No food. No water. No safety: Refugees on Manus to be abandoned in danger

No food. No water. No safety: Refugees on Manus to be abandoned in danger

A threatening notice posted inside the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (RPC) today has warned refugees detained there for the last four and a half years that from the 31 October, all food, water and electricity will be disconnected, the fences will come down and the facility will be handed over to the PNG Defence Forces.

The notice was posted in Farsi. The Human Rights Law Centre has had parts of the notice translated. It reads:

After 31 October, the RPC Site will not have the following:
-       Power or Running Water
-       Food and Drinking Water
-       Sewage Facilities
-       Complete External Fence
After 31 October, all PNG and Australia service providers and personnel will abandon the RPC, and measures will be in place so that the RPC can again be taken over by the PNG Defence Forces.

The notice has left the men terrified for their safety. On Good Friday this year drunk soldiers from the PNG Defence Forces went on a rampage, tried to crash a vehicle through the detention centre fences and fired over 100 shots, including from an M-16 Assault Rifle, at the refugees detained inside.

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who has been to Manus three times to investigate conditions on the ground, said:

“PNG military personnel have attacked these men once before. Now our Government is tearing down the fences and putting them in charge. The UN has already called this a humanitarian disaster. It could be about to turn into a bloodbath,” said Mr Webb.

The notice is the latest move by the Australian Government to pressure the 750 men inside the Manus camp to return to danger in their home countries, face hostility and conflict in the Manus community or transfer to the Australian Government’s other offshore facility on Nauru.

“This absolutely beggars belief. Most of these men were assessed as refugees years ago. They’ve had four years of their lives ripped away from them. They’ve been beaten. They’ve been shot at. They’ve suffered the sheer torment of not knowing if or when their ordeal would ever end.

“After four years of fear, violence and suffering, these men deserve a future. But instead our Government is trying to bludgeon them into returning to persecution or moving from one dead end camp to another. It’s the height of cruelty,” said Mr Webb.

The move comes just three days after the Australian Government was handed a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and is trying to spruik its own credentials as a “principled and pragmatic” defender of human rights. It also comes as Government representatives endured two days of condemnation and interrogation by an expert UN Committee in Geneva. The UN Human Rights Committee criticised the Australian Government for its “shocking” and “disturbing” cruelty to refugees and its “chronic non-compliance” with international human rights law.

“Our Government is just three days into a three-year term on the Human Rights Council and already it’s clear that its unmitigated cruelty to refugees will haunt it wherever it goes.

“Our Government is warehousing 1783 proven refugees on Manus and Nauru. 169 of them are children. Our Government can prance around and blow its own trumpet all it likes. But it will lack any credibility and moral authority on human rights until it stops destroying the lives of innocent people,” said Mr Webb.

"We were shocked and couldn't rest the whole night after seeing the notice about PNG defence forces taking charge of the centre after 31st October.   This is one of the worst things the Australian government could do to cause us to be frightened and make our lives harder," said Imran Mohammad, who has been trapped on Manus Island for four years.

"We will never forget Good Friday this year when we were attacked by the PNG navy.  We  felt as though it was to be our last day, that we would die," said Mr Mohammed.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519