Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’

US firms buying timber from illegal PNG logging: NGO — Flooring manufactured in China and Home Depot named

August 1, 2017


© Global Witness/AFP | This undated handout photo released on August 1, 2017 by the environmental watchdog Global Witness shows trees illegally logged in the back of a truck on New Hanover Island, part of the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY (AFP) – American consumers may be fuelling logging linked to illegal land grabs in Papua New Guinea which have devastated local communities and the world’s third largest tropical rain forest, Global Witness said Tuesday.Timber logged in the impoverished Pacific nation is exported to manufacturing hubs, mostly in China, before being sent to other countries such as the United States as wooden flooring and other commercial products in a multi-billion dollar trade.

But Global Witness claimed about one-third of PNG timber in recent years came from land stolen from locals by the government and given to loggers. It said US firms could be violating American law if they fail to check the wood’s legality.

“US consumers may be unwittingly fuelling what is one of the biggest land grabs in modern history,” the NGO said in a statement after releasing its “Stained Trade” report based on a three-year investigation.

The activist group estimated that Chinese sales of wood products to the US were worth some $15 billion annually.

“The US Lacey Act bans the import of illegal wood. However, Global Witness found wood from PNG readily available on US markets in the form of flooring manufactured in China,” it said.

Global Witness said US retail giant Home Depot’s supplier Home Legend stopped selling hardwood flooring that contained PNG timber after they were informed of the findings.

It added that major Chinese flooring seller Nature Home was placing a “pause on new procurement” for the US market as it reviewed sourcing procedures.

But some of the other US companies which were contacted about the investigation did not respond, Global Witness said.

As part of its 2014-16 probe, the organisation interviewed dozens of people from local communities — who rely on the forests as sources of food, water and medicine — and who said they had lost their land to loggers.

“Tens of thousands of people have been affected,” said campaign leader Rick Jacobsen, who claimed many who tried to speak out had been threatened, arrested or beaten.

Landowner-turned-activist Paul Pavol said such land was his community’s “food and water, protein, building materials, medicines, beauty, warmth, and everything else”, but that changed when logging machines were brought there in 2010.

“There were policemen on the barge… We were the first people to go up there and tell them, ‘No, stop this!’ When I see ships taking my logs away, I honestly cry.

“That’s the reason we raise our voices. Something’s got to be done to save our forest.”

The PNG government has rejected previous allegations that logging was taking place on illegally obtained land.


Australia and PNG Cut Off Water, Electricity to Migrant Detention Center to Force Move

July 31, 2017

SYDNEY — Water and power supplies were cut off on Monday at the largest compound at an Australian-run camp for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, detainees said, as officials tried to force them to move to a nearby transit center.

Australia wants to close its controversial detention center, which has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations and domestic and international human rights groups, on Papua New Guinea’s remote Manus Island on Oct. 31.

However, efforts to relocate the 800 men held there have stalled after a U.S. relocation swap deal was suspended and almost all the detainees were reluctant to move out amid fears of violence in the wider Papua New Guinea (PNG) community.

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Asylum seekers housed in Delta compound look on from behind a fence as a court appointed party inspects the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, Friday, March 21, 2014.  (AAP Image/Eoin Blackwell)

PNG officials last week gave the detainees in the center’s main Foxtrot compound until Tuesday to leave, warning them that water and power supplies would be cut off soon.

“We did not know whether they were serious or it was part of their scare tactics,” one Sudanese asylum seeker told Reuters by mobile telephone, but declined to be identified for fear for jeopardizing his claim for U.S. resettlement.

“But they cut off the water and power this afternoon.”

The compound will soon be demolished, according to a notice posted on Manus Island, a picture of which was texted to Reuters.

Australian and PNG authorities did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

In May, detainees were told they must relocate to the community facility in order to be eligible for the swap deal with the United States.

All but a handful of the refugees have refused to move to the Lorengau community facility, citing fears for their safety after several assaults on refugees.

Australia’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea trying to reach Australia to be sent for processing to camps at Manus and on the South Pacific island of Nauru. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Australia: US Vetting of Pacific Island Refugees Nearly Done

June 21, 2017

CANBERRA, Australia — U.S. officials are “in the final stages” of vetting up to 1,250 refugees rejected by Australia for resettlement in the United States, an Australian offiical said on Wednesday.

