Australia and O’Neill dragging PNG into an international sewer
Why is Our Prime Minister souring our international reputation and tarnishing all Papua New Guinean’s by aiding Australia with its RACIST, ILLEGAL and INHUMANE refugee policies?
Minister urged to halt refugee transfers to PNG
Michael Gordon | Newcastle Herald
A SCATHING report on conditions on Manus Island has urged incoming Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor to stop sending asylum seekers to the remote Papua New Guinea site until sweeping recommendations are considered.
The report by the United Nations refugee agency accuses the Australian and PNG governments of being in breach of international treaty obligations and expresses particular alarm at the plight of children in the facility. Its release coincides with the 10th transfer of asylum seekers to the offshore processing centre, which now holds 254 asylum seekers, 34 of them children.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who visited the centre last week, supported the recommendations, warning of outbreaks of self-harm and riots if conditions are not improved. “They’re being treated like animals at the moment, including the children,” Senator Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media.
But a spokesman for outgoing minister Chris Bowen defended conditions on the island while committing to “work constructively” with the agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
”It should be recognised that UNHCR has a long-standing position of opposition to offshore processing that goes back to the time of the previous government,” the spokesman said, describing facilities at the centre as “in line with the living standards and amenities for local PNG residents on Manus Island”.
The UN report calls for an early start to processing of claims for refugee status “in order to prevent increased levels of psychosocial and physical harm among asylum-seekers in the detention centre”.
More than 20 recommendations include calls for review of pre-transfer assessments in Australia to ensure that vulnerabilities of individuals who may have suffered torture or trauma are considered.
It says no further transfers of children should occur until “appropriate legal and administrative safeguards” are in place, including their placement in an open centre, as opposed to “the current environment of detention”.
“Asylum seekers are distressed and confused about their situation. They are in closed detention, without a process in sight. They feel they have been forgotten,” said the UNHCR’s regional representative, Richard Towle.
The report, to be released in Canberra on Monday, follows a visit by a three-member team from the UN agency from January 15 to 17. Senator Hanson-Young, who was forbidden from taking photographs inside the facility on her visit, said the lack of privacy for single men was reflected in the absence of doors on toilets. “There is just no trust at all in the system,” she said, saying asylum seekers told her they had no warning they were being sent to the island.
Mr Towle said the hot and humid weather on Manus made the temporary accommodation very uncomfortable. “Due to heavy rain at the time of UNHCR’s visit, some areas were extremely muddy and in some places there were large amounts of standing water,” he said.
Both the UN agency and the senator expressed alarm that children and family groups were not kept completely separately from the single men.
A department spokesman said the selection of the latest group of 19 Iranian and Iraqi single men was based on operational considerations and an assessment of their particular circumstances.