‘Sex and drugs’ at Manus vil­lage

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JOE KELLY

Aus­tralian govern­ment of­fi­cials were in­formed last month that asy­lum-seek­ers and refugees at the Manus Is­land pro­cess­ing cen­tre had reg­u­larly trav­elled into town to al­legedly have sex with un­der­age girls and buy or sell drugs.

Sev­eral chil­dren were born from the al­leged sex­ual re­la­tions.

Pa­pua New Guinea po­lice and com­mu­nity lead­ers told the Aus­tralian govern­ment in mid-Oc­to­ber of 161 in­ci­dents of var­i­ous of­fences in­volv­ing res­i­dents at the cen­tre recorded over four years from Oc­to­ber 2013.

The al­leged of­fences re­ferred to the Royal Pa­pua New Guinea Con­stab­u­lary have in­cluded as­sault, sex­ual as­sault, ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, un­law­ful en­try, prop­erty dam­age and con­tra­band.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands that some refugees, who re­ceive $100 a fort­night, were al­legedly us­ing small items such as cig­a­rettes and choco­lates bought at the cen­tre to lure un­der­age girls into en­gag­ing in sex­ual acts.

Mean­while, a protest against off­shore de­ten­tion turned vi­o­lent in Syd­ney last night when Tony Ab­bott’s sister, Chris­tine Forster, had her jacket ripped as she strug­gled through demon­stra­tors out­side a fundraiser for her brother. Ms Forster was forced back from en­ter­ing the build­ing in Red­fern un­til po­lice formed a ring around her and pushed their way through.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton yes­ter­day told Mel­bourne ra­dio 3AW that about 190 men from the Manus cen­tre — some of whom were “in­volved” in drugs — would travel into the nearby vil­lage of Loren­gau by bus each day. Mr Dut­ton also con­firmed some of these men had threat­ened to rape the wives and chil­dren of lo­cals.

“They’ll go down, purchase goods from the mar­kets, they stay at the beach, go to the beach, they sell things down there,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, if they’re minded to buy drugs or sell drugs, then that’s an ac­tiv­ity that some are in­volved in as well.’’

PNG of­fi­cials were yes­ter­day at­tempt­ing to move hun­dreds of asy­lum-seek­ers to al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion at East Loren­gau af­ter they chose to stay be­hind fol­low­ing the cen­tre’s clo­sure at the end of last month.

A joint op­er­a­tion to re­claim the pro­cess­ing cen­tre was im­ple­mented yes­ter­day by the PNG Im­mi­gra­tion and Cit­i­zen­ship Ser­vices Au­thor­ity with sup­port from the PNG de­fence force.

Manus Pro­vin­cial Po­lice Com­man­der, Chief In­spec­tor David Yapu, said the op­er­a­tion would be “con­ducted smoothly and or­derly with­out use of force”, with an­other 60 res­i­dents hav­ing vol­un­tar­ily boarded buses and open-back trucks.

While the cen­tre closed at the end of last month, hun­dreds of res­i­dents stayed be­hind de­spite wa­ter and elec­tric­ity be­ing turned off 10 days ago.

Refugee ad­vo­cates and ac­tivist groups have seized on the de­vel­op­ment to call on the govern­ment to re­set­tle them in Aus­tralia and warned of a “hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gency”.

GetUp! yes­ter­day dis­trib­uted film of refugees sleeping in shipping con­tain­ers, us­ing makeshift wells to stay hy­drated and col­lect­ing fire­wood.

Its hu­man rights co-di­rec­tors, Shen Narayanasamy and Matthew Phillips, spent eight hours in the camp tak­ing footage, claim­ing con­di­tions were worse than any con­flict or post-con­flict zone they had seen.

Speak­ing in Viet­nam yes­ter­day, Malcolm Turn­bull ac­cused ad­vo­cates, in­clud­ing Greens sen­a­tor Nick McKim, of en­cour­ag­ing refugees to stay be­hind at the cen­tre in vi­o­la­tion of PNG law.

“They are en­cour­ag­ing them to breach the law in PNG,” Mr Turn­bull said. “And they are act­ing in a way that is con­trary to the in­ter­ests of those refugees and other res­i­dents.’’

As of 7am yes­ter­day, there were only 140 refugees in the East Loren­gau Refugee Tran­sit Cen­tre, while 17 non-refugees had been sep­a­rated and housed in an­other cen­tre called Hill­side House, with more than 100 ar­rivals ex­pected.

Mr Dut­ton said the “very strong pref­er­ence” of the Aus­tralian govern­ment was to have peo­ple “move of their own ac­cord”.

But he warned there was a group of core ag­i­ta­tors who were likely to “try and pro­vide some sort of scene where there is a con­fronta­tion with po­lice”.

“They’ll do that be­cause they want that footage broad­cast back here,’’ Mr Dut­ton said. “Ul­ti­mately, as we know, they want to come to Aus­tralia and we’ve been very clear that we’re not go­ing to al­low peo­ple to set­tle in Aus­tralia.’’

Mr Dut­ton said that im­ages of the liv­ing con­di­tions at the pro­cess­ing cen­tre showed the ac­com­mo­da­tion had been “trashed” and that the con­di­tions in the photographs “don’t re­sem­ble at all the con­di­tions in which peo­ple have been liv­ing over a long pe­riod of time”.

Chris­tine Forster with her torn jacket last night

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