Asylum-seekers in detention on Manus Island have been offered the chance to move to Australia’s other offshore detention island of Nauru, The Guardian reports.
The detention centre on Manus has become increasingly tense, chaotic and unstable in recent weeks, as the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments scramble to close it down by the self-imposed deadline of October 31.
Hundreds of refugees are refusing to leave the Manus centre – ruled illegal by PNG’s highest court more than a year ago – saying they are not safe in the main town of Lorengau, where the governments are trying to move them.
Two refugees have killed themselves on Manus in the past two months and there have been a significant number of violent incidents between Manusians and refugees in Lorengau.
The Turnbull government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new housing in and around Lorengau and removed and diminished medical, food and other services in the detention centre, even banning cigarettes, in an attempt to get people to leave. But few refugees have been willing to move.
On Tuesday night, authorities in the Manus detention centre posted a notice inviting refugees who were in the process of applying to be resettled in the US to volunteer to move to Nauru. Refugees who want to move must apply by October 23.
“The government of Nauru will then decide which refugees can transfer,” it said. “Refugees transferring to Nauru will have access to the same services and resettlement arrangements as other refugees in Nauru. Transfers will not affect eligibility or progress of US resettlement applications.”
The Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani said there was widespread mistrust of the government’s offer.
“The refugees are saying they don’t want to go to Nauru and they don’t trust in this government. It’s completely unacceptable that after more than four years the Australian government still refuses to solve the problem by taking the refugees to a safe place and instead is trying to send them to another hell.”
The detention advocacy manager with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Natasha Blucher, said the Australian government needed to realise it could not have more violence and further deaths in its detention regime.
Refugees on Manus Island offered chance to move to Nauru (The Guardian)
Manus Island refugees told they can go to Nauru, with centre to close in three weeks (Sydney Morning Herald)