SYDNEY ― Former “Baywatch” star and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson has written a strongly worded letter to the Australian government over reports that a dog owned by one of the refugees in a Pacific Island detention facility died after being thrown from a bus last month.
Refugees and asylum seekers in an Australian-run detention center on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island were taken to new facilities in late November after barricading themselves at the all-male center for several weeks and refusing to move. The Australian government had decommissioned the old site, on a PNG naval base, and shut off power and water on Oct. 31 after the Papuan Supreme Court last year ruled that detaining the asylum seekers in the facility was unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.
Australia held 690 men in its Manus Island facilities on Oct. 31, the most recent figures available. In relocating the men to one of three new facilities funded by the Australian government, Foxy, a small white dog owned by one of the men, was thrown from the window of a bus by a PNG guard, according to reports from refugee witnesses and refugee advocates in Australia.
A tweet from the Refugee Action Coalition on Nov. 27 claimed the dog “died after being thrown out of a fast moving vehicle.” The dog is shown being carried by its owner at the very beginning of the video with the tweet.
Refugees on Manus said they saw Foxy’s owner carry his dog onto a bus that was taking them to their new accommodations. After the guard threw Foxy out the window, they said, its owner was left “mentally unwell.”
On Monday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia published a letter from Anderson to Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, asking for an investigation into the reports.
“The prolonged detainment of these people is appalling, but recent reporting from the camps indicates a new level of violence and suffering,” Anderson wrote.
“Animals feel pain, stress and fear just as we do, and such callous abuse is unacceptable and threatens everyone in your care on Manus.”
“Foxy’s primary caregiver is understandably distraught by the guard’s actions. Displaced people often form close bonds with animals, who provide unconditional love and hope.”
Anderson asked Dutton to launch an investigation into the reports around Foxy’s death.
“Just as we all love the cats and dogs who share our homes, members of the Manus Island refugee community care deeply for their animal companions and share with them the precious few resources that they have,” she wrote.
“Of all the things that refugees endure, emotional trauma is often the hardest to bear.”
HuffPost has contacted Dutton’s office for response to Anderson’s letter. Refugees on Manus, such as Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, thanked Anderson for her contribution.
Reports from refugees and asylum seekers in the new detention centers have painted a grim picture of partially constructed facilities with unconnected water and power supplies.
Media reports claim PNG residents do not welcome the refugees, who are now closer to towns. Angry and drunken men have tried to enter the new facilities late at night, threatening violence, according to Australian news reports.