The refugees are among hundreds of asylum seekers — mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — who have been languishing for up to four years in immigration camps on the impoverished Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

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Refugees at Manus Island

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said U.S. State and Homeland Security Department officials should be commended for their effective work with the Australian, Papua New Guinea and Nauru governments to fulfill a promise by President Barak Obama’s administration to take up to 1,250 refugees off Australia’s hands.

“There’s no delay in the process,” Dutton told reporters. “It’s in the final stages and I’m very pleased that hopefully as soon as possible we can get people … off the islands.”

Dutton declined to outline any details of that process or say when the first refugees were likely to leave the islands. Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump berated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their first telephone conversation as national leaders in January over the deal which Trump described in a tweet as “dumb.”

Trump said the refugees would be subjected to “extreme vetting” before they were accepted. There are few details on what that would entail.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence assured Turnbull during a visit to Australia in April that the Trump administration will honor the deal, but “that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement.”

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul, an Australia-based advocate, said he had been told that U.S. officials had interviewed around 600 asylum seekers and conducted more than 200 medical examinations on Nauru. They had interviewed 300 at the men-only facility at Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and completed 70 medical examinations, he said.

“We are getting close to some people being taken from Nauru,” Rintoul said.

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Australia will not settle any refugees who try to arrive by boat — a policy that the government says dissuades asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous and occasionally deadly ocean crossing from Indonesia. Australia instead pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to house asylum seekers in camps that have been plagued by reports of abuse and draconian conditions.

Australia last week reached a settlement of 90 million Australian dollars ($68 million) with more than 1,900 asylum seekers who sued over their treatment on Manus Island.

Trump to honor refugee swap deal with Australia

January 29, 2017


By Aaron Bunch and Harry Pearl | SYDNEY

President Donald Trump has confirmed that his administration will honor a refugee resettlement deal with Australia, a source close to the Australian government said on Sunday.

Trump spoke by telephone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier on Sunday, officials in both countries said, one of a number of conversations the new U.S. president held with world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Australian government source told Reuters Trump confirmed the deal to resettle asylum seekers currently held in offshore detention camps to the United States would go ahead.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration had said the United States would take a substantial number of the 1,200 asylum seekers, who are held in the procession centers on remote Pacific islands in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, after Turnbull agreed to resettle refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

U.S. Homeland Security officials have begun assessing the asylum seekers, although it was unclear when those found to be genuine refugees would be resettled.

Many of those in Australia’s offshore camps have fled conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere.

Confirmation the deal would proceed came less than 24 hours after Trump signed an executive order that put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq and Iran.

Trump’s “extreme vetting” order had cast doubt on the future of the refugee resettlement deal.

Australia’s hardline immigration policy is a contentious issue that has drawn international condemnation from the United Nations and other rights groups, but which remains popular at home and has bipartisan political support.

Once fringe, far-right political parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation have gained wider backing, which sometimes spills over into calls for a ban on Muslim immigration.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown Islamist radicals since 2014 and authorities say they have thwarted a number of plots.

(Reporting by Aaron Bunch and Harry Pearl in SYDNEY; Editing by Paul Tait)

Tsunami warning issued — New earthquake hit off the Solomon Islands in the early hours of Friday morning, the US Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia warn

December 8, 2016

A tsunami warning has been issued after a strong earthquake hit off the Solomon Islands in the early hours of Friday morning, the US Geological Survey said.

Geoscience Australia initially reported the quake was of magnitude 8.1, but the USGS later said it had a magnitude of 7.7.

The quake struck at 4.38am AEDT at a depth of 49 kilometres. It was almost immediately followed by a 5.5-magnitude aftershock.

“Hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within the next three hours along some coasts of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, New Caledonia, Tuvalu and Kosrae,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said.

“Persons located in threatened coastal areas should stay alert for information and follow instructions from national and local authorities.”

There is no threat to the Australian mainland from a tsunami, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Few reports have come in from the Solomon Islands. On person, Tali Hong, wrote on Twitter from the capital Honiara that there was a blackout across the city.

Honiara just felt biggest and longest earthquake. Currently city is experiencing black out. FB initial trends of window louvers crashing.

Honiara is currently experiencing no electricity. There is no tsunami warning siren in place. From where I am there is no sense of panic.

The PTWC initially issued a tsunami watch alert for Hawaii, but that was later cancelled.

“Based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat to the state of Hawaii,” the PTWC said.

Three hours earlier, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck about 160 kilometres off the Northern California coast, at a depth of about 12.5 kilometres, the USGS said.

The PTWC said that earthquake, originally reported to have a magnitude of 6.8, wasn’t powerful enough to generate a destructive tsunami. No damage or injuries were reported.

