Hope for a handful, but further limbo and despair for more than 1800 still left behind on Nauru/Manus

Hope for a handful, but further limbo and despair for more than 1800 still left behind on Nauru/Manus

After nearly five years of fear, violence and limbo, 22 refugees yesterday left Nauru to fly to safety in the United States as part of the US refugee resettlement deal. However, over 1800 people - including 150 children - are still languishing in desperate and dangerous conditions across Manus and Nauru, a situation the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called a ‘humanitarian crisis’ of Australia’s own making.

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said:

“The tragic reality is that hope for a handful doesn’t end the suffering of those left behind. It’s great that these 22 people will tomorrow wake up in freedom and safety. But over 1800 others will awake to the same painful limbo that has confronted them every morning for the last four and a half years,” said Mr Webb.

“These 22 people deserve their freedom and safety. But so do the 1800 others still languishing in limbo.”

This is the fourth group of refugees to be given safety under the fraught deal, which has been dogged by delays, confusion and travel bans and resentment from US President Donald Trump.

“In signing the US deal our government was rightly conceding that it couldn't just abandon people on Nauru and Manus forever. It is our Government’s responsibility to make sure not a single person is left behind,”

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

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 but it is unknown exactly if or when others will follow and what the Australian Government’s plan is for those 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. Over 1800 innocent people - 150 children - have had four and a half years of their lives ripped away from them. It is the Australian Government’s responsibility to ensure they have a future,” said Mr Webb.

Background: approximate numbers

Number of people left in PNG according to today's numbers
Approximately 742 people  

Number of people left in Nauru according to today's numbers
Approximately 1,048 people
Source: https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId1-PortfolioId13-QuestionNumber99

For interviews or further information please call:

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

Photo credit:
Accommodation in the Nauru offshore processing facility.
DIAC Images