3 Nov 2017

Canberra accused of leaving PNG officials in dark over Manus

2:42 pm on 3 November 2017

The Governor of Manus province says Australia is leaving Papua New Guinea officials in the dark about its intentions for refugees stuck on the island.

Local Manusians demonstrate in support of the refugees.

Local Manusians demonstrate in support of the refugees. Photo: supplied

Charlie Benjamin said he had humanitarian concerns for the refugees since Tuesday's departure of staff from the Australian-run processing centre on Manus.

Although food, water and power services are cut at the centre, about 600 refugees are refusing to move to new locations in Manus' main town.

Mr Benjamin said that he and PNG Immigration officials make little headway when raising their concerns about the uncertainty with Canberra.

"When you talk to them it's like you're talking to somebody who has put cotton wool on his ears and just doesn't respond to you. You're just wasting your time having meetings with them. They don't care what you are saying, that is it.

"But let me remind you Australia, we as a good neighbour tried to help you, and here you are leaving your problem with us as if it is our problem. What a friend."

The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre.

The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: supplied

The Governor's frustrations over attempts to communicate with Australia's government extended over the last four years since the offshore processing arrangement began.

"They seem to have an arrogant attitude. What they want to do, they just do. They don't care whether you are leader of the province or not.

"If you say no, they will go behind your back to those at a higher authority in Moresby, and that is it. They make the decision, they just do not care. That is my experience with them."

Mr Benjamin said that local people increasingly feel Australia had left them with this problem, with no guarantee of helping to fund the care and services required by the refugees.

"You don't know whether the funding is coming. because we don't know whatever the arrangements are, and how long the assistance will be for," he said.

"If they stay longer, who will take care of them? Will Australia assist until the last person leaves this soil? Or that it is, after a certain period of time they just leave the to us to deal with?

A Manus Island refugee digging a well.

A Manus Island refugee digging a well. Photo: supplied

"Whilst I sympathise with the refugees, and we want to help them as much as possible, from day one I've been telling them (Canberra) that the assistance that they were going to give us is not enough.

"And now they are leaving them to us, they're taking off. I don't know how long they (the refugees) will be in Manus. They might be here for six months, they might be here for one year, or they might be here for even longer, just like the West Papuans (refugees from Indonesia's Papua region) who are still here and nobody has given a though to them."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs