Government finally concedes Manus and Nauru unsustainable, but offers no clear path forward and foreshadows deportations

After three years the Australian Government has finally acknowledged that our offshore centres on Nauru and Manus Islands are unsustainable and that it needs to find a way forward. However, today’s announcement reveals it still hasn’t found one.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb said, “After three years of fear, harm and limbo the government has finally conceded that Nauru and Manus are dead ends.”

However, Mr Webb said that today’s announcement was far from a ‘plan’.

“This announcement is full of holes. No timeframe. No numbers. No detail on what the government will do with the hundreds of innocent people who look like they might be left behind. It's not a plan.” 

“This ugly chapter in our history only closes when every single man, woman and child suffering at our government’s hand on Nauru and Manus is finally rebuilding their lives in safety. No one can be left behind,” said Mr Webb. 

Today’s announcement also foreshadowed the deportation of 370 people already in Australia rebuilding their lives, who were the subject of the massive campaign #LetThemStay in February this year. This group includes more than 100 children, including 40 babies born in Australia. Mr Webb has been contacted urgently by many of these women and men since rumours of a resettlement deal began this week. 

“I’ve had parents calling me, confused about whether or not to complete their children's school enrolment forms for next year. There will be kids going to school in our communities tomorrow terrified that they will be sent back to Nauru one day soon. What are they supposed to tell their friends?” 

“We’re talking about 40 babies born right here, who have taken their first steps and spoken their first words in our communities. Most of them have probably never even seen a boat. Is the Prime Minister really going to ship them off to Nauru?” 

The Government’s announcement also says nothing about whether families separated by the current offshore detention arrangements will ever be reunited. 

“I was on Manus recently and met one man, Nayser Ahmed, who arrived here on a different date to his wife and kids. While his family are now rebuilding their lives in Sydney, Nayser has been stuck on Manus for the last three years. He just wants to be with his kids again. All this talk of lifetime bans and third countries has left him devastated,” said Mr Webb. 

As of 31 October 2016, 941 people on Nauru had been accepted as refugees, and 675 on Manus Island. This leaves hundreds of people whose status hasn’t yet been confirmed. These numbers include same-sex attracted men who face persecution in Nauru and Papua New Guinea and other countries in the region where homosexual conduct is criminalised. 

For further comments or queries please contact: 

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, 0437 278 961 

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