The Solomon Islands earthquake is tied for the strongest in the world in 2016, along with the Ecuador, New Zealand and Indonesia quakes. More than 650 people died when the Ecuador earthquake hit on April 16.


BBC News

Tsunami warning: Solomons 7.7 quake prompts alert

A tsunami warning has been issued in a wide area of the South Pacific following a powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands.

The 7.7 magnitude quake struck about 70km (43 miles) off Kirakira, according to the US Geological Survey.

It said it occurred at about 17:40 GMT (04:40 Friday local time), followed by two aftershocks.

Places were being evacuated with people moving to higher ground, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

Users on social media said there were some blackouts in the capital, Honiara. Some said there had been no tsunami sirens.

Tsunami waves of between 1m (3ft) to 3m (10ft) above the tide level were possible along some coasts of the Solomon Islands, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.


Hazardous waves could also hit parts of the coasts of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, New Caledonia, Tuvalu and Kosrae within the next three hours, it said.

A tsunami watch for Hawaii has been cancelled.

The aftershocks had magnitudes of 5.5 and 5.1.

The Solomon Islands are located in the Pacific’s geologically active “Ring of Fire”.

Appointment of first Cardinal from Papua New Guinea

October 10, 2016

Monday, 10 October 2016, 3:18 pm
Press Release: NZ Catholic Bishops

NZ Bishops delighted by appointment of first Cardinal from Papua New Guinea

Archbishop Sir John Ribat, of Port Moresby Diocese in Papua New Guinea was named by Pope Francis among the list of 17 new Cardinals appointed to the College of Cardinals.

Of the appointment one of New Zealand’s Cardinals, Cardinal John Dew said, “I, and I’m sure my brother bishops here in New Zealand and throughout Oceania will be, am delighted to have heard the news overnight of Archbishop Ribat’s appointment.

“It’s wonderful for the people of Papua New Guinea, their first ever Cardinal, within which there is a significant Catholic population, but it is also great news for the Pacific, and for the Church. He is currently serving as the President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops of Oceania, and his elevation is cause for celebration across all of Oceania,” said Cardinal John.

“This news again shows Pope Francis’ continued commitment to the Church throughout the world including the smaller nations in the geographical peripheries,” he said.

“This is much more than a choice of geography though, Archbishop Sir John Ribat is a humble, pastoral and committed leader in his country and the wider Oceania region, and this is acknowledgment of that and a call to further serve the global Church.

“I believe the global Church will benefit from the contribution of the Church in Oceania, despite our geographical distance from the rest of the world.

Pope Francis made the announcement of 17 new cardinals, with 11 coming from places never before included in the College of Cardinals during his weekly Sunday address following the noon-time Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square.

He will hold a consistory of cardinals on the November 19 vigil of the close of the Jubilee of Mercy, during which he will formalise the new appointments.

Eleven come from places that have never had a cardinal, including new cardinal electors: Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic; Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh; Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela; and, Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico.

Two come from island nations not before represented, cardinal electors Bishop Maurice Piat of Mauritius’ Port Louis and Archbishop John Ribat of Papua New Guinea’s Port Moresby.

More details on Archbishop Sir John Ribat are available here


Archbishop Zenari, an Italian, 70.

Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, 49.

Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, 71.

Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil, 56.

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, 67.

Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, 73.

Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela, 72.

Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, 69.

Archbishop Maurice Piat of Port-Louis, Mauritius, 75.

Bishop Kevin Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, 69.

Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, 66.

Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 59.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, 64.

Retired Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 84.

Retired Archbishop Renato Corti of Novara, Italy, 80.

Retired Bishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, 87.

Fr Ernest Simoni, from Albania, 87.

Environmental mining “disaster” on Australia’s doorstep — Rio Tinto’s billion-dollar mess called ‘unprincipled, shameful and evil’

August 21, 2016

Heavy trucks sit rusting on the edges of Panguna copper mine, closed in 1989 as a result of sabotage. Photo: Friedrich Stark / Alamy Stock Photo

AUGUST 21 2016 – 12:15AM

Rio Tinto’s billion-dollar mess: ‘unprincipled, shameful and evil’

By Daniel Flitton
Fairfax Media and Sydney Morning Herald

The gaping hole carved into mountains was at one point the world’s largest open-cut copper mine. Right on Australia’s doorstep, it delivered riches beyond imagining and a mess big enough to tear a country apart.

