NFPs Outraged Over Refugees Left Stranded on Manus
10 April 2017 at 4:35 pm
The news that refugees on Manus Island who are not accepted by the United States will remain in Papua New Guinea when the facilities close later this year has sparked outrage from not for profits who slammed the announcement as “deeply troubling”.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News on Sunday he expected the Manus Island detention centre would close before the end of October after a court decision last year.
But he said while Australia had a deal with the US to take refugees from Australia’s offshore facilities there was no guarantee how many it would accept and some people would remain in PNG.
“So we think there’s significant scope for a large number of people, but we don’t have an exact number as yet,” Dutton said.
“Under the agreement struck by Mr [Kevin] Rudd, if people are found to be refugees, given that PNG is itself is a signatory to the convention and to the protocols, PNG has the responsibility to settle those people.
“We’ll work with the PNG government, but some people will remain in PNG.
“We’ve been very clear with the PNG government, that’s the nature of the agreement struck between Prime Ministers [Peter] O’Neill and Rudd and we will work as hard as we can to get people back to their countries of origin, if they’ve been found not to be owed protection.”
Dutton reiterated that refugees would not be allowed to come to Australia.
“They are not coming to Australia and the advocates can bleat all they want, they can protest all they want. We have been very clear, those people are not going to settle in our country because that would restart the people trade and we are not going to allow women and children to drown at sea again,” he said.
CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM told Pro Bono News it was “deeply disappointing”.
“How much longer do these men need to suffer?” Karapanagiotidis said.
“[The government] won’t take up New Zealand on the offer, they can’t secure all these men being resettled in the United States, they have a duty of care. They have got to bring the rest of the men here, it is not that complicated and the majority of Australians actually want action.”
Karapanagiotidis said a new poll revealed the majority of Australians wanted familiy reunions for people on Manus and Nauru that have family in Australia, while more than half of Australians believed the camps should be immediately evacuated.
“So you can see how out of step both our prime minister and our minister for immigration is,” he said.
“It is really troubling when Turnbull has gone from saying there will be a robust solution for the people who have been in prison for more than four years, and now what they’re saying.
“What we have consistently heard from the men on Manus is that Papua New Guinea is not safe, the local police authorities cannot protect them, in fact at times they have been assaulted and attacked by the local authorities. The men fear for their safety, the US deal is going to fail to actually provide safe resettlement options for the majority of people.
“One of the asylum seekers on Manus was tweeting the other day saying less than half of the men on Manus were even fingerprinted as part of character checks and assessments for resettlement in the US, so it looks like up to half, if not more, of the men on Manus are going to be left stranded there.”
He said the men on Manus were facing a constant threat of despair.
“On one hand there is sheer resilience and defiance around people trying not to be broken, and on the other hand, yet again being traumatised, yet again being disillusioned, yet again being told there is going to be a resolution and having a prime minister promise a genuine resolution, only for all of these men to find themselves back at square one,” he said.
“They have been there for four years. We have actually killed more of the men on that island than we have safely resettled them.
“So there is a deep despondency and a deep despair, and we’re seeing that through the reports of people self-harming, of attempts to forcibly remove people.
“It’s deeply disturbing and out of step with the Australian public.
“[The government] have locked themselves into a corner in terms of the absolutes that these men will never come here and they are now pushing a political policy that is untenable, unsustainable and only going to lead to further suffering.”
He said the public needed to continue to put pressure on the government to achieve a more humane resolution.
“If we see the polls, they have dramatically shifted from even 12 months ago, two years ago, in terms of public opinion and we need to keep ramping it up until it becomes politically untenable for the government to leave the people there,” he said.
“So that means we continue to call our local members, visit our local members demanding better, we continue to call talkback, write to our local papers, sign up to petitions, get behind our protest, we’ve just got to keep the pressure up until we actually get a resolution.”
Save the Children Australia chief executive officer Paul Ronalds told Pro Bono News they remained concerned about refugees on Nauru and Manus Island who faced “continued uncertainty” over whether they would be resettled in the US.
“These vulnerable people have been in limbo for years and ongoing uncertainty around the US deal would be causing them even more distress,” Ronalds said.
“We welcome the Australian government’s decision to prioritise women, children and families on Nauru for resettlement in the US.
“However, it is important to ensure that refugees on Manus Island are not separated from their families if not all refugees are accepted for resettlement in the US.”
Shadow minister for immigration and border protection Shayne Neumann said there were “serious questions” raised by the announcement.
“Labor strongly supports the resettlement of up to 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in the United States but there will be potentially hundreds of refugees who miss out and will remain in offshore processing centres,” Neumann said.
“The Turnbull government has put all their eggs in one basket with the US agreement and failed to secure other third country resettlement arrangements; and immigration officials confirmed last month that the Turnbull government is not negotiating other resettlement options.
“The Turnbull government needs to clarify what the Australian government’s role will be in Manus Island once the offshore processing centre closes in October and what support and assistance will be offered to refugees who are forced to remain in PNG.”
It comes as the Victorian Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling on Friday that asylum seekers on Manus Island who are suing the Turnbull government for false imprisonment will be able to watch the proceedings live from Papua New Guinea.
It marks the first time Australian court proceedings will be streamed live overseas.