Third group of Manus refugees leaves for US
UN calls for resolution for those left in limbo in Australia’s offshore detention regime
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.”
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”.