9 Aug 2016

Pakistan refugee's body still in Manus

1:23 pm on 9 August 2016

Papua New Guinea and Australian governments are yet to give clearance for the repatriation of the body of a Pakistan refugee who died on Manus Island last week.

Kamil Hussain drowned at a swimming area last Tuesday on Manus where he and around 900 other asylum seekers have been sent in the past three years by Australia for offshore processing.

Hundreds gather for memorial service for Pakistani refugee who drowned.

Hundreds gathered to mourn for Kamil Hussain at a memorial service. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

His family in Pakistan are desperate for his body to be sent home, however fellow Pakistanis held on Manus said PNG and Australian authorities are holding up the process.

A letter from the Pakistan consulate general in Sydney has been sent to the Australian and PNG Immigration offices notifying them that they will organise for Kamil's body to be sent home and cover the costs.

However, the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service notified the Pakistanis on Manus last night that clearances for the movement of the deceased person were still being obtained.

Immigration said that additional medical reports were required.

A spokesman for the Pakistanis on Manus, Naseem Haider, said that the delay means there is an urgent need to preserve the body.

He describes a callous and unhelpful response to the situation by PNG and Australian officials who manage the Manus centre.

Staff with the centre administrator, Broadspectrum, were directed not to assist in efforts to wash the body, as part of normal Muslim ritual.

Mr Haider said the manner in which they have been kept waiting on this matter by the officials is consistent with the human rights abuses he and others at the Manus centre have suffered in the past three years.

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court.

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

In April, PNG's Supreme Court ruled that detaining people against their will was illegal, leaving it incumbent on both PNG and Australian governments to close the Manus centre.

However, Canberra has distanced itself from the responsibility of Manus, leaving PNG's government to handle the matter.

Immigration officials have been attending a series of recent Supreme Court hearings in which a clearly frustrated Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia has been giving direction on how the ruling can be enforced.

Sir Salamo is pressing the governments for a resettlement plan for the over 900 men held on Manus and the case will be back before the Supreme Court on August 22nd to clarify the original orders which he said were too vague.

A lawyer representing hundreds on Manus, Ben Lomai, said he wants the court to clearly say Australia is responsible.

"That will be the very least that we will be pursuing. At the extreme we will be saying Australia is solely responsible after the 26th of April decision," he said. '

"But at the very least their position may be that the Australian and PNG Governments are equally and severally responsible for the welfare, for the management and control of the asylum seekers."

Canberra has said none of them can be resettled in Australia and the refugees have refused to resettle in PNG.

Residents of the Manus Island processing centre queue for food.

Residents of the Manus Island processing centre queue for food. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Mr Haider said there is onus on the government who transferred the asylum seekers to be held illegally on Manus, to help.

"Kamil was forcefully sent to Manus by the Australian government. He should not even have been on the island," he said.

However, Canberra has said it will not offer any incentive for so-called "boat people" to seek asylum in Australia.

Mr Haider said that the tragic loss of their friend last week brought the hopelessness of the asylum seekers' situation into sharp relief.

"We all are the victims of Australia hell hole policy," he said. "We [are] trapped in this place and has been helpless from last three year without knowing our future."