Manus Island update

The Lombrun detention centre on Manus island (PNG) was forcibly closed in October 2017. Recent figures from the PNG government indicate that there are 801 asylum seekers and refugees in PNG. This figure is expected to fall as more refugees are accepted for resettlement in the US. The majority of the detainees are accommodated in three centres around the township of Lorengau : 350 in the East Lorengau Transit Centre, 150 in West Lorengau Haus and 103 at East Lorengau Haus. Others are being held in Port Moresby.

The three centres in Lorengau are not safe places for the refugees, who have legitimate fears for their safety and well-being. The detainees are regularly attacked and robbed if they venture into the township. In recent times local people have arrived at the centres armed with weapons to threaten and intimidate the detainees. Local people have blockaded the East Lorengau centre, preventing people and supplies from entering or leaving. The situation is very tense, and clearly dangerous. In addition, there is currently very limited casework or other medical support for these very vulnerable men, many of whom have serious mental health issues resulting from their indefinite detention and maltreatment. The Australian government is responsible for their safety their wellbeing.

The situation on Nauru

There are approximately 340 people – men, women and children – held in the Nauru detention centre, including 43 children. A further 750 people have been released into the tiny Nauruan community, including more than 100 children. They have temporary visas, very limited rights, and they cannot leave the island.

Recently, a Queensland construction company, Cannstruct, which is also a generous donor to the Liberal party, has been awarded the contract to run the detention centre on Nauru for the next twelve months. The company will be paid in excess of $1MILLION PER DAY. The cost of medical and other services will be provided by other companies, adding significantly to the cost of warehousing these refugees in our name.

The situation for the detainees is precarious and dangerous. Although it is virtually impossible for journalists, politicians and human rights groups to gain access to the island, we do have the testimony of a number of brave whistleblowers – doctors, nurses, teachers, and social workers – who have spent time working with the detainees. They paint a dire picture: serious mental health issues; sexual assaults including numerous rapes; lack of medical care; lack of educational provision; poor accommodation; self harm, and death. As on Manus island, the Australian government has deliberately created a cruel, punitive and harmful regime designed to break people’s spirits.

What you can do

Contact politicians by phone, email, or letter. Write to your local paper. Demand the immediate evacuation of refugees and asylum seekers from Manus and Nauru. Urge the government to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees. Tell them that the current policy is cruel, inhumane, and shames us all. Consider joining our RAR group, or your local group, which is dedicated to seeking justice for our refugees and asylum seekers.

Published by Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR. Jan 2018.

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