Manus standoff reaches knifes edge
The 600 refugees remaining in the Manus Island detention centre have one more day before they are forcibly removed by Papua New Guinean officials.
The PNG police and immigration officers have started pulling down the makeshift shelters built by the refugees in the centre that closed over a week ago. Footage obtained this morning shows the unhygienic conditions inside the detention centre. This comes after electricity, water, food and medical assistance directed to the centre, was cut off by the Australian Government.
The men are refusing relocate as they fear their safety outside the centre is not guaranteed. Along with this, UNHCR representatives have reported that the proposed new accommodation is unfinished and inadequate, with limited beds, no water, no electricity and limited doctors.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton has denied these reports stating that “facilities are completed… We’ve got security there, we’ve got health services there”.
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The executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Krester told the Guardian that the precarious situation is unjust.
“These innocent men are in great danger but they have nowhere safe to go. They’re terrified of violence if they stay.
They’re terrified of violence if they leave. These men deserve a future, but instead of bringing them to safety, our government is trying to bludgeon them into returning to persecution or moving from one dead-end camp to another,” said de Krester.
Since the standoff began between the refugees and the PNG officials, the Uniting Church in Australia President, Stuart McMillan, has said that Australia has a responsibility to ensure the safety of these refugees.
“It is clear the refugees inside the Manus Island processing centre hold grave fears for their safety and security in the other locations.
“The Government must take immediate steps to ensure the refugees remain safe and continue to have access to water, food and critical medical and mental health services,” said Mr McMillan.
The UN high commissioner for refugees has echoed these concerns deeming the situation a “humanitarian emergency”. The United Nations human rights committee has also told the Australian government that they remain responsible for the people held in the offshore detentions on Manus Island and Nauru.
The committee went on to say that Australia should end offshore processing and “take all measures necessary to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers affected … ensure their transfer to Australia or their relocation to other appropriate safe countries.”
There have been a number of protests as this standoff continues. During Tuesday’s Melbourne cup, two protesters from Loves Makes a Way (an ecumenical Christian movement) hung a sign from the crane over the racecourse with the message “SOS: Evacuate Manus Now!” Then on Thursday protestors scaled the Sydney Opera House in an attempt to hang a banner that stated “Evacuate Manus #BringThemHere”. These four protestors were quickly apprehended by police.
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