Manus Island: Authorities must not use force to remove refugees

Responding to a notice issued by Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities this morning at the Lombrum detention centre on Manus Island stating that refugees must leave the centre by November 11 or be forcibly removed, Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher, said:

“It is imperative that the PNG and Australian authorities immediately allow aid into the camp, and that they do not respond to the worsening conditions in the Lombrum detention centre by attempting to forcibly move the refugees to other locations. 

“Any use of force in this highly-charged environment is likely to lead to serious injury or loss of life.”

The approximately 600 men in Lombrum have been forced to choose between fundamental necessities of survival, or a move to a place where they face the risk of violent attacks from some elements of the local population and years more in detention-like conditions.

With all services cut off, the situation has deteriorated badly in the camp, and unless essential services are restored, people will become ill and deaths are a real possibility.

Amnesty researchers have just returned from Manus Island where they witnessed first-hand the shocking conditions at the centre.

Kate Schuetze said:

“This is a man-made crisis. It is the Australian and PNG governments who have left the men without food, clean water, proper sanitation or electricity. They cannot, having created the situation, now compound it by sending in security forces to force the refugees to move.

“There is a solution to what we are seeing inside the camp – immediately allow humanitarian assistance in to restore access to food, water, electricity and health care. This is the only option that would be compatible with international human rights law at this point.”

The decision by PNG and Australia to cut off all services at Lombrum appears to have been calculated to force the refugees to move to new locations. However, the refugees have told Amnesty they are determined not to move because they fear for their safety in the new sites.

Kate Schuetze said:

“We are putting the governments of PNG and Australia on notice: using force will almost inevitably lead to serious human rights violations. The consequences of any such decision are foreseeable and it would be a grave matter if the authorities took any action that could result in serious injury or deaths.”

Amnesty has long called for the camp on Manus Island to be closed and the refugees brought to safety in Australia.

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