The Manus Island situation: The facts

The Manus Island Regional Processing Centre was officially closed on October 31 and given back to the Papua New Guinea government.

Men move daily in and out of the closed centre but reports indicate that approximately 420 men are left. All of these men have refused to move to new transit centres in Lorengau.

How it all started:

In 2012 asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat were processed offshore. Back then some of the adult men were sent to Manus Island in PNG.

Since July 2013  ONLY adult men were transferred to Manus.

Since July 2013 a total of 1,523 people have been transferred to Manus from Australia.

When the Manus processing centre closed on October 31, there were 690 people in the facility.

The number of asylum seekers on Manus Island has slowly reduced over the years as people have either accepted packages to return to their country of origin, been deported from PNG, been resettled in the US or temporarily settled in PNG. Six others have died. […]

 

Why was the Manus Regional Processing Centre closed?

On April 27 last year, the PNG Supreme Court ruled that the detention of the asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.

After the decision was made the PNG government said that those at the centre were free to come and go from the processing centre.

It was not until April 2017 that the Australian government and the PNG government announced publicly that the processing centre would close on October 31.

All of the service providers (including health providers) and Australian government officials left the centre on October 31 this year and the centre was supposed to be reoccupied by the PNG Defence Force from November 1.

What are the options for those left on Manus?

According to the Australian government, those who have been found by PNG authorities to be refugees have the following options:

  • resettle in PNG;
  • wait in PNG for possible resettlement in the US;
  • transfer to Nauru to wait for possible resettlement in the US; or
  • return to the country from which they had fled persecution.

Resettlement of refugees in PNG has been slow and problematic with few people opting to leave the processing centre to live elsewhere in PNG.

The UNHCR has raised concern about just how “voluntarily” refugees can return to the country from which they fled.

Since the US resettlement deal was announced about a year ago, 516 refugees from Manus have been referred to the US for resettlement.

Reviews of their cases and interviews are underway. Only 25 have been resettled so far.[…]

Currently, it is clear the majority want to wait to see if they will be offered resettlement in the US. Refugees remaining in the processing centre have been offered alternative accommodation at East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre (for up to 400 people) and West Lorengau House (for up to 300 people).[…]

The UNHCR is urging against the forced movement of refugees and asylum seekers to these centres from the processing centre.

If they want to remain as squatters without food, electricity and medicine then perhaps Australia and the PNG should take UNHCR’s advice. In fact, they should publicise it far and wide that the reason why the refugees are in those terrible conditions is because the UNHCR said it would be a breach of their human rights to relocate them to centres where there is food, electricity and medical supplies.

The UNHCR can’t have it both ways. They can’t blame Australia and PNG for the plight of the men who are choosing to remain in those terrible conditions while at the same time saying that if they intervene that they will be impinging on their human right to starve themselves to death.

The men who have been found by PNG authorities not to be refugees have been offered supported accommodation in Lorengau (Hillside House).

However, the PNG government expects them to eventually make arrangements to return home voluntarily or they will be deported.

-theconversation.com

 


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