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NFPs Call for Humane Resettlement of Manus Asylum Seekers

18 August 2016 at 11:00 am
Wendy Williams
Not for Profits are calling on the Australian Government to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in a “humane and sustainable way” in the wake of news that an agreement has been made to close the Manus Island detention centre.

Wendy Williams | 18 August 2016 at 11:00 am


NFPs Call for Humane Resettlement of Manus Asylum Seekers
18 August 2016 at 11:00 am

Not for Profits are calling on the Australian Government to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in a “humane and sustainable way” in the wake of news that an agreement has been made to close the Manus Island detention centre.

Refugees Welcome Sign

Photo: d13 / Shutterstock

Global aid agency Save the Children has said the more than 850 refugees and asylum seekers who have been “left to languish” in the Manus Island detention centre must be afforded “a chance to move on positively with their lives”.

It comes after Papua New Guinea’s prime minister Peter O’Neill and Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton met in Port Moresby on Wednesday to agree to close Manus Island detention centre, consistent with the earlier ruling of the PNG Supreme Court.

While the two countries confirmed that the Manus Island detention centre will be closed, no detail was given on the future of those being held there; except to reiterate that Australia would not accept any of the detainees for resettlement.

Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Ronalds said the latest announcement meant it was now incumbent on the Turnbull government to detail a safe resettlement plan for the refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom have been “living in limbo in the centre for years”.

“The Turnbull government must now find a humane and sustainable resettlement pathway for these men, be it in Australia or a safe, developed and appropriate third country that affords them the rights, protections and opportunities required under our international obligations,” Ronalds said.

“This resettlement plan must also be extended to the refugees and asylum seekers languishing on Nauru, where the evidence of abuse, self-harm and other threats to the wellbeing of refugee and asylum seeker children and their families has been consistent and telling.

“If the Turnbull government does not outline a humane and sustainable resettlement plan, and it continues to arbitrarily punish refugees and asylum seekers with effective indefinite detention, then further tragedy is inevitable.”

Children’s charity UNICEF Australia has urged Dutton to “seriously consider” resettlement options in credible third countries that are equipped to respond to the complex needs of refugees and their families.

UNICEF Australia director of policy and advocacy Nicole Breeze said it’s what happens next that matters for this group.

“Australia’s offshore processing regime has created conditions in which already vulnerable people have been at risk of greater harm. Distressing reports of severe violence and self-harm have been frequent. The Australian Government has an opportunity to fully consider sustainable options that properly prioritise the wellbeing of this group of 850 men, some of whom arrived on the island as children,” Breeze said.

“It’s what happens next that matters for this group, who have spent extended periods in detention. Pressuring them to move into the PNG community or shifting them to Nauru would only relocate the crisis.

“Over the last three years UNICEF Australia has expressed serious concerns regarding the safety of the unaccompanied children who were held in the Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island. A number of boys arrived in Manus without their parents or families and have grown up in an unsafe, institutionalised setting surrounded by highly distressed adults. They became adults under the some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

“UNICEF Australia has an appreciation of the challenges facing both refugees and the governments seeking to assist them. We look forward to a continued constructive partnership with government that seeks to find the best possible outcome for children and families on Manus Island and Nauru.”

Following the meeting on Wednesday O’Neill released a statement saying that officials from both countries were making progress on how to close the centre, but no time frame was given for the process.

“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” O’Neill said.

“A series of options are being advanced and implemented.

“It is important that this process is not rushed but carried out in a careful manner.

“This must take into account the interests of the people of Papua New Guinea and the wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees.”

Dutton confirmed later on Wednesday that he had discussions with O’Neill on the closure of Manus but remained adamant that none of the refugees would ever be settled in Australia.

“It has been the longstanding position of this government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin,” Dutton said.

“Our position, confirmed again today [Wednesday] with PNG, is that no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia.

“In addition to the removal of all children from detention and the closure of 17 detention centres, this is a further dividend of the Coalition’s strong and consistent border protection policies.”

Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann called on Dutton to explain how he will “resolve the fate of asylum seekers currently languishing in Papua New Guinea”.

“He must clarify the terms and timeframe of the agreement with the PNG Government and outline what resources will be provided for refugees to resettle in Papua New Guinea,” Neumann said.

“The Turnbull government must be upfront and honest with the Australian people about their intentions for the hundreds of asylum seekers in Australia’s offshore processing facility.”

Meanwhile politicians and members of the public took to social media using the hashtag #BringThemHere

Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale urged Dutton on Twitter to confirm, with a clear timeline and detail of, where people will go.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government must now give refugees the opportunity to rebuild their lives safely here in Australia.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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