Reports that the US has exhausted its refugee quota for this year has left refugees still warehoused on Manus Island in despair. More than 8 months have passed since the US refugee resettlement deal was announced, but none of the over 1780 refugees on Manus or Nauru have been resettled in safety. After four years trapped in limbo on remote islands, the men, women and children on Manus and Nauru now fear that time is running out.
Behrouz Boochani, a refugee, journalist and filmmaker currently held on Manus Island said:
“This news is frustrating for the refugees here. The US deal has already been clouded with uncertainty, and worry that it is just part of a cruel game. When the deal was first announced it brought people some hope. But day by day that hope has diminished, and now this news brings more disappointment and doubt. Some refugees were recently told they would be sent to the US within weeks, but where does this leave them?”
The refugee quota is part of President Donald Trump’s controversial ‘travel ban’, first announced earlier this year. On 26 June 2017 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld parts of the ban on an interim basis, including the halving of the US refugee intake to 50,000 places, until the matter is heard in full later this year. Next years’ quota of 50,000 will not commence until 1 October 2017.
“All the men here have families, and four years with no certainty for their future is already too much. The Australian government says it wants to close the detention centre by October and is putting pressure on people to move to East Lorengau, but now we hear the US won't take any more refugees before October 1. How can anyone trust that if they leave the centre they won't be abandoned in PNG?” added Mr Boochani.
Imran Mohammad, a refugee, who was just 19 when he was detained on Manus Island said:
“News like this makes us feel dead. It defuses the spark of hope that we try to hold on to. It has been four years of waking up to such devastating news and it makes us suffer from chronic and hopeless depression. The uncertainty of our future has always been the same. Sadly, it is getting worse now.”
Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has visited Manus Island three times to inspect conditions and meet with the men held there. Mr Webb said:
“Our Government says it will bulldoze the Manus camp by 31 October 2017 but there is still nowhere safe for these men to go.”
“Every single man, woman and child on Manus and Nauru has already lost four years of their life. Every single one of them deserves a future. These lives are in Malcolm Turnbull’s hands, not Donald Trump’s. After four years of fear, violence and limbo, our government must urgently evacuate every single person trapped on Manus and Nauru to safety.”
For interviews with Daniel Webb or Behrouz Boochani please contact:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519