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Manus Island: No Asylum, No Food, No Hope

November 20, 2017
Plain English Version

Asylum seekers atManus Island, Papua New Guinea. Abdul Aziz Adam/via REUTERS

But still, the asylum seekers held on Manus Island stay alive. Even as the spirits and mental health of the men fail.

For now, some of the refugees held on the Island sneak out at night. They ferry food, medicine, drugs, and alcohol back to the camp. Friends and advocates help them. But the mental health of the residents in the camp is sinking. The scene is a nightmare.

How did a country with the ideals of Australia let this happen? It has a rule that refugees could not come to the country on boats. The purpose was to discourage asylum seekers.

The refugees come from more than a dozen countries. They risked their lives with human traffickers. They came on ramshackle boats from Indonesia. The camp started filling up in 2013. Illness, suicide, and complaints of mistreatment plague the camp.

Australia made a deal with Papua New Guinea (PNG). The deal was to keep the refugees there until Australia could figure out what to do with them. Years went by. Then Australia announced that it would end its support of the camp on Papua New Guinea on October 31, 2017. The refugees were to transfer to a city near the camp. Many of the refugees refused to go. They said they would not be safe there.

That is the reason for the standoff.

The world is stepping in. The United Nations calls the Manus Island camp a “humanitarian nightmare.”

Australia and PNG are blaming each other. Australia is cutting services and caseworkers. But it says health care will remain available for the refugees. It said “alternative accommodation sites” were “operational” and “suitable.”

Experts say Australia should take care of the refugees on the island.

Manus Island

Almost 200 of the 843 men on Manus Island have not had their asylum claims resolved. Or officials have rejected their claims. They are stuck on the island. Australia wants them transferred to the city of Lorengau. New detention camps are there. The new camps are not yet ready.

Worse, Lorengau is poor and hostile to the refugees.

Who should pay for the refugees and the services they need? Australia and Papua New Guinea are at odds. Australia says Papua New Guinea is in charge of providing for them. Papua New Guinea says it is willing to house the refugees. But it is Australia’s job to pay for them. And that Australia must pursue ways for them to leave.

Conditions in the camp for the men are inhuman. But they will not leave for a worse fate.

Source: The New York Times November 18, 2017

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