Human rights organizations are dismayed that the federal government has finally cut all ties with refugees at its former detention center on Manus Island, with more than 100 men attempting to reach it. Australia left in limbo in Papua New Guinea.
Eight years after the âPNG Solutionâ, the infamous offshore detention program, which horrified aid groups and caused the deaths of at least seven asylum seekers and refugees, has officially ended.
Behrouz Boochani, the Iranian journalist and activist imprisoned on Manus Island, said it should be remembered as Australia’s ânational disgraceâ.
” It’s a fail. This means Australia has not been able to resolve this problem it created, âhe said of the federal government rescinding the regional resettlement agreement with PNG.
“The Australian government should be responsible for this failure, it should respond that it was unable to transfer the refugees.”
Australia “closes” the PNG solution
Federal Home Secretary Karen Andrews announced this week that Australia’s resettlement agreement with PNG will not be renewed. Australia’s Manus Island detention center was closed in 2019, but the government has always provided medical, financial and social support to former detainees in PNG.
“It is time for us to end our support for PNG and for PNG to take over the management of these operations,” Ms Andrews said this week.
Almost all of the thousands of men held on Manus Island have since left the country – some transferred to Australia, others to third countries like the United States or Canada, or returning to their countries of origin. But up to 140 still remain in PNG.
Some have decided to settle permanently in the country. Many others have been rejected for transfer to Australia or are still awaiting the outcome of applications in third countries.
Ms Andrews said PNG would take responsibility for the remaining men, including medical and social support. But Mr Boochani, who relocated to New Zealand, was angry with Australia for cutting ties.
âThey are passing this problem on to PNG. The refugees didn’t come to PNG, they tried to come to Australia, and Australia is responsible, âhe said. The new daily.
âAustralia can’t get away with this. They tortured people for years, and now they say they are no longer responsible? This is unacceptable.
Mr Boochani said that “no one” among the refugees in PNG was happy with the arrangement, and called for more resettlement options to be offered.
“You cannot establish a life in this country, PNG is not able to support refugees,” he said.
Advocacy for resettlement agreements
Amnesty International called this week’s decision “a step in the right direction” but pleaded with the federal government to resettle the remaining men in third countries. Amnesty has campaigned for Australia to accept a standing offer from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to accept 150 refugees a year from offshore detention centers in Manus and Nauru.
âNow is the time to close the deal. This suffering must finally end, âsaid Dr Graham Thom of Amnesty.
David Burke, legal director of the Human Rights Law Center, criticized the federal government for not doing more.
“It is the government trying to wash the hands of the more than 100 people who remain in PNG,” he said. TND.
âThis is not a moment of hope. It’s not a plan to relocate or support themâ¦ it’s just the government trying to get out of the problem it created and refusing to respond appropriately.
Ms Andrews said the residents of Manus had the option of being moved to Australia’s other offshore detention center in Nauru, or to apply for “around 250 places” in Australia’s resettlement agreement with the United States. United.
But Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, said the men have been waiting for a place in the relocation for years. He said it was not clear exactly what support the remaining refugees would receive from the PNG government.
âDoes PNG offer to support them indefinitely? Continue to provide medical care? This is the reason why we have so many people in Australia for medical reasons, âhe said. TND.
âSome have families, the details don’t really say what the future will look like. It’s dark. Even with the increased allowance that PNG is offering them, it is not enough to live on. There are questions about education, family reunification. One of the guys said to me “we have been hostages, we are still hostages”.
âToo much is still unknown.
Manus a ‘dark chapter’
Aid groups have generally hailed the end of Australia’s offshore detention program in PNG, but said it would be a stain on Australian history.
At least seven people have died, many of them by suicide; countless have been seriously injured by illness, injury or self-harm; and the original center itself was the scene of ugly and violent protests in 2017, when detainees were forcibly removed.
“What he is known for is the murder of Reza Barati, the deaths of other people taken there, the stories of torture,” Rintoul said. He thought Australians should look back on Manus Island with “utter horror”.
” It’s horrible. People have died, have been marked for life, have lost their physical and mental health. It is a completely failed enterprise.
Mr. Burke shared similar thoughts.
“It is an incredibly dark chapter in our history that we will see again with shame,” he said.
âPeople have died, years of their lives have been stolen. The children were pressured into self-harm. It is unimaginable cruelty inflicted on people.
Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, said Australia should do everything possible to ensure that refugees who remain in PNG are resettled in the United States, Canada or New Zealand. He said Manus was an âinternational disgraceâ for Australia.
“No one would have been pessimistic enough then to imagine that the refugees sent to detention on Manus Island would still be stuck in limbo more than eight years later,” he said.
“A national disgrace”
Mr. Boochani was detained in Manus from 2013 to 2019. He was the most prominent voice among a group of refugees calling attention to the squalid conditions inside the detention center, including the unbearable heat, physical violence and mental health, lack of medical care and malnutrition.
Mr Boochani, through mainstream media and social media, revealed alarming levels of self-harm and psychological distress in the center, including refugees committing suicide or setting themselves on fire.
He has since been accepted for relocation to New Zealand, where he pursues academic, writing and creative pursuits. Following his acclaimed novel No friend but the mountains, he is working on a play and co-curator of a newspaper. He said it was difficult for him to think about his time in detention, but said Australians should not forget Manus Island, calling it a “national disgrace”.
âPeople think this policy only hurts refugees, but it also hurts Australia in so many ways. They spent billions of dollars, how can we say this policy is not impacting Australia? ” he said.
âOf course, it’s hard that people I’ve known for years are still here. It really tires me when I talk about Manus and Nauru, but we should talk about it.