The Human Rights Law Centre has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to use his PNG trip – which comes at a critical juncture in Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council - to make arrangements for refugees and people seeking asylum languishing on Manus Island to be immediately evacuated to safety.
Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said that it was now more than a year since PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the Manus camp was a “problem” which needed to close, and more than 6 months since Immigration Minister Peter Dutton conceded plans were being made for the camp’s closure. However, 900 men still languish in limbo.
“These men have been locked in limbo for almost four years. Some have immediate family already living in the community in Australia. The PNG government clearly wants the Manus camp closed and our government has said they’ll make that happen. Turnbull must start making some compassionate exceptions and bringing some of the men to Australia,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb said the US deal was not going to be enough to ensure safety for all.
“There’s still huge uncertainty around the US deal – no numbers, no timeframes and no sensible basis on which we can have any trust or confidence in Trump. At best the US deal is a start but it’s clearly not going to be enough,” said Mr Webb.
Turnbull’s visit comes as Australia’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council heats up. Australia is running for Australia is a candidate for a seat on the 47-member Council for the term 2018-2020, with a vote in the General Assembly scheduled for October 2017.
HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Emily Howie, said the ongoing cruelty to refugees and people seeking asylum on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island casts a long shadow over Australia’s bid.
“Unfortunately, Australia has spent much of its political capital in the region on its one-eyed obsession with stopping boats. Australia is promising the world that it will be a principled defender of human rights internationally, but in fact its cruel offshore detention regime flouts international law and causes immense suffering. It’s a stain on Australia’s leadership credentials” said Ms Howie.
“Australia is failing the true test of leadership and leaving itself wide open to criticism that it will tell other states what to do but won’t adhere to the same standards at home. The Human Rights Council bid is the biggest attempt for a UN position since the Security Council. If Australia is serious about being a human rights leader it needs to act like one and do the right thing, and it must act now.”
For further comments please contact:
Tom Clarke, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0422 545 763
Photo: Matthew Abbott