Australia’s detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is set to close at the end of this month, but most of the refugees there refuse to leave. Now Canberra is offering an alternative - the detention center in Nauru. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Twenty-five of the refugees on Manus have transferred to the United States, but the deal to resettle up to 1,200 is proceeding very slowly. And Australia has to find new housing by the end of the month.
The contract with the Spanish company that provides security at the detention center expires October 31st, and facilities are being shuttered and bulldozed in anticipation. Even so, most of the approximately 900 men on Manus refuse to leave the detention center. They say at a transit camp in Lorengau, a town about 20 miles away, is unsafe…refugees there have been attacked by locals. They also fear that relocation is a trick, designed to force them to accept resettlement in Papua New Guinea.
Australia has set up three facilities in Lorengau. Two to house about 300 refugees each while they await resettlement. The third, to hold about 150 men who have been denied refugee status, while they await repatriation – a trip back to their home country.
With time running out, the Australian government offered another alternative - transfer to the detention camp in the island nation of Nauru, which holds about 1,200 people. One of the Manus detainees, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, rejected the offer as completely unacceptable.
In an essay for Radio New Zealand he wrote, “After more than four years, the Australian Government still refuses to solve the problem by taking refugees to a safe place and instead is trying to and them to another hell.”