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Issue #1802      November 8, 2017


Humanitarian Crisis on Manus Island

The 587 people in detention have been abandoned following the closure of the Manus detention centre. These are men who have been detained for four and a half years.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says access to water, food, daily medication, electricity and sanitation have been cut to coerce move to unsafe East Lorengau.

All service and security have left and the gates left open.

PNG Prime Minister and chiefs have said Australian government must take responsibility for safety of men and take them to Australia.

The men are peacefully protesting.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has said they will not force people to leave and is calling on the Australian government to find a solution.

Our leaders remain silent.

Contact MPs offices

Sample letter:

Hello, my name is _____. I live in [suburb, electorate and state]

I am calling today to ask {name ] MP / Senator to end the humanitarian crisis happening on Manus Island and Nauru by evacuating the 2000 refugees and people seeking asylum to Australia.

Can I speak to the MP?

Can I leave a message for [name] MP / Senator?

Does [name] MP / Senator know that:

  • refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus have run out of water and don’t have working toilets
  • don’t have access to daily medication
  • are peacefully protesting because the facility they are being transferred to is not finished, has no security and therefore they are vulnerable to violence by local people who don’t want them there.

Does [name] MP / Senator know?

Australian officials are exerting political influence to deny and delay doctor’s directions for people detained on Nauru who need urgent medical treatment.

I ask [name] MP / Senator to:

  • please make a statement in the media and take responsibility
  • acknowledge that the PNG Prime Minister has asked the Australian government to take responsibility for the crisis and safety of people on Manus seeking our protection
  • acknowledge that thousands of Australians want leadership on human rights
  • respect Australia’s multiculturalism and acknowledge that our country is built by refugees and migrants
  • end human rights abuses
  • we want you to #BringThemHere now

Thanks very much for your time. Please pass on my message urgently.

Chronic non-compliance

No area of government action defines the character of the country – who and what we are – more distinctly than its handling of immigration, including its response to those seeking asylum and safety who come to its shores.

On PNG’s Manus Island, under Australia’s watch and at the instigation of successive Australian governments, people seeking sanctuary have been and are now abused, tortured and killed.

While Australia has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the same council has condemned it for its “chronic non-compliance” to international human rights.


The following report from the Refugee Action Coalition on Manus Island says refugees are literally digging in as they prepare to survive the government siege of the Manus detention centre. Overnight (November 2) refugees dug a well in Oscar compound that has given them a precious source of water – good enough to drink, if needs be, and will ensure some toilets can be flushed.

Some people are sleeping outside to escape the oppressive heat and airlessness of the converted shipping containers that used to be their accommodation.

The struggle of the men imprisoned on Manus is the same. Only this time the government has cut off the water, the power and their food.

East Lorenagau is still unsafe; as is West Lorenagau and Hillside, even if they were habitable.

No provision has been made for proper medical care. Refugees have been told a GP clinic will operate in business hours at East Lornegau, but otherwise refugees and asylum seekers will only have access to the Lorengau hospital which does not even have enough resources to provide medical care for the Manusians. No one has explained how anyone living in the community will be paid an allowance or how they will be fed.

Most of all, the refugees and asylum seekers are still being deprived of their freedom and a secure future.

Humanitarian disaster

In a statement, the Australian Lawyers Alliance noted that closing Manus Island detention centre without ensuring that residents have a safe place to go presents an urgent risk of a humanitarian crisis, directly conflicting with Australia’s obligations under work health and safety legislation and international law.

Residents of the Manus Island facility were informed by letter that all Australian staff were to be withdrawn, electricity, food, water, medical, hygiene and sewage services cut off, and all outdoor fencing removed, as they were last week.

ALA national president Laura Neil said that under the Work Health and Safety Act, the Commonwealth has a duty not to put the health and safety of residents of the centre at risk, a duty that would clearly be breached by withdrawing essential services and security staff.

A previous court decision determined that this duty extends to offshore detention countries such as PNG.

“This situation is inhumane and cruel, and the impending crisis entirely avoidable,” Neil said. “Forcing the shutdown of this detention centre without first making adequate provisions for the safety of the detainees is putting them at immediate and unacceptable risk.

“It is clear that in taking these steps, the Australian government is likely to be breaching international law, given the history of violence on Manus.

“Our government is on notice that the risk to safety is real. Some unconfirmed reports have emerged that the facility has being looted by armed locals. Residents have disclosed threats that they will be attacked if they leave. Local police have reportedly said they cannot guarantee the safety of the men.

“Essential services, such as water, food, medication, sewage and electricity are reportedly being cut off today (October 31),” Neil said. “A number of these men are taking essential medication that will no longer be available. Private security services are also being withdrawn, leaving only local officials, the police and the Navy in place.”

These same officials have allegedly threatened and even attacked the asylum seekers and refugees in the past, the statement continued. Asylum seekers and refugees hold well-founded fears for their safety if they leave the centre.

The situation has been described as an impending humanitarian disaster.

Neil noted that last month the United Nations expert on executions, in a report to the UN General Assembly, highlighted the global emergency facing migrants and refugees.

“If the government is unwilling to bring these people to Australia, as it should, then it should do everything possible to support the resolution of the crisis with other third country settlement options. Today. No reasonable offer of resettlement should be refused.” Prime Minister Turnbull last week rejected an offer by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take some of the Manus Island asylum seekers.

Next article – Editorial – War preparations

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