Jaivet Ealom, a Rohingya author whose book was published in 2021 “Escape from Manus” describes his remarkable journey as an asylum seeker who was determined on a deathly voyage to the coast of Indonesia to Australia and finally made it to Canada.
In 2013, Ealom left Myanmar as the government were burning down whole entire villages including entire neighborhoods. Ealom first fled to Jakarta before deciding he would try to make it to Australia. But, as he was at sea, the then Aussie Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared that any asylum seekers arriving by boat without a visa would never be settled in the country. Ealom was detained first on Christmas Island, then on Manus.
The conditions on Manus were as bad as Myanmar. Ealom lived in a cramped modified shipping container, which roasted in the oppressive heat. His rancid food was filled with debris, including stones and human teeth.
In his book he wrote, “The prison looked and felt like the scene of a horror movie about a perverse site for human experimentation; a floodlit laboratory in the middle of nowhere.” Worse than the physical discomfort, Ealom says, was the emotional strain, “In Burma the torture was physical – you only feel it when you are being tortured, you only suffer when you are being chased. But in Manus it was psychological, the torture is with you 24/7.”
Ealom was determined to escape from prison and his six-month odyssey using tricks he had learned from the TV series Prison Break, which involved, among other things, studying his guards’ movements and faking his identity.
In 2017, Ealom escaped Manus in May and boarded a plane to Port Moresby. From Port Moresby, he made his way to the Solomon Islands. There, in order to get a Solomon Islands passport, he spent months perfecting how to pass as a local, from learning Pijin, the local language, to chewing betel nuts. Travel document in hand, using the last of his money, he bought a ticket to Toronto.
Ealom arrived Canada on Christmas Eve 2018 and he never want to look back or have a wish to return to Myanmar.