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Issue #1788      August 2, 2017

End game on Manus

Charlie Compound, Manus Island’s asylum seeker prison camp, where ten Rohingya, Pakistani and Afghan refugees have been living for a month, was demolished late last month after power and water was cut off and the refugees were evicted by PNG police and immigration officials

The eviction and demolition are the latest moves by an increasingly desperate government to try and force people out of the detention centre to meet the deadline for the end of the Ferrovial contract on October 31.

The ten refugees have been living in Charlie since Border Force announced that the Foxtrot compound was being closed at the end of June. They have been forced to try to find accommodation elsewhere in the detention centre, defying attempts by Border Force and PNG immigration to force them to move to the East Lorengau Transit Accommodation, closer to the Lorengau settlement on Manus Island. But there are fewer places for them in an increasingly crowded camp.

The latest notice inside the detention centre says that there are 102 days until the detention centre closes. But only people determined to be refugees are allowed in East Lorengau and it is unsafe and has even fewer services than the detention centre. There are around 60 refugees presently living at East Lorengau, but, in turn, they are being pressured to sign agreements to be resettled in PNG, although PNG has no resettlement arrangements. The few who have signed for PNG resettlement are living precariously in Port Moresby.

Refugees have again been told that Foxtrot compound is going to be closed “in the next few days”. But there is nowhere for them to go.

To make space within the detention centre, refugees will have to be forced to move out of Oscar and Delta compounds to East Lorengau. Yet East Lorengau, has room for only around 280 and there are over 700 refugees in the detention centre.

Any forced closure of Foxtrot would create badly overcrowded and unsanitary conditions inside the detention centre.

Neither Border Force nor PNG immigration have any legal power to use force on refugees inside the detention centre. In April 2016, The PNG Supreme Court found that all the Manus detainees are being held unlawfully.

“Withdrawing power and water, closing down accommodation areas, ending services and activities have become the method of choice for Border Force to pressure the refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“They hope by creating intolerable conditions, they can force enough people out of the detention centre. This kind of coercion amounts to further human rights abuses of people the government has no right to imprison. Such abuses that have already cost them $70 million in damages for the years of unlawful detention.

“Things are coming to a head. Minister Dutton says he wants to close the detention centre but there is nowhere in PNG to put the asylum seekers and refugees and no third country. There is no prospect of refugees from Manus being settled in the US before the deadline.

“That leaves Australia – a choice the Minister, and the Labor opposition will find hard to swallow. But it is a dilemma of their own making. The sooner everyone is brought to Australia, the sooner they will get the safety and security they need.”

Next article – Wage Theft

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