25 refugees leave Manus for the US, but limbo continues for the 2000 left behind

United States authorities have today confirmed that 25 refugees detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island for the last four years have left for the US but refused to confirm when — or how many — others will follow.

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.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist held on Manus by the Australian Government for the last four years, said:

“It’s great that finally some of our friends have found freedom in a safe place. But there are still 800 of us left here in this prison camp. We just want the Australian Government to answer our simple questions: how many people will go to America, when will they go, and what is your plan for those people left behind?”

“I can’t describe the happiness on the faces of those men who left. But also there was sadness. They know the people who were in this prison with them are still here,” said Mr Boochani.

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:

“For a handful of people, today is a good day. For the first time in a long time these men can finally feel hopeful, optimistic and free. But the tragic reality is that hope for a handful doesn't end the suffering of the 2000 innocent people left behind,” said Mr Webb.

“After four years of fear, violence and limbo, safety for a handful isn’t good enough. Every single one of these innocent people has had four years of their life ripped away from them. Every single one of them deserves a future. Our government must not abandon one single life in limbo.”

“Anyone who can't go to America must immediately be brought to safety in Australia,” said Mr Webb.

Split families

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