PNG says it won't let Australian Government abandon refugees on Manus Island

PNG says it won't let Australian Government abandon refugees on Manus Island

Overnight the Papua New Guinea Government announced that it will not allow the Australian Government to close down the Manus Island detention centre until it first finds somewhere safe and viable for the men trapped inside it to go.

The PNG Attorney General, Davis Steven, reportedly told Australia’s High Commissioner that the PNG Government had not agreed to the slated 31 October 2017 closure and that PNG would not allow the Australian Government to just walk away and abandon people in PNG.

Amir Taghinia, a refugee held on Manus Island for four years said:

“This proves that the Australian Government does not have any plan. They are just playing a game and people are very desperate. After 4 years, we just want a chance to build a life in safety."

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist currently held on Manus Island, said:

“This comment from the PNG Government proves that the Australian Government has no plan and has lost control of its own policy. The people in the Manus detention centre are tired from this kind of political games. We just want freedom and a chance to rebuild our lives.”

The PNG announcement comes at a dangerous and tense time on Manus Island. The Australian government is closing the Manus RPC facility around the men it has detained there for the last four years - recently cutting water and electricity to the major compounds - but the men have nowhere safe to go.

Ahead of the slated October 31 closure the Australian Government is currently attempting to force the men to the East Lorengau facility on the outskirts of the main town on Manus. The facility currently holds about 60 men but at a Senate hearing in May the Australian Government revealed plans to ‘double-bunk’ the facility and increase its capacity to 440.

However, a series of recent violent attacks against refugees near the centre and the surrounding town - including three attacks in one night last month - have left the men terrified.

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who has visited Manus Island three times to inspect conditions and meet with the men held there, said:

“After four years of fear, violence, chaos and uncertainty, enough is enough. These 900 innocent men are our government’s responsibility. They are completely exhausted and deserve a chance to finally begin rebuilding their lives in freedom and safety,” said Mr Webb.

For a timeline of critical incidents during the four years of this regime, see our report ‘Four years too many: offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru'.

For interviews with Amir Taghinia and Behrouz Boochani please call:

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