This controversial pit became the flashpoint for a bitter civil war in Papua New Guinea in the 1990s that cost as many as 20,000 lives.

Now, 27 years after the war forced the closure of the Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville, resources giant Rio Tinto has finally made the decision to cut its losses and walk away.

In a decision slammed as “remarkably unprincipled, shameful and evil”, the mining giant has also side-stepped demands for a billion-dollar clean up.

“Bougainville”: from punchline to looming issue for Australia

Furious local leaders on Bougainville – struggling for cash and contemplating forming an independent nation – are threatening an international campaign to shame the company into making a contribution.

But they also want Australia – as the former colonial power responsible for authorising the mine – to contribute to a special fund to repair rivers poisoned by toxic sludge and compensate the people who lost their homes.

“It would be a big amount of money that would be required to restore as much as possible the damaged environment and relocated villages,” John Momis, president of Bougainville’s autonomous government, told Fairfax Media.

“Probably a billion dollars. Nobody really knows, but that would be about the amount of money required.”

Illustration: Matt Golding

John Momis, president of the autonomous government of Bougainville, during a speech in Canberra. Photo: Darren Boyd

Rio Tinto has refused. Correspondence obtained by Fairfax shows the dual London-Melbourne listed giant insisting it has no responsibility for environmental or other consequences from the mine.

“We believe that [the company] was fully compliant will all regulatory requirements and applicable standards at the time,” Rio Tinto executive Joanne Farrell wrote to Dr Momis on August 6.

The rebellion

The mine has not operated for more than a quarter of a century after locals – angry about environmental destruction, poor wages and distribution of profits – broke into the site, seized explosives and sparked a separatist rebellion that would last almost a decade. PNG police and military carried out severe reprisals. Rio Tinto has never been back.

Before that, Panguna mine had accounted for about 45 per cent of exports from PNG and generated more than $1 billion in national tax revenue and dividend payments.

But locals complained only a trickle of cash ever made it to Bougainville, while millions of tonnes of acid-laced mine tailings killed the Jaba and Kawerong rivers. The rivers had been a source of water and food for thousands, but large sections now resemble a moonscape, forcing people to leave their homes.

Abandoned heavy mechanised trucks are still rusting on the deep tracks that loop around the edges of the pit. Local landowners, some armed, have designated the surrounding area a “no go zone”.

The abandoned Panguna copper mine in Bougainville – once a rich source of profits – sparked a costly environmental and social crisis. Photo: Friedrich Stark

A peace deal in 2001 saw Bougainville win autonomy within PNG, but any talk of reopening the mine remains hugely controversial.

Dr Momis wants the mine to start again. It is the best, perhaps one of the only, sources of revenue for his government, he believes. With a final decision on Bougainville’s independence approaching in a referendum expected in 2019, the future economy of the island nation is a pressing issue.

“Rio was able to pay back its debt in loans within three years, I think. After that it was all profit,” Dr Momis told Fairfax Media.

“The people of Bougainville got a pittance out of it, even though they were the owners of the resources.”

Dr Momis said he was disappointed people in Australia do not show more concern about the problems.

“PNG was Australia’s only colony, and the Bougainville mine bankrolled PNG’s independence,” he said.

Rio withdraws

Rio Tinto’s announcement on June 30 it had freely surrendered its 53.8 per cent controlling share of Bougainville Copper Limited came after years of variously flirting with reopening or quitting the mine.

To get out, the company created a trust to split the shares between the governing authority on Bougainville and the PNG national government in Port Moresby – provided they were taken up within two months.

“By distributing our shares in this way, we aimed to provide landowners, those closest to the mine, and all the people of Bougainville a greater say in the future of Panguna,” a spokesman for Rio Tinto said.

“It also provides a platform for the [autonomous government] and PNG government to work together on future options for the resource.”

The decision to divide control immediately raised fears of complicating the already fragile peace process. Momis’ government said it would accept the shares – but insisted Port Moresby should surrender its offer.

On Wednesday, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill declared all the shares offered to Port Moresby would instead be handed over directly to the landowners, rather than the autonomous government. Dr Momis accused Mr O’Neill of deliberate interference in Bougainville’s affairs and warned, ominously, “the future of peace is now truly under threat”.

In August, 2014, Bougainville paved the way for reopening the mine, with a new mining law that led some to hope the trucks might once again rumble into the pit at Panguna.

But that too would be controversial. Some locals, supported by activists overseas, including a group known as Jubilee Australia, have accused Dr Momis of consistently downplaying opposition to mining.

