Australia’s Agreed To Close The Manus Island Detention Centre, But What Happens Now?


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[Update, literally 30 minutes after posting]: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed detainees will not be coming to Australia.

No further plans have been made.

The Guardian is reporting that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has met the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, for discussions around closing the Manus Island detention centre. According to the report, O’Neill said, “Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed.”

This comes off the back of a PNG Supreme Court ruling back in April that found the detention centre was unconstitutional and needed to be shut down. The Australian government hasn’t said much in response to this; it argued that it wasn’t even a party to the court case. This latest statement appears to be an acknowledgement from both PNG and Australia of the Supreme Court’s decision. But it’s too early to tell what it actually means for asylum seekers held on Manus Island.

There’s no set date for closure and even once the centre is eventually closed it’s more likely the government will re-settle detainees in another offshore program, rather than bringing them here to Australia.

For all its unanswered questions, this news does show how precarious Australia’s offshore detention system actually is. The Guardian‘s Nauru Files have reignited debate in Australia over how to end our system of offshore detention and safely process asylum seekers in Australia and the familiar protests have fired up once again. Just today, a speech from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was crashed by people telling him to “close the bloody camps”.

If only these people had another place to go.