There was a fleeting moment of hope and compassion for refugees stranded on Manus Island for the last four and a half years today when the Australian Parliament voted to support their safe resettlement in New Zealand, only for the Government to then block the motion by orchestrating a re-vote.
Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre who has been to Manus Island three times to meet the men and inspect conditions on the ground, said:
“Parliament got it right the first time today. After four and a half years filled with fear, violence and limbo it is time for the Government to evacuate these men to safety, not obstruct viable ways forward and leave them indefinitely languishing in danger,” said Mr Webb.
“We are talking about 600 innocent human beings. They have had four and a half years of their lives ripped away from them. They deserve a future. But instead our Government has just bludgeoned them from one dead end camp to another and is continuing to play politics while these men suffer,” said Mr Webb.
Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist held on Manus by the Australian Government for the last four years, said:
“How long do you want to keep people in an indefinite situation? How long till the sadistic desire is satisfied?” said Boochani.
“I hope that Australia accepts sending people to New Zealand and it will be a big step forward for a humane solution,” said Mr Boochani.
Hundreds of refugees remain on Manus Island and are now being held in unsecured and incomplete facilities close to the main town. The UN Refugee Agency inspected these new centres and found that services and conditions were “severely inadequate.”
“These men have been shot at, beaten and suffered the mental torment of not knowing if or when their ordeal would ever end. They’ve watched friends die there. Manus is not a safe place for them - never has been, never will be,” said Mr Webb.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519