A family panning gold in the polluted Jaba river flowing from Panguna copper mine. Photo: Friedrich Stark

Jubilee believes farming and horticulture offer Bougainville a sustainable future.

But Dr Momis insists the mine is supported.

“My well considered view is the majority would want the mine to be opened so the mine legacy issues can be addressed, as well as to generate revenue.”

Is it even economic?

Panguna was once considered the jewel in the crown for Rio Tinto, and the company is expected to hand over valuable technical survey data about the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining in the mine.

But other close observers doubt there is any way the mine could re-establish operations.

“This really puts the nail in the coffin – there is no way the mine is going to reopen in the next decade,” said Thiago Oppermann, a Pacific specialist at the Australian National University.

For Rio Tinto’s part, it based the decision to withdraw on the results of an almost two-year strategic review. The company’s Ms Farrell wrote to the Bougainville government that low global commodity prices meant they could not to take any part in future mining at Panguna.

“This does not mean we don’t see a future for the mine which is a significant resource but we are not in the position to participate,” Ms Farrell wrote.

And Rio Tinto insists the way to address environmental concerns is to get the mine running again, with local safety and stability assured, and investor friendly laws.

Dr Momis said Rio Tinto must take responsibility for the mess it left behind, and has challenged the company over its claims of corporate social responsibility.

“They justify their position by saying they operated under PNG law, although everybody knows the people of Bougainville never accepted [that] PNG law was a just law,” the Bougainville president said.

“When Rio walks away like this, the resource owners are left high and dry for no fault of their own. They are now going to be left with this hugely destroyed environment.”

“It is a major disaster which the people of Bougainville do not deserve to have. It was really imposed on them by outside forces.”

A friend to Peace and Freedom in the Philippines told us, The story of Rio Tinto is why more and more people hate mining….”

Australia: With Closing Of Manus Island, The Premier of Western Australia State Offers to Accept Refugees

August 18, 2016

By Matt Siegel

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The premier of Western Australia state, a member of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party, has offered to accept refugees from Australian-funded detention centres amid growing concern about conditions for the 1,350 people held in the camps.


Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to asylum seeker camps on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru or to Manus Island off Papua New Guinea. They are never eligible to be resettled in Australia.

Australia and Papua New Guinea said on Wednesday that they would close the Manus Island facility, but gave no timeline, and did not say where the people held there would be sent.

“We would certainly accommodate a number of them in Western Australia and we’d certainly support them as a state government,” Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday night.

Australia — People protest outside an immigration office in Sydney, in February 2016. AFP photo

Barnett has taken a similar position in the past, and his stand demonstrated a rare public split in the conservative Liberal Party over the government’s controversial detention policy.

A spokeswoman for New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Thursday said that an offer made in 2013 to accept 150 refugees, which Canberra has rebuffed, still stood.

Harsh conditions and reports of rampant abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism at home and abroad. Australia says its hardline policy is needed to stop deaths at sea during the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia to Australia.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday stood by the government’s policy ruling out settling the detainees in a third country, casting doubt over the fate of the remaining 850 refugees on Manus and 500 in Nauru.

A protester from the Refugee Action Coalition holds a placard during a demonstration outside the offices of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney, Australia, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

“It’s never been about tearing down the fences, it’s about what to do with the people trapped behind them,” Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, told Reuters.

“There’s absolute clarity about what should happen but no clarity whatsoever about what will happen.”

There are no plans to close the Nauru camp, which is under renewed scrutiny after a newspaper published leaked documents detailing reports of more than 2,000 incidents of sexual abuse, assault and attempted self-harm, many involving children.

News of the closure of the Manus Island facility did not immediately generate much hope amongst the refugees there, many of whom have spent years in detention and suffer from mental health issues.

“Everybody is tired, people think this news will make us happy but everyone is same like before,” Kurdish Iranian refugee Benham Satah told Reuters from Manus Island.

“I want to believe there is something good happening but I can’t. I just focus on seeing tomorrow.”

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled in April that the detention centre at Manus was illegal and ordered it closed. Next week it will hold a hearing into what progress has been made.

Webb, the lawyer, said that Australia may have announced the closure of Manus Island as a means of deflecting the court’s attention from the lack of progress it has made in implementing the ruling.

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist and refugee, pleaded with Australia to recognise the court’s decision and facilitate the refugees’ resettlement.

“We don’t know what will happen on the next step and this is a big torture for us,” he told Reuters from Manus Island.

