Closedown of Detention Center at Manus Island Causes a Standoff of Refugee Issue
On Tuesday, the Australian government closed its offshore detention center at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. This caused a standoff as over 600 asylum seekers refused—and still refuse—to leave the center.
In 2013, Manus island held 1,500 refugees. The Australian law condemns individuals from approaching the country by boat. Upon arrival, they were held in what human rights organizations identify as prison.
In an agreement reached by the Australian and PNG government, the Australian government agreed to cover cost of the facilities located within its former colony. However, it has been reported that 60,000 Manus—including village leaders—were never consulted.
After the termination of the detention center on Manus Island, they were to be transferred to a new processing facility, Lombrum Naval Base. Meanwhile, many asylum seekers fear worse treatment at the new location.
A number of abuses were reported inside and around the detention center on Manus Island, including lootings by locals. Human Rights Watch had reported that asylum seekers on the island were occasionally attacked by armed local men.
For the majority of the asylum seekers held, it is unclear as to when and where they would be resettled. Peter Dutton, the Australian immigration minister, stated, “people who have attempted to come illegally by boat and are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia,” barring them from entering the country.
The US-Australia deal to move vetted refugees to the US does not specify when they would be moved to the US. It was reported that 50 males have already traveled to the US, while hundreds remain held in the facility, waiting for their status to be processed.
Furthermore, this might prove to be a difficult task because US President Trump had called for increased vetting of immigration in the US in response to a suspected terror attack in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday.
Upon the closing of the detention center on Manus Island, the PNG government declared it would not be held accountable for “non-refugees.” In PNG, about 167 to 200 males were refused asylum, not including those whose asylum claims have already been approved but waiting to be moved.