Hope for a handful, but fear, despair and limbo for 2,000 left behind on Manus/Nauru

Hope for a handful, but fear, despair and limbo for 2,000 left behind on Manus/Nauru

Today up to several dozen people on Manus Island and Nauru look set to be told by the US Government that they will be moved to the United States as part of the US resettlement deal. Refugees have been told the transfers could take place next week but it is unknown exactly if or when others will follow and what the Australian Government’s plan is for those left behind.

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:

“Today, after 4 years of fear and violence and shootings and death, a handful of people finally got some good news. But the tragic reality is that hope for a handful doesn't end the suffering of the 2000 innocent people left behind.”

Over 2000 people remain warehoused on Manus and Nauru, 1783 of whom have already been assessed to be refugees. Among these 2000 innocent people are 169 children.

“In signing the US deal our government was rightly conceding that it couldn't just abandon people on Nauru and Manus forever. That was an important and long overdue concession. Now, it is our Government’s responsibility to make sure not a single person is left behind. Not one life can be abandoned in limbo.”

The 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.

“Their safety is Malcolm Turnbull's  responsibility, not Donald Trump’s. Their lives - their futures - are in Malcolm Turnbull's hands, and he must ensure no one is left behind.”

“This dark chapter in our history does not close - this painful chapter in their lives does not end - until every single man, woman and child tormented on Nauru and Manus for the last four years is finally safe. Anyone who can't go to America must immediately be brought to safety in Australia,” said Mr Webb.

For a handful of families separated by the Australian Government’s offshore detention regime, the US deal still offers no way forward.

“There are a handful of families ripped apart by offshore detention. Fathers separated from children. Sisters separated from brothers. For them, the US deal won't end their pain. It is not a pathway for their family to finally be together again.”

“For them, the way forward is painfully simple - an absolute no-brainer. Permanently ripping apart families is fundamentally wrong. This handful of families must be reunited in Australia - it's a matter of basic decency,” said Mr Webb.


For interviews or further information please call:

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

Background - Approximate Numbers
Total number of people
PNG, Manus Island: 928
Nauru: 1135

Number of people left in PNG according to today's numbers
928 people minus those handed out today

Number of people left in Nauru according to today's numbers
1,135 people minus those handed out today