“We are really tired from their political games with our souls and bodies and need to start a normal life.”

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


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Australia agrees to close controversial Papua New Guinea refugee detention centre

August 17, 2016

Asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by boat are sent back or taken to Papua New Guinea and Nauru CREDIT: AFP

17 AUGUST 2016

Australia and Papua New Guinea on Thursday said they had agreed to close a controversial Australian-funded asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island, although the ultimate fate of 800 refugees held in the camp remained unclear.

Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to camps on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru or to Manus Island off Papua New Guinea (PNG). They are never eligible to be resettled in Australia.

An asylum seeker arriving on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea CREDIT: AAP

Some asylum seekers have spent years in the camps, which have been criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups, with numerous reports of abuse and self-harm amongst detainees, including children.

Some in PNG are unhappy with the prospect of hundreds of asylum seekers being resettled into their country and there have been reports of asylum seekers being attacked by locals.

“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement.

“A series of options are being advanced and implemented. It is important that this process is not rushed out but carried out in a careful manner.” There was no mention of a closing date.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who met with Mr O’Neill on Thursday to discuss the camp, reiterated Australia’s position that it would not accept any of the refugees detained in Papua New Guinea.

A participant holds portrait of a Somali refugee, who set herself on fire on the remote Pacific island of Nauru, during a candle light vigil in Sydney CREDIT: AFP

“It has been the longstanding position of this government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin,” Dutton said in a statement.

“Our position, confirmed again today with PNG, is that no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia.”

The announcement came after a newspaper published leaked documents detailing more than 2,000 incidents of sexual abuse, assault and attempted self-harm, reported over two years at the Nauru detention centre.

The harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism at home and abroad.

Australia says the policy is needed to stop asylum seekers dying at sea on the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia to Australia. Hundreds of people died attempting the trip in the years before the policy was put in place.

The move was immediately welcomed by refugee advocates.

“Nearly a thousand men on Manus have already lost three or more years of their lives locked up in limbo for no good reason,” Elaine Pearson, Australia Director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“They’ve endured dirty, cramped conditions, inadequate medical care and violence. Finally, it is time to let them move on with their lives in safety and dignity.”


Australian immigration facilities: sexual assault, child abuse, human rights violations and self-harm commonplace — The Guardian Australia reports

August 10, 2016


© AFP | Under Canberra’s current policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to the remote Pacific island of Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island even if they are refugees

SYDNEY (AFP) – Thousands of leaked reports detailing allegations of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm in Australian immigration facilities on Nauru were published Wednesday, prompting rights groups to renew calls for refugees to be resettled elsewhere.

Under Canberra’s current policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to the remote Pacific island of Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island even if they are refugees.

While the flow of asylum boats to Australia has dried up, some 442 people remain on tiny Nauru and almost double that on Manus, refusing to return home and denied resettlement in Australia.

More than 2,000 incident reports leaked to The Guardian Australia include allegations of asylum-seekers, including children, on Nauru facing assaults, sexual abuse and mental distress.

The reports allege such incidents as guards threatening a boy with death and only allowing a young woman a longer shower in return for sexual favours.

Mental stress caused by prolonged detention was deemed to be the cause of alleged cases of self-harm, including a woman trying to hang herself and a girl sowing her lips together.

One girl wrote in her school book in 2014 that “she was tired, doesn’t like camp and wants to die”. The report said she wrote: “I want DEATH” and “I need death”.

The Guardian said that the reports, which are published in a redacted form to remove identifiers, were written by staff in the detention centre and were the largest cache of leaked documents released from inside Australia’s immigration regime.

While some of the incidents had been reported by the media before, The Guardian said its analysis of the 2,116 reports showed that children were the subject of more than half of the reports.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the material published would be examined “to see if there are any complaints there or issues there that were not properly addressed”.

But the government stressed the reports were allegations, not findings of fact, adding Canberra would continue to support Nauru to provide for the welfare of those on the island.

Despite criticism of its immigration policy, Australia’s government has strongly defended it, saying it has halted the spate of boat arrivals, and drownings, of earlier years.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch last week said asylum-seekers on Nauru suffered “severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect”.

“Australia’s offshore processing of refugees must end, and all of the refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island must be resettled immediately,” Amnesty’s Anna Neistat said Wednesday.

UNICEF Australia Wednesday also renewed calls for a permanent resettlement solution, saying there was “undeniable, cumulative evidence” suggesting that transferred children were not safe on Nauru.

See The Guardian: