Manus Island refugee compound to begin closure in weeks
- Author: Santos West May 18, 2017,
May 18, 2017, 16:31
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed the progressive closure of the centre ahead of the complete shut down on October 31, with asylum seekers given the option to settle in Papua New Guinea, transfer to a country other than Australia, or return to their country of origin.
"The centre won't close drop dead on the 31st of October, they will start to decommission parts of the centre in the run up", the minister told 3AW radio.
According to the documents obtained by the newspaper, the plan, drafted in 2016, outlined attempts to push those officially recognized as refugees to first accept resettlement to the East Lorengau transit center and then to Papua New Guinea, while forcing people without refugee status to return to their home countries.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said refugees who aren't taken under the USA resettlement deal will settle in PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country. On Monday, a PNG official told detainees that the closure of one compound would begin within weeks.
"You can not stay at the regional processing center", an unnamed official told detainees, according to a recording obtained by ABC and Guardian Australia.
Refugees are awaiting acceptance for resettlement by the United States under an agreement struck between Malcolm Turnbull and former USA president Barack Obama.
The centre's closure was prompted by a PNG Supreme Court decision that ruled the detention centre's operation was illegal.
Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani said many detainees would not accept that.
Peter Dutton says the USA is not "putting roadblocks" in the way of the resettlement deal.
"We want to say to people and to the government, we don't want to live in PNG", he said.
Last month, members of the PNG defence force stormed the detention centre, firing shots into the facility.
An unspecified number of asylum-seekers will be relocated to a transit centre, according to Reuters.
Asylum seekers on Manus have been told to "consider their options".
"Also the local people don't want the refugees in their small community because they are with a small population and traditional culture".
"They were told they could go to a third country such as Cambodia - which we know doesn't have the supports necessary to support refugees - or they were told they could take their chances in Papua New Guinea".
PNG authorities had previously maintained the soldiers, described as drunken, had only fired their weapons "into the air".