Australia21 has joined with other professional organisations across Australia to call for the Federal Government to end the human rights crisis on Manus Island.
Back in 2014, former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Fred Chaney AO, launched Australia21’s report, Beyond the boats: building an asylum and refugee policy for the long term, which called for “the urgent resolution of the status of asylum seekers already transferred to PNG or Nauru.”
That report, developed with the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law UNSW and the Centre for Policy Development, noted the harsh conditions in the offshore detention centres and highlighted concerns about the durability of the PNG and Nauru ‘solutions’.
So it’s alarming that the men now behind the barricades on Manus Island have been languishing in PNG for more than four years and ongoing issues there have not been addressed.
Australia21 sticks by what we said in 2014:
“The Australian community expects the government to maintain adequate control over entry to Australia. It also expects the government to do this in a fair, efficient and transparent way that upholds our international responsibilities towards people seeking protection. These expectations are not mutually exclusive.”
We believe that this is still what ordinary Australians want. We do not believe they support attempting to deter entry to Australia by punishing those seeking our protection, by keeping them in indefinite detention, by forcing them to relocate to unsafe living arrangements, or by withdrawing food, shelter and medical services from them.
Latest legal developments
Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has today rejected an application to restore operations at the now-decommissioned Manus Island processing centre,further increasing pressure on almost 600 men who have been refusing to relocate to three new ‘transit centres’.
The compound’s power, water, food, sanitation and medical services were cancelled a week ago. Since then, the men have been stockpiling rainwater in garbage bins and authorities have reportedly been turning away PNG locals coming to the centre offering food.
The PNG and Australian Governments insist the new facilities near the main township are ready and secure and the men can travel there safely, despite reports to the contrary. But the men are adamant it’s safer to remain where they are than risk being attacked by locals at the new accommodation.
Their supporters are demanding that the Australian Government evacuate them immediately and bring them to safety for processing.
Director of the Kaldor Centre, Professor Jane McAdam, has now criticised what she calls “the insufficient physical and legal protection and a highly insecure future” provided to the men on Manus Island by Australia.
“If Papua New Guinea is responsible for the fate of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island, then why is it the Australian Prime Minister rejecting New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 of them?
“The double-speak on this issue is breathtaking, and the Australian government’s actions belie its rhetoric that this is PNG’s problem and not its own.”
Unfolding humanitarian emergency
“We call on the Australian Government, as the party who interned the men in the first place, to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services,” said spokesman Rupert Colville.
Mr Colville repeated UN concerns about Australia’s offshore processing centres, saying they “are unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to its human rights obligations.”
“We urge the Australian Government to transfer the men to mainland Australia where their claims can be processed,” he said.
Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Nai Jit Lam, was on Manus monitoring the effort to move the men from the detention centre. He inspected the accommodation facilities they’re supposed to be moved to and said at least one was not ready.
“A great majority of Australians are uncomfortable with the prospect that people who should enjoy our legal protection are not being afforded the appropriate standard of care,” he told the ABC.
“We’re concerned about both physical and mental aspects of the health of these wretched souls who are stuck in a bigger political game.”
What you can do
If you’re concerned about Australia’s current treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island, you can do something about it.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected an offer by New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru. But you can add your name to an open letter by some of Australia’s leading thinkers, urging the NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to actively pursue negotiations with the PNG Government and the UNHCR to resettle as many of the men from Manus Island as soon as possible.
Here is some of what it says:
“We acknowledge, with regret, the unfortunate necessity of writing to you to request that New Zealand step in to resolve this crisis when it is so clearly an Australian responsibility. We believe, however, that the moral leadership New Zealand can take on this issue will increase the pressure on the Australian Government to work with resettlement countries to resolve the current crisis.”
Chair of Australia21, Paul Barratt, has co-signed the letter and you can add your name too, by clicking on the online petition here.
We suggest you also let your local Member of Parliament and the Federal Government know of your concerns:
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Phone: 02 6277 7200 Contact form: https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton Phone: 6277 7860 Email: Peter.Dutton.MP@aph.gov.au