Manus Island: Lives 'at risk' as authorities attempt to remove refugees

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Behrouz Boochani

Responding to news that the Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities have sent immigration officials armed with sticks and knives into the Lombrum refugee detention centre on Manus Island this morning, Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher, said:

“The risk of serious injury if the authorities use force now is completely foreseeable. The government is knowingly placing the refugees at risk.

“There is no justification for this action. International law and standards demand that refugees enjoy international protection.

“The country where they sought refuge – Australia – has violated their rights at every turn. PNG has aided and enabled Australia’s policy of cruelty and degradation of the refugees. Now the PNG authorities are putting their lives at risk.”

The Iranian journalist and human rights activist Behrouz Boochani, who has exposed to the world the extent of abuse being experienced by those in the detention camp, was arrested and then released earlier this morning. This seems a deliberate attempt to isolate him from the wider group

Three other refugees are at risk of arrest on the same grounds. The three were previously arrested and detained in 2015 for peaceful protests at the refugee detention centre.

The refugees do not want to move from the new camp because they are being required to move to a location where they fear for their safety. Amnesty’s research confirms their fears are well-founded. Refugees have been attacked and seriously injured by some members of the local population, who have made clear they do not want the men on Manus Island at all. Refugees have little or no protection from these attacks except to live inside detention centres.

Amnesty has repeatedly called for humanitarian aid to be provided to the refugees while a safe and dignified solution is found, in consultation with them and in respect of their rights.

Kate Schuetze said:

“The most obvious solution is for Australia to bring all of the men to Australia. They are clearly not safe in PNG."

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

Surviving on smuggled food and rainwater

Around 420 refugees remain at Lombrum centre after the provision of all services was withdrawn, including food, water, power and medical care on 31 October. The men have been surviving on food they’ve smuggled into the camp and by drinking rainwater.

PNG authorities have tried to undermine efforts of refugees to survive at the camp by stopping food coming in, sabotaging water tanks and water storage created by refugees, and denying them the ability to purchase over-the-counter medications in the town of Lorengau.

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