Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Asylum Seekers Suffering Continues

Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is one of two offshore processing camps to which asylum seekers are transferred. The other is on the Pacific island of Nauru. Conditions at both of these camps have been the subject of harsh criticism from both UN agencies and human rights groups. Rights groups argue that prolonged detention in cramped, over-heated conditions, compounded by a lack of clarity over when asylum claims will be assessed and where the applicant might end up, can lead to mental health issues in detainees.

Australia has initiated a policy  whereby those people found to be genuine refugees will be settled in Papua New Guinea rather than Australia. One asylum seeker has been killed and 77 injured in a vicious clash between locals and the PNG police during a break-out after detainees were told that they would not be resettled in Australia. But Papua New Guinea does not have a visa category for refugees and there has been little public information about how, and where, they might be resettled. PNG's foreign minister Rimbink Pato said that there was the option of resettling refugees in yet another third country.

Refugee advocates say locals and the PNG police attacked the centre with machetes, knives and other weapons and have again condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres, saying Manus Island is dangerous and lawless. They say Australia has put the lives of people seeking asylum, who have already fled torture, war and gross human rights violations, at risk. One asylum seeker from Lebanon who is in the Manus Island compound wrote in a Facebook message . ''Tonight polices [sic] and g4s attack us again. Many peoples in the yard. Injure please we need one to help us. May be till morning they will kill us. We are human or animls [sic].''

Refugee advocates claimed unspecified "locals" and police entered the premises and attacked detainees; a local reporter asserted that it was local staff working for security contractor G4S who weighed in on asylum-seekers, reportedly with iron bars and machetes, causing mass injuries. PNG media claim to have spoken with a GS4 security guard who said riot police fired the shots to contain the protesting asylum seekers. “Police were not allowed to fire shots in the military area. They will face the military management today,” the guard said. Local media also reported soldiers from a nearby naval base were also called to the scene.

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, has reiterated the Church’s call to end offshore processing. “The warehousing of asylum seekers in inadequate facilities in these offshore centres is entirely unacceptable. It is a breach of our obligations under international law and diminishes us as a nation. The Government must move immediately to close the centres and transfer all asylum seekers to safety here on the Australian mainland. We cannot continue to risk the lives of asylum seekers for the sake of these inhumane policies,”

Human Rights Commission President Prof Gillian Triggs explained. ''The primary obligation that Australia has is to offer protection for asylum seekers and we cannot abdicate that responsibility by sending people to a third country, in this case Papua New Guinea, but it is clear that responsibility is not being met.'' 

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is being criticized for misleading the Australian public with false information. The immigration minister has recently admitted that most of the violence - including the death of 23-year-old Iranian man - had likely happened inside the center, not outside, as he'd first claimed.