manus to Fiji in January 2017, but was deported and returned to PNG. He was arrested for using false information to obtain a passport, but the charges were later dropped.

Amir Sahragard, an Iranian asylum seeker who was detained on Manus at the same time at Ealom, said he had no idea where his friend had gone when he vanished from the island.

He was stunned to discover his friend was living freely in Canada.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "He was the only one who ever escaped from there and made it out."

The Manus Regional Processing Centre was closed in October 2017.

A spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department said that regional processing arrangements on Manus Island were the responsibility of the PNG government.

"Persons under regional processing arrangements are free to depart a regional processing country at any time to pursue migration options," the spokesperson said.

"Any person seeking to voluntarily depart for their home country or to a country to which they have right of entry, is permitted to do so and, where appropriate, is provided with financial assistance to do so."

The department said 699 refugees have been resettled in America under the deal with the US government while another 26 have been resettled in other countries.

In November, Iranian asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, author of the award-winning No Friend But the Mountains, travelled from PNG to New Zealand for a literary festival and overstayed his visa.

He said he had been offered resettlement in the US but was also open to resettlement in a third country.