Australia must secure solutions for refugees abandoned on Manus Island

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Papua New Guinea. UNHCR supports asylum-seekers' struggle for fair treatment

The 'Regional Processing Centre' on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.   © UNHCR/Vlad Sokhin

In light of the continued perilous situation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for refugees and asylum seekers abandoned by Australia, UNHCR has called again this week on the Australian government live up to its responsibilities and urgently find humane and appropriate solutions.

Since the closure of Australia’s “offshore processing” facility on 31 October, approximately 800 refugees and asylum seekers have remained in a precarious situation. Some 700 are now accommodated in the three sites: East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre, West Lorengau Haus and Hillside Haus. Over the past four weeks, at least five security incidents have been reported by refugees and asylum seekers, security personnel, local police, and members of the local community.

The most serious incident occurred on the night of 10 December when three people armed with machetes and an axe attempted to force their way into West Lorengau Haus, where 150 refugees and asylum seekers were being accommodated.  They were ultimately stopped from causing serious harm by security staff. The same group then walked to nearby Hillside Haus where two of them, armed with a baton and a knife, entered unimpeded by security staff, and yelled that refugees and asylum seekers should leave. Police on Manus Island are looking into these incidents.

The forced removal of refugees and asylum seekers on 22 November from the now decommissioned Australian facility has inflicted further trauma on people who have already suffered greatly - violence and persecution in their own country followed by four years in detention on Manus Island.

The cessation of critical services including the support for victims of torture and trauma has only added to the harshness. Such support is vital for those with acute needs.

A recent medical report commissioned by UNHCR also showed that the cumulative effect of uncertainty about the future, the lack of prospects for solutions, cessation of services, substandard living and hygiene conditions, and inadequate medical care poses a growing risk of deteriorating physical and mental health, violence, and self-harm among refugees and asylum seekers on Manus. The report also noted the obvious strain that is being placed on the host community and local resources, especially on the health system and hospital.

UNHCR reiterated its call this week on the Australian authorities to secure long term solutions for all refugees and asylum seekers whom Australia has forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and to permanently settle those refugees who have already been transferred to Australia on medical or other grounds. 

 

 

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