Safety for some: those left behind on Manus and Nauru fearful and despairing

Safety for some: those left behind on Manus and Nauru fearful and despairing

After nearly five years of fear and violence on Manus Island approximately 40 men are today flying to safety in the United States as part of the US resettlement deal. For the people left behind in Australian Government’s offshore processing regime, hope is running out.

More than 2000 people, including more than 150 children, remain in desperate and dangerous conditions on Manus and Nauru in what the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called a ‘humanitarian crisis’ of Australia’s own making.

Behrouz Boochani, a journalist who has been held on Manus Island for almost five years said, “It’s a great feeling when you see the faces of the people who were under torture for years who have gotten freedom. On the other hand it's very sad when you see the faces of people who are still living in an uncertain situation and don’t know anything about their future.”

Over the weekend, the UNHCR reported on a worsening sense of helplessness and hopelessness among asylum-seekers and refugees at all facilities on Manus Island. 

Amy Frew, Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said, “A handful of people have today found relief and hope. The men currently flying to the United States will finally be able to rebuild their lives in safety. But the tragic reality is over two thousand people still remain trapped in endless despair.”

This is the second group of refugees to be given safety under the fraught deal, originally struck between Australia and the US under the Obama administration. The agreement, which President Trump called ‘dumb’ shortly after he first took office, has been dogged by delays and confusion.

More than 1600 refugees have formally expressed interest in being resettled in the US, and the UNHCR have endorsed applications for over 1200 men, women and children. It has widely been reported that only 1250 places will be offered. It's also been reported that a group will shortly depart from Nauru to the US but it is unknown exactly if or when others will follow and what the Australian Government’s plan is for those left behind.

“There are many questions around the deal, we don’t know how many people will be included. But the main question is that what will happen for the people who remain? The Government has not given any details,” said Mr Boochani.

“Hope for some does not solve the humanitarian disaster the Australian Government has created. This chapter does not end until every last man, woman and child is safe and able to rebuild their lives. Whatever the situation, deliberate cruelty to innocent people is never the answer,” said Ms Frew.

Background: approximate numbers

Number of people left in PNG according to today's numbers
Approximately 767 people (not including those who left today)

Number of people left in Nauru according to today's numbers
Approximately 1,100 people

Source: https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId1-PortfolioId13-QuestionNumber99

For more detail, see here.

For interviews or further information please call:

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