Planned closure of Manus detention centre — Bring Them Here

Refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island have been given a letter on a PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority letterhead titled “Communication guide: Closure of Manus RPC and options for people in PNG.”

The letter says “PNG, with Australia’s support, will close the Manus RPC on 31 October 2017.

PNG’s Chief Migration Officer, Commissioner of Police and Commissioner of Corrections have already visited to comment the shutdown process.

Services will progressively end and demolition of remaining buildings will soon begin.

Foxtrot compound will be the first compound to close, starting with N block on 28 May.

You cannot stay at the RPC. You need to consider your options. No one will be resettled in Australia.”

The letter then goes on to list “options” for the men. It says “refugees can:

  • Move to accommodation in the PNG community
  • Temporarily relocate to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre (ELRTC)
  • Return home voluntarily, with reintegration assistance
  • Move to a third country where you have the right to reside.

Non-refugees can:

  • Return home voluntarily, with reintegration assistance
  • Be removed from PNG by the Government of PNG, without any reintegration assistance.
  • Non-refugees have no other options.

The deadline for expressing an interest in voluntary return with Australian assistance is 31 August 2017.”

These “options” are not viable. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must bring the men on Manus Island to Australia.

The letter says “the arrangement entered into with the US to support the resettlement of refugees from PNG remains in place.”

See the letter below.

Communication Guide: Closure of Manus RPC and options for people in PNG

Behrouz Boochani, a journalist, human rights defender and refugee who is being illegally detained on Manus said “if they send us to Lorengau it will be a big mistake by the government because the local people are very angry with this decision. This place is not safe for the refugees.”

Mr Boochani said the US resettlement deal “is a political trick to settle people in PNG. If they really are serious then why are they insisting to first send people to the community?

“Their plan is to use the deal as a cover to doing their political project. America probably will take a few people but what will happen to the others?

“Unfortunately the American government is involved in this dirty political game and it’s like a big torture on us that their process is very slow.”

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection told senate estimates that “the US arrangement includes an indicative planning number of 1250 refugees to be resettled in the US.”

The Department also told senate estimates that as at 22 March 2017, there were 2490 refugees and asylum seekers in PNG, Nauru and in Australia undergoing medical treatment or accompanying family members. Of those 2490 people, there were 1109 in Nauru, 923 in Papua New Guinea and 458 in Australia.

That means that if the US resettles 1250 people, there will still be 1240 left behind.

Andrew Goledzinowski, Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, told the senate inquiry into Serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre that the US deal “does not require the US to take any” refugees from Manus or Nauru.

The US could resettle zero refugees and still say it honoured the agreement by vetting them.

Greens immigration spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said the Australian government must bring the men on Manus to Australia.

“After four years of hell overseen by the Australian government, these men have now have to make an impossible choice,” Senator McKim said.

“The walls of the detention centre were the only thing between asylum seekers and heavy gunfire last month — now Peter Dutton wants to knock down the walls.”

“The tragic likelihood is that people will come to harm or die because of this decision. If this happens the blood will be on Peter Dutton’s hands.”

“The men are scared, and feel like they are being dumped and left to rot.”

“This represents a shocking abrogation of our legal and moral responsibility for people who have reached out a hand and sought our assistance.”

“PNG is not safe for the men. They need to be brought to Australia so we can look after them properly.”

Manus MP Ronny Knight also shares Senator McKim’s concerns that there might be more deaths on Manus.

On 24 April, Mr Knight told the ABC’s RN Breakfast that it would be “total madness” to “dump” the refugees and asylum seekers at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre.

“These people being taken to Lorengau East Transit Centre and dumped there and just expected to fit into our community is totally, totally, totally out of the question and you’re asking for more trouble.

“We’re looking at deaths occurring and if that does happen, I put the Australian government and the PNG government on notice that we will march up to Lorengau East, we will close down the centre and we will ask all of them to vacate the centre and we will take them all back to Lombrum and leave them at the doorstep of the naval base.

“We do not want this to happen. Stop passing the buck. Get UNHCR in.”

Also on 24 April, Mr Knight told the Huffington Post that he would “put a boom gate on the entrance into Lorengau to stop all expatriates and asylum seekers from coming into Lorengau town” if refugees and asylum seekers are “dumped” at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the senate inquiry into Serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre that 1414 people who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 are living in Australia on bridging visas.

These people were never sent to Manus or Nauru even though they arrived on the same boats as the refugees and asylum seekers who are currently being detained offshore.

The refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and in Nauru should be allowed to join their boatmates in Australia.

Australia must close the camps, bring them here and let them stay.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s answer to a question on notice at senate inquiry