Manus detention centre degraded to make refugees leave

9:22 am on 18 May 2017

Conditions in Australia's refugee detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island were deliberately degraded to make residents want to leave, documents leaked to The Guardian newspaper show.

The Manus Island detention centre.

The Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The documents revealed that for a year companies running the centre were trying to make settling in PNG a more attractive option for refugees than remaining in the centre.

Human rights lawyer Amy Frew said the documents also showed the companies were aware of hostility towards the refugees from the PNG community.

Amy Frew

Amy Frew Photo: Human Rights Law Centre

The centre is gradually being closed and will shut by November, but Ms Frew said after four years of detention, refugees would have already settled in PNG if they felt it was safe to do so.

"What we can see in these kind of tactics is pushing these men to make choices when they really have no choices," said Ms Frew.

"They've been there for four years now, if they could have gone home they would have gone home, if they could have settled in Papua New Guinea then I'm sure they would have settled in Papua New Guinea," she said.

"That's what the Australian government needs to realise is that they need to take responsibility and bring the men to safety whether it's in Australia or in another safe third country."

Ms Frew said the deal struck with the US to resettle some of the refugees was a concession from the Australian government that leaving them in PNG was not a good option.

A dispute between refugees and guards at the gate to Oscar compound.

A dispute between refugees and guards at the gate to Oscar compound. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The extensive cache of papers exposed by the Guardian described how about 200 men denied refugee status were forced into accommodation without air conditioning at the centre to coerce them into accepting repatriation.

For the 700 confirmed refugees, one of the tactics was to demonstrate that conditions in the Refugee Transit Centre in nearby Lorengau were better than those at the centre.

Only about 40 refugees from Manus have tried to settle in PNG and one of whom, Loghman Sawari, escaped to Fiji due to intimidation and violence by locals.

Others have also been physically assaulted, including Masoud Ali Shiekhi who had attempted to integrate with the Manus community.

Photos of injuries suffered by two refugees in an attack on New Years Eve, 2016.

Photos of injuries suffered by two refugees in an attack on New Years Eve, 2016. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

Manus Island MP Ronny Knight said his constituents felt intimidated by the hundreds of male refugees forced onto their small island.

Last year, Mr Knight called on the UN to intervene on Manus after several violent altercations between locals and refugees.

Kurdish Journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani has warned of more violence if refugees are pushed into settling in PNG.

The Good Friday attack on the centre by personnel from the adjoining naval base also convinced refugees they would be targeted if they remained.

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