Ten­sions ahead of Aus­tralia camp clo­sure on PNG

Iran Daily - - International -

Ten­sions were high on a Papua New Guinea is­land on Sun­day as au­thor­i­ties pre­pared to close an Aus­tralian refugee camp, with lo­cal po­lice call­ing for calm as some de­tainees re­fused to move.

The Manus Is­land de­ten­tion cen­ter, to close on Tues­day, is one of two Pa­cific camps where asy­lum­seek­ers who try to en­ter Aus­tralia by boat are sent for pro­cess­ing un­der Can­berra’s harsh im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, AFP wrote.

Refugees had been given the op­tion of mov­ing to the other cen­ter on the is­land of Nauru but most de­tainees have shunned the of­fer, ex­press­ing fears that re­lo­ca­tion could fur­ther pro­long their agony.

Some have also re­fused to re­lo­cate on Manus, cit­ing safety fears amid re­ports they would not be wel­comed in lo­cal neigh­bor­hoods.

“The guys (refugees) have said they will stay, they don’t in­tend to move,” Refugee Ac­tion Coali­tion spokesman Ian Rin­toul said.

“As of to­day, the mess is closed so food will no longer be avail­able inside the de­ten­tion cen­ter and they (cen­ter’s man­age­ment) are go­ing to be is­su­ing food packs... for two days.”

The plan to close the Manus cen­ter came af­ter a rul­ing by PNG’S Supreme Court last year that hold­ing peo­ple there was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Aus­tralia’s Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said pre­vi­ously the Manus fa­cil­ity would close by the end of Oc­to­ber.

Con­di­tions in both camps have been widely crit­i­cized by refugee ad­vo­cates and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als amid re­ports of wide­spread abuse, self­harm and men­tal health prob­lems.

De­tainees are barred from be­ing trans­ferred to Aus­tralia and Can­berra has tried to re­set­tle them in third coun­tries.

It struck a deal with for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama for Amer­ica to re­set­tle an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of the de­tainees, but so far just 54 peo­ple have been no­ti­fied of their ac­cep­tance and a group of only 24 have flown out.

Hun­dreds more re­main at the camp.

PNG po­lice said they would help move the de­tainees to tem­po­rary lo­ca­tions but warned Sun­day that the safety of refugees and govern­ment work­ers was “not to be taken for granted”.

There was a “small dis­grun­tled fac­tion among the refugees”, po­lice com­mis­sioner Gari Baki said, while plead­ing with lo­cals not to make the trans­fers — sched­uled for Mon­day — dif­fi­cult.

“The Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice is ap­peal­ing to the peo­ple of Manus not to cre­ate any un­cer­tainty and let the trans­fer of the refugees be done as smoothly as pos­si­ble,” a po­lice state­ment said.

The calls for calm came as a re­port by Hu­man Rights Watch re­leased Wed­nes­day said the Manus refugees faced “unchecked violence”.

“While the Oc­to­ber 31 dead­line looms, refugees and asy­lum seek­ers on Manus Is­land have been get­ting stabbed, beaten, and robbed,” Hu­man Rights Watch’s Aus­tralia di­rec­tor Elaine Pear­son said in a state­ment.

“The tragic irony is that mov­ing these men from their squalid, guarded cen­ter and set­tling them else­where in PNG will ac­tu­ally put them at greater dan­ger.”

AFP

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