In Australia’s Name: 600 People On Manus Have No Food, Water Or Power


manus island asylum seekers

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Following the official closure of the Manus Island offshore detention centre yesterday afternoon, the centre’s 606 remaining residents have been left without food, water or power as the Australian government tries to force the men into alternative accommodation.

The remaining residents have repeatedly refused to leave the centre, saying they fear for their safety in Papua New Guinea, where they are being encouraged to resettle. While Australia claims to have provided safe accommodation options elsewhere in PNG, just two weeks ago the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees rejected these options as inadequate, and called on Australia to act urgently to prevent “looming humanitarian emergency”.

Behrouz Boochani, a journalist and refugee on Manus, has described conditions in the centre as a “state of terror”, with residents fearful of attacks from the PNG Navy or locals. All power and water has been shut off, and the refugees are rationing remaining supplies.

According to Boochani, the centre’s remaining residents will continue to refuse to leave until safe accommodation is provided. In the event of an attack, they have resolved not to fight back, and instead continue peaceful protest.

“Everyone realises that they have been abandoned and that this system, and this system alone, will dictate their fate,” Boochani wrote in The Guardian yesterday. “Constant anxiety, constant terror, constant aggression, constant affliction, unrelenting affliction.”

Despite consistent reports from refugees, refugee advocacy groups and journalists documenting the inhumane conditions on Manus, the Australian Government has refused to amend its offshore detention policy.

In a statement released yesterday, Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton reaffirmed that “no one who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will ever settle here”, and insisted that “all [detainees] have been informed for a considerable period of time that there is safe and secure alternate accommodation”. He dismissed refugees’ fears of leaving the centre, despite there being many documented examples of refugees being attacked by PNG locals.

Refugees Fear For Their Safety

Just last week, Human Rights Watch found that “groups of local young men, often intoxicated and sometimes armed with sticks, rocks, knives, or screwdrivers, have frequently assaulted and robbed refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.”

“In at least three serious attacks since June, victims required emergency medical attention in Port Moresby or Australia.”

Residents in the centre and refugee advocacy groups are calling for Australia to immediately take responsibility for the situation and act to protect Manus Island’s remaining residents by bringing them to Australia.

“Australia’s Responsibility”

The Papua New Guinean government has also stated very firmly that any refugees or asylum seekers who refuse to settle in PNG are Australia’s responsibility, calling on the government to act, including to provide necessary health and medical services. The Manus Island centre is being closed because the PNG Supreme Court ruled it was illegal and breached the right to personal liberty.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is recommending that people call politicians to urge them to evacuate the remaining Manus residents to safety immediately.