Attack highlights danger for Manus refugees

1:11 pm on 28 June 2017

Warning: This story contains graphic images of a detainee's injury

The latest attack on a Manus Island detainee shows it is too dangerous for refugees to settle in Papua New Guinea, according to advocates.

The empty gym in Oscar compound.

The empty gym in Oscar compound. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

The refugee from Bangladesh was flown to Port Moresby last week for emergency surgery after his arm was nearly severed during a mugging outside the detention centre.

The centre is due to close by November and about 700 refugees are under pressure from the Australian government to move to an open facility in nearby Lorengau town.

But advocate Ian Rintoul said the attack highlighted the dangers refugees faced in the Manus Island community

"He suffered a savage machete cut right through to the bone," said Mr Rintoul.

"And that's just the most recent attack. They're very common now and the more people are forced into East Lorengau, the more we're likely to see these kinds of attacks."

The injured arm of a Manus refugee.

The injured arm of a Manus refugee. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The Kurdish journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani said the refugee was walking in Lorengau when he was accosted by several men, one of whom was brandishing a knife.

"When the refugee refused to give his phone to them they attacked," said Mr Boochani, who reported last month that two other refugees had been mugged at knife point in Lorengau.

Despite the attacks, Manus refugees not taken in by the United States are still expected to resettle in PNG.

Mr Rintoul said the government was "turning the screws" on detainees to leave the center by making conditions intolerable.

"They've been cutting back services. They've cut everything out of the canteen except for cigarettes and phonecards," he said.

"The two gyms have been closed in Mike compound and in Oscar compound, so they've removed all the exercise equipment from those areas."

The injured arm of a Manus refugee.

The injured arm of a Manus refugee. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Mr Boochani said English classes had been stopped inside the centre and that more refugees had moved into Oscar compound from Foxtrot compound with Foxtrot due to close.

Mr Rintoul warned that closing Foxtrot would increase overcrowding.

"They've pulled one of the generators out of Foxtrot, perhaps the first step towards cutting electricity to the compound and to try to force everyone in Foxtrot into other compounds. It's going to make it extremely overcrowded."

Manus refugees' letter to President Trump.

Manus refugees' letter to President Trump. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

As of Tuesday, Mr Boochani said 100 people remained in Foxtrot.

He said 150 more refugees had been interviewed for possible resettlement in the United States.

"So far about 470 refugees have had first interviews for America and are now waiting for American Homeland Security to do the next steps of the process," said Mr Boochani.

"About 40 refugees have finished their medical checks and it means their process is complete. Immigration had appointments with some of them and said 'you will have to go to Port Moresby in the next six weeks.'"

It has not yet been announced how many of the Manus men will be resettled in the US, but 140 Manus refugees have written to the US president Donald Trump to thank him for taking them in.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs