Third group of Manus refugees leaves for US

UN calls for res­o­lu­tion for those left in limbo in Aus­tralia’s off­shore de­ten­tion regime

Gulf News - - Australia / Africa -

An­other 18 refugees from Aus­tralia’s off­shore im­mi­gra­tion regime have left Pa­pua New Guinea for re­set­tle­ment in Amer­ica, but the United Na­tions refugee agency has warned that those who re­main are show­ing “a per­va­sive and wors­en­ing sense of de­spair”.

Speak­ing in Geneva, the UNHCR’s re­gional pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer, Rico Sal­cedo, said Aus­tralia’s off­shore regime was hold­ing refugees and asy­lum seek­ers in dan­ger­ous and harm­ful con­di­tions, and al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions must be found.

“We can­not em­pha­sise enough that so­lu­tions must be found for all, out­side of Pa­pua New Guinea, as a mat­ter of ur­gency,” Sal­cedo said. “Aus­tralia re­mains ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble, as the state from which these refugees and asy­lum seek­ers have sought in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion, for their wel­fare and long-term set­tle­ment out­side of Pa­pua New Guinea.”

In­creased pres­ence

The UNHCR has main­tained an in­creased pres­ence on Manus Is­land since the stand­off last year over the clo­sure of the for­mer de­ten­tion cen­tre and the refugees’ forced evic­tion from the camp. The men have since been moved to three other Aus­tralian-built and con­trolled cen­tres nearer to Loren­gau town­ship, but which have poorer fa­cil­i­ties and fewer ser­vices. Health ser­vices, in par­tic­u­lar care for those with chronic con­di­tions and men­tal health is­sues, are es­pe­cially lim­ited.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment has al­ready con­ceded to pay $70 mil­lion (Dh257 mil­lion) to nearly 2,000 refugees and asy­lum seek­ers it held on Manus.

“What stood out the most from this mis­sion at the time we were there was a per­va­sive and wors­en­ing sense of de­spair among refugees and asy­lum seek­ers,” Sal­cedo said. “In our con­ver­sa­tions with dif­fer­ent peo­ple, there’s a sense of des­o­la­tion. Peo­ple are grasp­ing for hope.

The US deal, which has now re­set­tled 85 peo­ple from Manus Is­land in Amer­ica, was “an on­go­ing and wel­come process” but that “the knowl­edge that many re­main with­out any res­o­lu­tion is weigh­ing on ev­ery­one”.

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