In Australia, protests continue over the government's plan to return 268 asylum seekers to an off-shore detention camp in the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Doctors at a hospital in Brisbane refuse to discharge a one year old baby known as Asha until what they call a suitable home environment is identified. But while most attention has focused on the plight of migrants in Nauru, Australia operates another, even bigger detention camp on a remote island in Papua New Guinea. More from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
In a deal with the PNG government, Australia constructed the Regional Processing Center on Manus, the largest of the Admiralty Islands, once an Allied base in the Second World War, but probably better known as the one time home of anthropologist Margaret Mead. For a couple of years now, it's housed about 900 migrants. Like the 600 or so on Nauru, they were taken off boats trying to reach Australia- in a policy Australia says is designed to deter such dangerous voyages The migrants are processed at these remote camps- those deemed authentic refugees are offered resettlement in Papua New Guinea, on Nauru, or in Cambodia...but, under no circumstances, in Australia.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato confirmed that so far more than half of the asylum seekers on Manus have qualified as refugees. He said they are free to depart the camp and resettle in PNG. Six, he said, had already done so. Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition told Radio New Zealand that, regardless of what the minister might say, "There are no resettlement arrangements, no capacity for family reunion, no capacity for work."
In December, hundreds of migrants on Manus signed a dramatic letter to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - since they were dying gradually in hellish conditions, it said, perhaps the Australian government could save taxpayer's money by providing a ship to dump them all in the ocean, a gas chamber, or injections of poison.