Pacific News Minute: PNG Announces Plan to Close Australian Detention Center on Manus Island

May 16, 2017

Credit Flickr / theglobalpanorama

The government of Papua New Guinea announced plans to close and demolish the controversial Australian Detention camp on Manus Island. About 900 men have been held there without charge for four years after trying to get to Australia by boat. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


The governments in Port Moresby and Canberra have struggled to come up with a plan for Manus ever since the PNG Supreme Court ordered the facility closed last year. Radio New Zealand International quoted an unnamed PNG official as telling detainees yesterday that gradual closure will begin later this month and conclude by the end of October.

The 900 men who’ve languished in Manus come mostly from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – about 80 percent qualify as refugees, eligible for resettlement. They can choose a new life in Papua New Guinea, or move to a Transit Center and await resettlement somewhere else. The official said, “No one will be resettled in Australia.” 


The official added that the agreement to resettle some refugees in the United States still stands, but no one knows how many, or when.


The 20 percent whose applications were denied were told they must return to their home countries; if they do so voluntarily, they will get 25,000 dollars from the Australian government; if not they will be sent back home anyway. ”Non-refugees have no other options,” the official said.

There is a history of violence at Manus and the official warned the detainees not to revolt: “We don’t want any trouble,” he said.


One of the detainees, Kurdish journalist Behrooz Boochani, told Radio New Zealand he believes refugees will resist. “I think there will be a big riot,” he said.


So far, there are no plans to close Australia’s other offshore detention facility in the island nation of Nauru.