Group issues demand
28 July, 2017, 12:00 am
As authorities threaten to force refugees from the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, detainees have issued an ultimatum of their own.
In a letter to the Australian Government signed by 586 of the centre’s 800-odd residents, the detainees gave their captors a deadline to find a safe country in which they can settle.
“You gave us 159 days count down, that we have to leave this place. We give you 159 days just like you have given us.
“In this 159 days you can find a safe country for us and send us out from this detention prison hell or we are not moving anywhere.
“We are not going to fight and we are not going to cause any unrest. You have the army, the police, bring them here and we will line up so you can shoot us to end our misery if you want to force us out.”
The centre was due to close by November after the 2016 PNG supreme court ruling that Australia’s offshore detention facility were illegal.
On Wednesday, Papua New Guinea Immigration Department staff flanked by police told 100 refugees living in the centre’s Foxtrot compound to evacuate their accommodation immediately or face arrest.
Foxtrot residents were told to find lodgings in the already overcrowded Oscar or Delta compounds or move to the transit centre in nearby Lorengau Town.
But in their letter, the refugees said Lorengau was not an option they were willing to consider.
“There is no safety and security for us in the town. We have been beaten up, robbed, humiliated and insulted by the locals almost every single day.
“We know that the Transit centre can only house 280 people.
“We are 700 plus not including the 50 already living in the transit centre.”
Last week, 10 refugees were forced out of Charlie compound when a temporary building, or tent, they had been living in was demolished.
One of the 10, a refugee from Pakistan Naeem Udin, said authorities cut services to the tent to make them leave.
“When we refused for the first time they disconnected water supply and later complete closure of power supply,” he said.
“In Manus, one can survive without food but cannot with power and water.”
Mr Udin had since found shelter elsewhere in the centre without the help of authorities.
“When I asked them to provide me with a substitute space they gave me the only option of moving to East Lorengau Transit Camp,” he said.
“That was impossible for me to act upon.”
Advocate Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said it was doubtful the detainees would move voluntarily.
“Threats cannot solve the crisis that the Australian Government has created for itself on Manus Island,” said Mr Rintoul.
“The government has no resettlement arrangements for those they are holding unlawfully on Manus.”
With Australia’s deal with the US to settle some of the detainees stalled until October, Paul Power from the Refugee Council said the Australian Government had alienated nations that could resettle the detainees.
“I don’t think people in Canberra realise just how badly Australia is being viewed around the world,” said Mr Power.
“There are no governments interested, other than New Zealand and the United States, in entertaining any idea of resettling refugees who are regarded as Australia’s responsibility.”